Cave Rock tunnel construction to begin in May; other construction projects planned on Tahoe’s South Shore |

Cave Rock tunnel construction to begin in May; other construction projects planned on Tahoe’s South Shore

Sebastian Foltz
Construction on U.S. Highway 50 and the Cave Rock tunnel (pictured) is scheduled to begin in May. NDOT officials will host a public information session on the project Thursday, April 14.
Sebastian Foltz / Tahoe Daily Tribune |

GLENBROOK, Nev. — With Cave Rock tunnel construction scheduled to begin in May, officials from Nevada Department of Transportation will host a public information session Thursday, April 14, to address travel concerns and other details related to the project. The meeting will take place from 4-7 p.m. at Zephyr Cove Elementary School.

“It’s a chance for people to come ask questions of designers,” Devin Cartwright, with NDOT’s roadway design division, said.

Plans include construction of a 60-foot tunnel extension on the north side of the westbound lanes of the tunnel along with additional bike safety and stormwater management upgrades. The extension is part of an effort to mitigate rock fall from above the tunnel.

“This will allow the cliff to weather naturally,” Cartwright said, describing the design approved by both the Washoe Tribe, which considers the rock formation a holy site, and Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

“There was some pretty significant rock fall,” Cartwright said, referring to NDOT’s need for the project. “(This) is designed to withstand a 4-foot cubed rock.”

NDOT prioritized the project following significant incidents in February 2015, where large rocks fell on to the highway.

“This area is very concerning,” Cartwright said. “If (a rock) falls, it falls directly on the road immediately.”

Temporary steel netting is currently in place to prevent an incident from occurring. NDOT had considered both larger, more permanent, netting as well as rock scaling to prevent future rock fall, but opted for the tunnel extension. The decision came based in part on preserving the visual integrity of the popular site and respecting the Washoe Tribe’s regard for the area.

“The impact is as minimal as it can be,” TRPA planner Shannon Friedman said. “We came to an agreement that the tunnel extension was the best way.”

The material for the extension is also designed to blend with the natural rock formation.

According to Cartwright, existing temporary netting will be removed following the completion of the project. NDOT expects to finish the work by the fall of 2016.

In addition to the planned extension, the department will install added measures for bike safety and conditions reports. LED lighting will be placed along tunnel walls and a new caution sign outside of the tunnel will notify drivers when bikers or ice are of concern.

NDOT also combined the project with planned stormwater drainage and filtration improvements between Cave Rock and Spooner Summit.

“We decided that it would be a good opportunity to save some travel impact,” Cartwright said, adding that the drainage project was originally planned for 2017.

During construction the speed limit through the tunnel will be reduced to 25 mph with a single lane traveling in each direction.

“It is going to have an impact on travel on Highway 50,” Cartwright cautioned, but he believes the impact will relatively minimal.

“Despite the reduced number of lanes and decreased speed limits during construction, the only times we anticipate major delays are during holidays and special events,” he said. “During these high-traffic times we advise traveling during non-peak hours if at all possible (before 8 a.m. and after 6 p.m.).”

NDOT has yet to announce a May start date. Cartwright said they will give consideration to the Amgen Tour of California cycling race scheduled to pass through Tahoe on May 19, and may wait to start construction until after the event. He added that it should not impact the race.

Additional project information is available at

Meyers seeking travel input

As part of an effort to improve Meyers area pedestrian and non-motorized travel, officials from El Dorado County and TRPA will be seeking public input for roadway and rec path improvements around U.S. Highway 50.

“I think the community has been very clear that they would like that part of Meyers to act as a main street,” TRPA associate planner Morgan Beryl said. “Right now it’s a high-speed throughway.”

Comment booths will be set up in numerous locations in Meyers on Friday, April 22, and Saturday, April 23.

Additional information is available at

Highway 89/50 construction update

State Route 89 work is expected to resume in May on the $25 million project from the “Y” junction with U.S. Highway 50 in South Lake Tahoe to Cascade Road, north of Camp Richardson. Curb, gutter and sidewalks will be added in the 1.1-mile, four-lane section, and the highway will be widened in the two-lane section to Visitor Center Road to provide 4-foot paved shoulders on each side. Drainage systems are also being built and the roadway is being resurfaced. Completion is expected this fall.

Short-term roadwork will be underway as well on U.S. Highway 50 from Truckee Drive to Carson Avenue in South Lake Tahoe. Eastbound and westbound motorists can expect the one lane and the right shoulder closed from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday for utility work intermittently through fall.

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