Traffic safety inspires heated debate over restoration project
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Two distinctly different ideas about public safety were on display at a Friday meeting to discuss an environmental restoration project on Lake Tahoe Boulevard.
About 100 hundred people attended a sometimes tense meeting at Lake Tahoe Airport to discuss the proposed Lake Tahoe Boulevard Enhancement Project west of the “Y”.
The project is designed to improve water quality, restore sensitive stream areas and provide an alternate means of transportation and recreation in the area, said Brendan Ferry, a senior planner with El Dorado County’s Department of Transportation.
Five of the six alternatives for the project include reducing the number of vehicle travel lanes on Lake Tahoe Boulevard to two along at least part of its stretch between Tahoe Mountain Road and 400 feet southwest of Industrial Avenue. Each of the options includes improvements to bicycle facilities in the area.
Opposition to the project has focused on options with lane reductions.
Numerous county residents emotionally objected to the project Friday. Many said they were concern reducing the number of lanes will increase the number of traffic collisions. Several people also said they were concerned a lane reduction would reduce emergency response speeds.
“Last time we almost ran them out because we don’t want the road reduced to two lanes,” said Angora highlands resident Ken Weitzman, referring to county staff at a 2008 meeting that saw similar conflict between desires of bicyclists and motorists.
Safety was a key concern among the cyclists in the crowd, many of whom said they supported alternatives that include lane reductions. Several said the road is dangerous in its current configuration.
“Of all the roads that is the one that scared us the most,” said Scott Brown, a self-described avid bicyclist, about riding around the South Shore with his family.
Lake Tahoe Boulevard between Clear View Drive and Sawmill Mountain Road is a “key section” where lane reduction may be necessary, Ferry said.
There is a “strong chance” the county will select an alternative that includes lane reductions along that stretch of road.
Alternative 3, which is the only option that does not include vehicle lane reduction, is the most expensive option and “might be very difficult to build for us,” Ferry said.
The estimated construction cost for Alternative 3 is $1,659,754. Construction costs for the other alternatives range from $879,154 to $1,500,554.
Ferry estimated between $500,000 and $600,000 in has been spent on development of the project to date. All of the funding has come from grants.
Also at the meeting, El Dorado County Department of Transportation staff presented a sixth alternative for the project, recently developed in cooperation with South Shore agencies.
The option includes shifting two way vehicle traffic to the pavement currently carrying westbound traffic between Sawmill Road and 400 feet southwest of Industrial Avenue. Lake Tahoe Boulevard’s eastbound lanes along that stretch would be converted to a bike path.
Bike lanes on both sides of Lake Tahoe Boulevard between Clear View Drive and Sawmill Road are also included in the new alternative, which would reduce the number of vehicle travel lanes between Tahoe Mountain Road and Sawmill Road to two.
The estimated construction costs of Alternative 6 is $1,358,390.
El Dorado County senior civil engineer Donaldo Palaroan said he expects a preferred alternative to be selected later this summer.
An environmental document for the project is estimated for completion in fall 2012. Construction could begin as soon as the summer of 2013. Construction would likely be phased over two construction seasons, Palaroan said.
Although comments on the proposed project were initially expected to be due Friday, the county has not set a firm deadline for accepting input on the project, Palaroan said Tuesday. Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
A detailed description of project alternatives is available at: http://co.el-dorado.ca.us/DOT/