Tahoe US 50 revitalization ‘Loop Road’ project presented at town-hall forum
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — Tahoe Transportation District’s US 50/South Shore Community Revitalization Project public outreach campaign continued last week. City of South Lake Tahoe officials hosted TTD representatives in a town-hall formatted public question-and-answer session on Wednesday, Feb. 10, to address ongoing concerns.
The proposed plan focuses on rerouting U.S. Highway 50 around the Stateline casino corridor and Heavenly Village to make the downtown region more pedestrian friendly and ease congestion.
Questions were submitted online and in person for the discussion moderated by South Lake Tahoe city councilman Austin Sass.
“I thought it was a great community meeting,” Sass said. “I thought the TTD did a good job of answering the questions.”
While he acknowledged the importance of South Shore revitalization, Sass did not offer an opinion on the project and cited a need for further review.
Questions ranged from why the project was necessary to more complex inquiries involving how eminent domain and property acquisition will be addressed.
“It was a good opportunity to get those questions out there,” TTD district manager Carl Hasty said. “I thought it went well.”
Potential funding for the project and land-purchasing procedures were among chief concerns — including speculation that properties might be condemned in order to follow through with eminent-domain proceedings.
Following a question on land acquisition Hasty explained, “We have to follow a recognized, fair, legal process to acquire property.”
Properties to be purchased would be open to appraisals by third-party assessors.
Hasty further described the process as comprehensive.
Of the three primary proposals under consideration, the project would require the acquisition of 47 to 92 residential properties and five to six commercial properties — depending on the plan chosen. What options property owners would have for relocation was also a concern. The panel referred to pamphlets they provided for displaced business/homeowner/tenant issues, describing potential options and funding assistance.
Questions related to financing the project addressed the potential for funding to fall short or for the project to reach a standstill as other ideas for revitalization have in the past, such as the convention center.
Addressing the concern, Hasty said, “We cannot move forward with the project unless it is fully funded.”
In past meetings, he also pointed toward changes in federal policy that qualify the Tahoe Basin for transportation funding that was not previously available.
As to why this project should take precedence over other revitalization efforts, the panel suggested that since the casino corridor is home to the South Shore’s largest lodging base, it makes sense for it to be the focus of a downtown region.
“This project is a start, not an end,” Hasty said, “and it doesn’t mean other areas won’t be addressed. They should be.”
Hasty said that development of areas like the “Y” and Meyers will remain on the table as well.
Discussing the timeline for the project, Hasty said a completed draft of the environmental impact statement is on track for delivery sometime in April. From there, the project will undergo a 60-day public comment period before finalizing the impact study with suggested plans.
The TTD is projecting that finalized plans could be presented to various governing agencies for approval by year’s end. Douglas County, the City of South Lake Tahoe, CalTrans, El Dorado County and Tahoe Regional Planning Agency would all need to approve plans before construction and land acquisition can proceed.
Representatives from the design firm overseeing the project have previously suggested that it could be completed within the next five to six years. Construction is expected to be completed over two summers.