Study could spell trouble for Highway 28 parking project |

Study could spell trouble for Highway 28 parking project

The need to redo an environmental study concerning parking problems near a group of East Shore beaches likely will create a setback for plans there.

However, transportation officials hope it doesn’t jeopardize a $500,000 grant intended to rebuild two parking lots in the area, which would offset the loss of spaces expected when a ban on shoulder parking on State Route 28 goes into effect.

“It’s kind of like we’re continually treading water, but we haven’t drowned yet,” said Richard Wiggins, transportation manager for the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

Wiggins said Monday that the Federal Highway Administration has given Lake Tahoe until September 2000 to complete the assessment and an East Shore access plan before the $500,000 would be taken away.

“Federal Highway has said, ‘Even if you do lose it, you can come back for it later,'” Wiggins said. “Obviously, we don’t want to do that; it just doesn’t look good.”

TRPA, the U.S. Forest Service and Nevada Department of Transportation are trying to find a way to curb parking problems along a 12-mile stretch of State Route 28. Residents and visitors park along the shoulder there to hike and sunbathe at nearby clothing-optional beaches. However, the parking causes erosion problems that contribute to the degradation of Tahoe.

Officials have long said that parking along the shoulder wouldn’t be banned until other spaces were made available. To do that, the Forest Service plans to rebuild two parking lots in the area. An environmental assessment completed by the agency has been dismissed based on an appeal by TAN – Tahoe Area Naturists. The Forest Service is now starting over.

Wiggins said the setback shouldn’t be too significant, because TRPA has yet to begin the East Shore Beach Access Plan, which should identify possible ways transit could be used to bring people to the beaches from elsewhere at Tahoe.

“All the components have to be pulled together before we say, ‘Now we can remove parking,'” Wiggins said.

Construction on the lots could have started next summer, Wiggins said, but with the setback, work likely won’t happen until 2001.

Dave Roberts, assistant executive director of the League to Save Lake Tahoe, said TAN’s appeal of the Forest Service decision may backfire on the group. If the parking lots end up being reconstructed and opened before other transit possibilities are developed, people will park both in the lots and along the shoulder. That will only increase the use of the area.

“Without eliminating parking, all we’re doing is increasing access to an area that already can’t handle the capacity,” Roberts said. “TAN does an excellent job of stewardship of those beaches. I certainly understand they want to maintain their access there, but at what cost?”

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