Sidewalks finally in sight for Hwy. 50 in South Lake Tahoe |

Sidewalks finally in sight for Hwy. 50 in South Lake Tahoe

Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE – The final pieces are falling into place for what has seemed for years like an impossible dream in South Lake Tahoe: Sidewalks along Highway 50.

And some might need to pinch themselves when hearing the following: The city will provide year-round maintenance for the sidewalks, including snow removal.

The sidewalks are part of Caltrans’ Highway 50 improvement project for the stretch of road between Trout Creek and Ski Run Boulevard. Construction is scheduled to start in the spring.

The Lake Tahoe Unified School District Board approved granting the easement for the project between Al Tahoe Boulevard and Lyons Avenue along Highway 50.

Jim Marino, an assistant engineer with the city of South Lake Tahoe, presented the project to the LTUSD Board on Tuesday.

The district’s easement in front of South Tahoe Middle School is one of the properties needed for the projects, Marino said.

Land needed for the Highway 50 project is on public and private property, so the school district, Lake Tahoe Community College and El Dorado County needed to contribute land to the project.

Lake Tahoe Community College’s property, which includes the Trout Creek area and the meadow along Highway 50, will be part of the improved pedestrian walkways, said LTCC spokeswoman Christina Proctor.

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency helped secure $3.2 million in federal funding to compensate private properties for easements, Marino said.

The city and Caltrans had to pursue easement donations when possible to make the money stretch to acquire the private parcels.

“We might not see this money again,” Marino said.

Caltrans representative Tom Brannon said there are substantial amounts of non-motorized easements to be acquired, but Caltrans has until February to acquire the needed property.

Besides landscaping, the city would also provide year-round maintenance for the sidewalks, which includes snow removal, LTUSD Facilities Director Steve Morales said.

This will be a significant improvement for pedestrians, Morales said.

“People shouldn’t have to walk on the highway from point A to point B,” Morales said.

The district does plan to continue with its Measure G bond projects, which include improvements at the middle school, but Morales said he didn’t foresee any conflicts between the district’s projects and the Highway 50 construction.

The idea for improved pedestrian paths has been in the works since 1995. The city of South Lake Tahoe and Caltrans began developing the concept to improve pedestrian access along Highway 50 and beautify the area from Stateline to the “Y” area, Marino said.

“Folks in the city have been asking us to do this for a long time,” Marino said.

Candy Kelly is one of the South Lake Tahoe residents excited about the improvements.

“New sidewalks will be fantastic. It’s about time. I don’t walk in the winter because I’m afraid of falling and breaking my hip,” Kelly said.

Because of budget shortfalls, the project has been scaled back and now is between Trout Creek and Ski Run Boulevard, instead of consisting of the entire strip between Stateline and the “Y,” Marino said.

Many entities around town have been receiving updates on the project.

In December, Brannon updated the South Lake Tahoe City Council on some improvements to the project, such as installing Class 2 bike lanes, which are lanes designated for bicyclists with a painted line and a bicycle symbol.

One key aspect to getting the project rolling was TRPA waiving its land-coverage restrictions.

The agency waived the restriction because the improvements for water quality are a huge net gain for the basin, TRPA spokesman Dennis Oliver said.

The highway is one of the biggest sources of fine sediment and pollutants, and if water quality infrastructure is in place, it will help the lake, Oliver said. The bike lanes will also reduce vehicles on the road, so the project aligns well with the TRPA’s mission, he added.

“This is a big-ticket item for Tahoe,” Oliver said.

The sidewalks from Trout Creek to Ski Run Boulevard will also be well lit, which will make it safer for pedestrians to walk at night, Marino said.

The behind-the-curb improvements cost $12 million, and the roadway water quality improvements cost $20 million, Marino said.

The Trout Creek to Ski Run Boulevard project is scheduled to start in the spring, Brannon said. Other projects, such as such as water quality treatment for road run-off from Ski Run Boulevard to Stateline and Trout Creek to the “Y” area are in the planning stages, he added.

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