Tahoe Highway 50 ‘Loop Road’ opposition seeking ballot measure
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SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — A group opposed to Tahoe Transportation District’s U.S. Highway 50 South Shore Community Revitalization “Loop Road” Project is proposing to petition the City of South Lake Tahoe to put the issue on November’s ballot.
“I think the project is too big and too important to leave to this council,” former council member Bruce Grego said. “Letting the voters decide is the best way to do it.”
Grego, former councilman Bill Crawford and longtime South Shore resident and Sierra Club member Laurel Ames are leading the effort.
“The project is just unnecessary,” Ames said. “It’s way too large for what we need to have done.”
Each of the plans under consideration include rerouting Highway 50 around Stateline and Heavenly Village before reconnecting to the original highway route. Under the proposal, the casino corridor’s existing highway would be reduced to two lanes in order to create a more pedestrian-friendly downtown.
While not opposed to the lane reduction, Ames suggested that installing roundabouts on portions of the existing highway and Lake Parkway would be a more acceptable solution.
Among the reasons for the petition, the group lists the cost of the project, the residences that would be removed to make room for the highway and the resulting loss of city tax revenue.
The group also suggests that Tahoe Transportation District’s listed benefits are “speculative,” and they believe it could have a negative impact on small business.
“I believe if this goes to election, there will be debates — and debates are healthy,” Grego said.
City of South Lake Tahoe attorney Tom Watson said it’s difficult to say what a ballot measure would accomplish.
“It’s a little bit problematic to discern what they’re trying to do,” Watson said. “The city’s authority under this is fairly limited.”
He suggested that the state transportation department, Caltrans, could conceivably push the project forward without the consent of city council.
Tahoe Transportation District director Carl Hasty, however, had previously said that the TTD-led project would need approval from each of the regional governing entities on both the California and Nevada side.
Among additional concerns from the opposition group, Grego cited the potential cost to the city’s public utility district, STPUD, with regard to rerouting water and sewer lines. Grego further suggested the cost could fall to consumers.
Asked to respond, Hasty said, “That is total speculation. I’ve seen nothing from STPUD that states that.”
He also said that utility rerouting cost was included in TTD’s projected cost of approximately $75 million.
Officials with STPUD said they were currently assessing costs involved and plan to have an estimate this week.
In its petition submission, Grego’s group additionally suggested that the project would be closer to $100 million. The group also listed a potential impact on close to 100 residential and commercial properties.
While one of three options for the project includes 97 properties impacted, both plans that have been described as more likely involve 64 and 53 properties respectively.
Watson added that the timing of any proposed ballot measure may not coincide with project approval.
“The city council may have already been required to approve by November,” he said.
Any action on the petition would be contingent on the results of the project’s environmental impact study, which is expected in April.
“Until we have a preferred alternative, it’s hard to do anything,” Watson said.
Should the group succeed in getting their proposition to ballot, only registered voters within incorporated South Lake Tahoe city limits would be able to vote. Residents of unincorporated South Lake Tahoe, Meyers and Stateline would not be able to participate.
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