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TRPA to discuss new metropolitan status

B. H. Bose

The recent passage of a federal transportation act may bring money to the Tahoe Basin, but a lot of work will have to be done by local governmental agencies to get it here.

At the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency governing board meeting Wednesday, staff and board members will discuss ways to get their hands on those federal dollars.

In June, President Clinton signed the Transportation Equity Act. Part of the act focused on Lake Tahoe, granting the governors of California and Nevada the power to designate the Lake Tahoe area a Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Local governmental agencies that represent at least 75 percent of the affected constituents also have to agree on forming the MPO.

However, with Caltrans, Nevada Department of Transportation, Washoe County Regional Transportation Commission, City of South Lake Tahoe, Lake Tahoe Transportation and Water Quality Coalition, The League to Save Lake Tahoe, South Shore Transportation Management Association, and the North Tahoe Transportation Management Association all supposedly supporting the designation, the formation is a formality.

“This really changes the way we do business here,” said Jim Baetge, executive director of TRPA, who met with the U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater and representatives of NDOT and Caltrans in Reno Monday.

“The discussion (with Slater) was about the process and how we go forward. The potential now of getting more money is much higher,” Baetge said.

Through the designation, a MPO typically receives transportation planning funds from the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration.

Federal regulations require the adoption of a MPO boundary map, the creation of a MPO governing board, a public participation plan, an understanding agreement between the states, air quality districts and transit operators, and an adoption of a work program describing the planning strategies of the MPO.

The organization will be established to meet federal transportation requirements, while the TRPA, which is a statutory regional transportation planning agency in California, will continue to function to meet state requirements.

“With the designation, it gives us access to other capital money,” he said, adding that the money will go toward all transportation-related projects including the retrofitting of roads to better control runoff.

Once the requirements are met, said Baetge, the state transportation agencies will present it to both state governors for final approval.

The MPO board could fall under the powers of the TRPA, the Tahoe Transportation District, or become a separate entity.

— In other business, the governing board will discuss allowing research facilities to be included as a public service use. Currently, research facilities that are not affiliated with a university or college, are only allowed in the same areas with professional offices. That means commercial floor space allotments are required.

Several organizations that hope to conduct research projects in and around Lake Tahoe on a year-round basis would like to see the TRPA amend its regional plan to allow facilities in appropriate areas. If the local bistate organization agrees to amend the plan, the research groups will be exempt from commercial floor space allocation requirements.

The Tahoe Research Group, the Desert Research Institute and the Tahoe Basin Research Institute are a few organizations that have expressed an interest in having permanent operations in the Tahoe Basin.

— Public comments on paid parking on State Route 28 will be taken by the board Wednesday. The TRPA, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Tahoe Transportation District want to hear from local residents about a parking fee demonstration project at the two Chimney Beach forest service parking lots on the East Shore.

Under the current proposal, the TTD will be responsible for fee collection and all funds will to go toward summer transit services. Aug. 1 is the earliest the program could be activated.

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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