Roundabout at the ‘Y’ could take two summers to build |

Roundabout at the ‘Y’ could take two summers to build

Before the City Council moved forward with the “Y” plan, the question of a roundabout in that area became the center of attention again in South Lake Tahoe.

The city received an update Tuesday that may stall or kill the idea of a roundabout on that side of South Lake Tahoe. Public Works Director John Greenhut told an inquiring audience at the City Council meeting the circular traffic improvement is now estimated to cost about $3 million. That’s $300,000 over initial estimates and $2 million more than what the city can afford, he said.

“We have funding concerns,” Greenhut said.

The city has identified about $800,000 in funding sources from the state and federal governments, and the city has nearly $250,000 in cash set aside from the scheduled traffic improvements at the intersection. Greenhut added the roundabout’s geometric design and size of the intersection limits its scope. It must be two lanes only and may not fit at the “Y” where Highway 50 and 89 meet, which would not make it feasible.

Moreover, a roundabout may take two summers to build. Caltrans is working with the city to come up with an engineering report. A design must also be drafted.

The discussion came about when Jerome Evans asked about the status of the major traffic improvement, which was recommended by the Tahoe Valley Community Plan team. The approved concept calls for a pedestrian-friendly village with paths, bridges, parks, a commercial district and activity center in a plan area from F to Third Streets off Highway 50 and 10th to D streets off Highway 89. The team of 15 stakeholders who worked on the plan for two years is diverse, with varying priorities.

Evans, who is on the team but spoke as a private citizen, advocates recreation and roundabouts. He held his head in his hands when Greenhut provided the dire financial news.

“I’m pleased to see approval of the (Tahoe Valley plan) concept. I hope that continues. But this council approved going forward with the roundabout and accomplished nothing in that regard in the last nine months. Other cities are going forward,” he said, mentioning Truckee.

Evans balked at the shortfall, citing $2.3 million that could come from the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. Greenhut will meet with the agency Friday.

TRPA spokeswoman Julie Regan said after the meeting that money has been set aside for road improvements in the transportation improvement program, but there’s a condition in taking it. Since the scope of the original proposal has changed, some of the money from the state could be ineligible for use.

Councilman Ted Long sympathized with and supported Evans. He asked how a community like Chico can do it, but South Lake Tahoe can’t.

“It seems like this is getting complicated. They don’t seem to be having these problems,” Long said. “Sounds like someone’s pricing it out of the market.”

City Manager Dave Jinkens assured the community “there’s no reason for staff to foot drag on this issue.”

Councilwoman Kathay Lovell stepped in, declaring South Shore as having “a unique situation.”

“We really need to nail this down. What’s the bottom line? I think we need to know that. Is it going to cost us $400,000 to find out it’s going to cost us $1 million more (to build)?” she asked.

Roundabouts in studies have been positioned as safer and more expensive. This one was proposed $1 million more than the original traffic improvements planned at the intersection.

Meanwhile, Gardner Mountain resident and business owner Beverly Morris urged the council not to lose sight of other improvements that should occur at the “Y.” Morris supports lumping Tahoe Valley in a redevelopment zone, but she cautioned the city about overspending for a roundabout.

“I think redevelopment is a good idea. A lot of people have closed and moved out. And unfortunately, no one has a place to walk here. There are things more important than a roundabout, and you’re talking about an enormous amount of money,” she said.

The city agreed to place the roundabout question on an upcoming agenda for further review – possibly March 7. It will proceed with the environmental documents of the Tahoe Valley Community Plan.

In other council business, it approved allocating $50,000 to assist TRPA with its Pathway 2007 planning process, which lays the groundwork of the Lake Tahoe Basin for the next 20 years.

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