TRPA Guest Column: Transportation is Key in Restoring Lake Tahoe, Revitalizing Communities
There’s a lot to be learned by studying others’ successes. At the Tahoe Talks Brown Bag Lunch, a design engineer for the Federal Highway Administration discussed how modern roundabouts are used to improve traffic and make roads safer for drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians, as well as where they would make the most sense at Lake Tahoe. Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) and its partners hold a monthly discussion series to engage people and get us thinking about critical issues such as transportation and how to work together for solutions. Transportation plays a central and transformative role in restoring Lake Tahoe’s environment, revitalizing local communities, and making our region more sustainable. About 70 percent of the fine sediment that washes into the lake and reduces its water clarity comes from roads and developed areas. Costly projects to upgrade our roads, bridges, transit systems and bike trails can achieve multiple benefits. They can reduce traffic congestion and stormwater pollution while improving safety, air quality, pedestrian mobility, public access, scenery, parking, quality of life and economic vitality. TRPA is working with partners in and out of the Basin to envision, develop and deliver the transportation system Lake Tahoe deserves. We’re updating our TRPA Regional Transportation Plan and TRPA Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan. We’re teaming up with the Tahoe Transportation District (TTD) to complete a set of comprehensive traffic corridor studies to identify some of our biggest transportation needs.
TRPA is working with TTD on a long-range plan to improve connectivity for increased ridership. The plan identifies strategies for an integrated regional transit system with improved connections outside the Basin, and explores options for free-to-rider service. Significant work is also being done to upgrade roads. Last year, California and Nevada transportation departments continued a multi-year water quality program and invested $130 million in projects to add bike lanes and reduce stormwater pollution on highways 50, 89 and 207. It is part of an ongoing effort to improve Lake Tahoe’s water quality by upgrading stormwater treatment on highways. Placer County started a $48 million project to revamp Highway 28 through the Kings Beach commercial core that will improve traffic flow, pedestrian access, landscaping, and reduce fine sediment pollution into the lake by an estimated 45,000 pounds per year. South Lake Tahoe rebuilt Harrison Avenue with a new traffic pattern, streetlights, sidewalks, bike paths and landscaping to revitalize the commercial corridor and reduce stormwater pollution. TRPA’s new On Our Way grant program awarded $550,000 in federal funding for local jurisdictions, school districts and nonprofits to identify neighborhood- and community-level projects that can increase walking, bicycling and public transit use. El Dorado County will finish the Lake Tahoe Boulevard Enhancement Project to complete the bike path network between South Lake Tahoe and Meyers and TTD will start building a 3-mile bike trail from Incline Village to Sand Harbor with $12 million in federal funding and help from the nonprofit Tahoe Fund, which raised more than $1 million in private donations. Other projects under review are the Highway 89/Fanny Bridge Community Revitalization Project, the Highway 50/South Shore Community Revitalization Project, and a proposal to restore cross-Lake passenger ferry service between the North Shore and South Shore. Some transportation challenges are financial. We need to fix flawed funding formulas that steer dollars into our region as if it is only a little known, sparsely populated rural area and fail to recognize the millions of visitors each year, many driving from nearby metropolitan areas and putting significant demand on our infrastructure. Roundabouts are one tool in helping to solve our transportation challenges. Transportation is transformation.
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