Supervisors approve turn restriction pilot program for South Tahoe

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — The El Dorado County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved sanctioning the right turn restriction pilot program in Meyers that was cut short last year due to the Caldor Fire.

The board, on Tuesday, voted 5-0 to enact the program that restricts right hand turns from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays and holidays from Sawmill Road and North Upper Truckee Road onto U.S. Highway 50. The program will last from May through October.

The program last year was stopped on Aug. 20 due to the Caldor Fire and El Dorado County Department of Transportation Director Rafael Martinez said they couldn’t finish gathering crucial data during the Labor Day holiday weekend in September.

During its short stint last year, the program was successful in that navigation applications were not re-routing travelers through residential neighborhoods to bypass traffic on the highway.

District 5 Supervisor Sue Novasel credited Jeff Spencer, who was in attendance, for spearheading the plan and also thanked Martinez and his staff for trying to solve a problem that “was very bad,” she said.

The purpose of the pilot program is to evaluate whether or not tourist traffic can be safely routed back onto U.S. Highway 50 during peak weekend and holiday traffic periods, whether or not emergency vehicle response time is improved and if there are any other unforeseen issues or traffic safety issues that would be made worse by the proposed turn restrictions.

Supervisor John Hidahl asked if the California Highway Patrol was again on board for enforcement. He said with enforcement he thinks the program can “be very favorable.” He also floated the idea of a traffic camera for enforcement.

Martinez said CHP and the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office are on board for enforcement. He added that when the troopers were there last year that motorists behaved very well, but when they weren’t there it wasn’t as successful.

“When the cat’s away, the mice will come out and play,” Martinez said.

If the program is successful it may be enacted during the winter.

Novasel said that Caltrans asked that the program not be instituted in the winter right away due to safety, the lack of traction and low visibility.

“We didn’t want to overwhelm and have a big safety issue,” Novasel said.

Spencer encouraged supervisors to approve the program during public comment and added that the program might be able to be used elsewhere in the county.

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