Shortcuts problematic on side streets | TahoeDailyTribune.com
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Shortcuts problematic on side streets

Susan Wood
Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Ana Sanchez, who lives on Chonokis Road, a popular shortcut around the casino corridor, explains how traffic speeds by on a regular basis.
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Ana Sanchez need only walk a few steps out the door of her South Lake Tahoe home to see evidence of major traffic problems.

About three months ago, a motorist mowed down her fence, mailbox and a city street sign at the corner of Chonokis and Rocky Point roads. Only the sign has been replaced.

Sanchez is but one neighbor who has noticed many vehicles speeding down Chonokis, a shortcut off Pioneer Trail to get around the casino corridor.

Traffic shortcuts dot the region – from that Stateline-area neighborhood to North Upper Truckee Road off Lake Tahoe Boulevard. And Pioneer Trail as a parallel thoroughfare option to Highway 50 is no longer a secret to those who have frequented the Lake Tahoe Basin. Depending on how one drives, shortcuts may be considered unsafe, prompting law enforcement to keep an eye on certain areas where they know erratic driving behavior occurs.

The speed limit in residential neighborhoods is 25 mph and 15 on blind corners. But residents on Chonokis say motorists easily exceed 40 mph.

Sanchez prohibits her 3-year-old son, Mitza, from playing in the driveway unless an adult family member is watching him. The woman’s neighbor had the same problem. Terri Sivak’s fence was damaged by a vehicle.

“People don’t pay attention to the speed limit,” she said.

A radar trailer was placed last week around the corner on Montreal Avenue, which connects Chonokis to the backside of the Stateline casinos.

And shortcuts are not confined to residential neighborhoods.

When they lose patience, some drivers cut through parking lots. Motorists heading toward Highway 50 from Tahoe Keys Boulevard have been known to cut through the parking lot on the northwest corner. And motorists heading west on the major highway will often dip into the parking lot at Tahoe Bike Shop.

Plus, a steady stream of traffic from Carson Avenue often roars through the Town & Country Center parking lot. And along with the Inn By the Lake off Highway 50, cut-throughs have caused Magic Carpet amusement park owner Karen Franceschi to install a sign asking motorists to not use her parking lot as a road connection to Highway 50, Lodi Avenue or The Attic.

“But people don’t read them. They’ve practically run me over out there,” she said. “I’ve been afraid someone is going to get hit.”

Even the installed speed bumps were torn up.

Shortcuts don’t break the law, but law enforcement remains concerned about safety hazards that may occur with merging pedestrians and motorists.

“There’s no violation to crossing parking lots as long as it’s done safely. But we do run into problems at intersections when they see traffic stopped and dart through parking lots. Then, it becomes reckless driving,” city police Lt. Terry Daniels said, adding no accident has been reported in these popular parking lots. Some merchants use flower boxes and decorative barricades to slow the traffic down.

“What you see are locals frustrated with the influx of tourists,” Daniels said, characterizing some situations as “mini road rage.”

The El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department and California Highway Patrol agreed, saying the highway and road infrastructure at times can’t handle a surge of more than 100,000 vehicles on busy weekends.

“The infrastructure we have now can’t handle the traffic we have in peak periods. If you couple that with when we have road construction, you’re looking at disaster,” sheriff Lt. Les Lovell said.

Even though they’re legal, Lovell called these parking lot shortcuts “inherently dangerous” when you throw in the frustration or speed-demon attitude some drivers have.

He identified outbound Highway 50 near the Lake Tahoe Airport as a major problem, along with Pioneer Trail’s connection with 50 near Stateline where high-density traffic can be found.

“When the rubber meets the road, the commuters are frustrated,” he said. “People have told me when they drive this way, it’s worth getting the ticket.”

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