Tahoe ready for presidential summit | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Tahoe ready for presidential summit

Patrick McCartney

RENO – The table is now set for the visit to Lake Tahoe this week of President Clinton and Vice President Gore, the nation’s top transit official announced Saturday.

After listening to three hours of brainstorming on Tahoe Basin transit needs, Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater said years of consensus-building in the basin has given federal officials the direction they need.

“You’re ready for the summit,” Slater said at the end of the transportation workshop at the University of Nevada, Reno. “You have worked hard to justify the type of forum you will have next week. The effort has brought you together as one voice.”

Slater made the comment near the end of the third Cabinet-level workshop in the last month aimed at preparing policy initiatives for the Lake Tahoe Presidential and Vice Presidential Forum Friday and Saturday.

Previously, Administrator Carol Browner of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency hosted a workshop in South Lake Tahoe on Lake Tahoe’s water quality. And Secretary of Interior Bruce Babbitt and Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman presided over a study session in Incline Village on the basin’s ailing forests.

At Saturday’s workshop, participants broke off into four working groups to discuss how to improve access to the Tahoe Basin, how to reduce the public’s dependency on automobiles, opportunities for bicyclists and pedestrians, and how transit affects the basin’s environment.

Each group proposed three goals to be achieved at the presidential summit on Lake Tahoe. At the heart of several proposals was the need to provide public transit to Lake Tahoe and inside the basin to lessen the impact of automobile traffic.

“Until we can stop the flow of cars into the basin, we will continue to have problems,” summed up Richard Wiggins of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

Other proposals included the extension of a planned on-demand transit system in South Lake Tahoe to the entire basin, the need for a local funding source to provide matching funds for transit projects, and the creation of a recreational transit system that includes bikeways and pedestrian paths.

Transportation has a direct effect on the Tahoe Basin environment, said participants in the work session on the environment.

“There is a sense of urgency in each of the issues we addressed,” said the TRPA’s Andrew Strain. He cited the need to reduce the transport of automobile pollution from outside the basin, and the need to better understand the link between transportation and its environmental impact.

Co-hosting the workshop were both U.S. senators from Nevada – Harry Reid and Richard Bryan. Reid, who invited Clinton to visit Lake Tahoe for a firsthand look at the basin’s problems, called the Lake Tahoe Presidential Forum a dream come true.

“Federal, state and local officials have demonstrated they can work together,” Reid said. “President Clinton has made a federal case out of Lake Tahoe.”

Bryan emphasized the need for basin residents to identify their top priorities and establish a way to evaluate progress toward meeting their goals.

Slater, who once vacationed at Lake Tahoe with his wife, said federal transportation policies can do more for the Tahoe Basin than simply build new roads.

“Many people think transportation is concrete, asphalt and steel,” Slater said. “But it’s about people and, in this area in particular, about protecting the environment.”

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