Proposal to narrow Lake Tahoe Boulevard causes emotions to run high
October 2, 2008
A proposal that could decrease the number of traffic lanes along a two-mile stretch of Lake Tahoe Boulevard west of the “Y” met vocal opposition from South Shore residents this week.
El Dorado County Department of Transportation Principal Planner Alfred Knotts presented two possibilities for the proposal – known as the Lake Tahoe Boulevard Enhancement Project – during a sometimes-tense public meeting at the Lake Tahoe Airport on Wednesday night.
The purpose of the project is to reduce erosion, restore stream areas, improve bicycle and pedestrian access, address safety concerns and reduce flooding problems associated with the stretch of road.
Option one includes a dedicated bike path on the west side of Lake Tahoe Boulevard from D Street to Sawmill Road, a bike lane from Sawmill Road to Tahoe Mountain Road and the removal of two lanes of the boulevard between Sawmill Road and Tahoe Mountain Road.
A second option calls for a bike path on the east side of Lake Tahoe Boulevard from D Street to Sawmill Road, a bike lane from D Street to Tahoe Mountain Road and the removal of two lanes along the entire length of the project, from D Street to Tahoe Mountain Road.
These options are preliminary, and the point of Wednesday’s meeting was to hear input on further possibilities for the project, Knotts said.
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“We don’t have a project yet,” he said. “That’s what we are here to discuss.”
About 60 people attended the meeting and expressed a long list of concerns, including worries that a reduction in lanes could hinder large-scale evacuation efforts in the event of an Angora-like fire.
A two-lane road would make that section of Lake Tahoe Boulevard extremely dangerous during icy conditions and could hinder emergency response during heavy snowstorms, according to several people at the meeting.
“In the winter, people are going to die,” said South Shore attorney Steven McHugh.
County resident John Mauriello agreed.
“If I get a heart attack during a snowstorm, I’m dead if you take out two lanes,” Mauriello said. “It’s wrong what you want to do.”
At least one man at the meeting disagreed, pointing to neighborhoods at the South Shore served by two-lane roads – such as those off Pioneer Trail – which seem to receive adequate emergency response.
While some people said removing lanes will make the stretch more dangerous, leaving the road in its current state also is a hazard, according to others at the meeting.
The lack of space for bicycles along the stretch of road was considered dangerous by many bicyclists at the meeting, some of whom said they avoid riding their bicycles on that section of road for fear of being hit.
“There is a need for a bike trail, period,” said county resident Warren Berg. “I’m surprised more people haven’t been hurt or killed.”
County resident Paul Nanzig – an adamant supporter of keeping the road four lanes wide – said he doesn’t see a problem accommodating motorists and bicyclists.
“Add a bike path, keep the road,” Nanzig said.
Project planners said residents’ input will be considered as the project moves forward.
“One of the options we do expect to put on this board is a four-lane option,” said Karen Fink, transportation planner for the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, referring to sheets of paper where peoples’ concerns or ideas for the project were being written down.
Additional opportunities to comment on the project will be available during the analysis of the project’s environmental impacts.
And another public meeting is expected to follow the completion of a feasibility study for the project.
The date for the meeting has yet to be set, Knotts said.