Planes, boats and automobiles: workshop’s host agency plays a key role in the Tahoe Basin |

Planes, boats and automobiles: workshop’s host agency plays a key role in the Tahoe Basin

Patrick McCartney

Whether visitors to Lake Tahoe arrive by plane or automobile, take a bus while in the basin, or launch a boat on the lake, chances are they have benefited from the efforts of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

While not a high-profile federal agency at Lake Tahoe, the department is nevertheless a major player in the Tahoe Basin through the actions of its principal agencies.

— The Federal Aviation Administration helps finance the operations of the Lake Tahoe Airport in South Lake Tahoe, which receives 30,000 general aviation flights a year. In addition, the FAA paid for the 1965 construction of the air traffic control tower and, since 1984, has paid $11.3 million in needed improvements, including a new runway surface, electrical work and new taxi lanes.

— The U.S. Coast Guard patrols Lake Tahoe from its station on Lake Tahoe’s North Shore, the highest-elevation Coast Guard station in the country.

— Other DOT agencies, such as the Federal Highway Administration and Federal Transit Administration, pay for the upkeep of U.S. Highway 50 and Interstate 80, and have funded a number of transportation improvements.

In recent years, the federal department has funneled an estimated $15 million into the Tahoe Basin for projects ranging from the space-age Coordinated Transit System to the construction of a new bus maintenance station and new buses for the Lake Lapper program.

Grants from the Intermodal Surface Transportation Act of 1991 have helped pay to reduce erosion from the basin’s highways, stormwater treatment at Stateline and bicycle and pedestrian paths.

Aid from the department has increased in recent years, with the assistance of the basin’s congressional delegation, said Steve Teshara, who chairs both the South Shore and Truckee-North Tahoe transportation management associations.

Yet, much more remains to be done before the basin’s transportation problems are solved and the pressure on visitors to rely on automobiles is reduced, say Teshara and others familiar with the basin’s transit needs.

“We need to find a source of funds to provide transit to serve the recreational needs on federal lands,” Teshara said. “In urban areas, we have business and local government provide partnership funds. But in state and federal lands, we are getting no real assistance from them to provide transit.”

Don Kornreich, a director with the Truckee-North Tahoe TMA, said federal transportation efforts have lagged behind federal assistance for erosion-control projects and the purchase of environmentally sensitive land.

But Kornreich, who has long championed the creation of a basin impact fee, said the department can’t help the Tahoe Basin achieve its transportation goals until basin residents step up to the plate.

“It is my biggest hope that we will be shamed into doing something,” Kornreich said. “If we don’t come up with more local funds, we won’t receive the help we need.”

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