Turn restriction pilot program in Meyers to be discontinued | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Turn restriction pilot program in Meyers to be discontinued

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — The citizen-developed right turn restriction pilot program has not worked as officials had hoped and they will let it will expire at the end of the month. 

The Labor Day holiday weekend provided officials with data that showed travel apps are still sending motorists into residential neighborhoods even though turn restrictions are in place and could result in a citation if not adhered to, said El Dorado County officials during an online town hall meeting on Monday. 

“It poses too much of a risk in winter months with the apps still sending people in those directions and will force a left hand turn,” said El Dorado County Transportation Director Rafael Martinez. “And with limited visibility causing safety concerns, we (CHP and Caltrans) felt it’s not appropriate to use in winter months.”

Signs were installed on Sawmill and N. Upper Truckee roads warning motorists of the right hand turn restriction on Sundays and holidays.
Bill Rozak/Tahoe Daily Tribune

On the holiday weekend in September, travel apps sent travelers through N. Upper Truckee Road to get to U.S. Highway 50. Transportation department officials said 1,191 vehicles used N. Upper Truckee between 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. to reach US 50 on Labor Day with 530 of those drivers illegally turning right, according to statistics provided by the transportation department. Two cars went straight and the other 659 turned left towards the roundabout.

Even though drivers were required to turn left and negotiate the roundabout before heading west over Echo Summit on US 50, it was still a couple of minutes faster than staying on the highway according to the apps.

“It’s not so much the volume, but the congestion, which flips the apps to send drivers another direction,” Martinez said. “We unfortunately don’t think the way finding apps were following our restrictions.”

He added that when CHP was there to enforce the restrictions on previous holidays Memorial Day and July Fourth, drivers abided by the signs. Without CHP, most drivers just turned right. And on Labor Day it didn’t matter if CHP were there or not.

Traffic at N. Upper Truckee Road and U.S. Highway 50 this year during holidays.

District 5 Supervisor Sue Novasel attended the meeting and praised Martinez and his staff for the amount of work they have put into the effort.

“All of this, what you’ve been saying, El Dorado County has been proactive in finding solutions,” Novasel said. 

She went on to ask if there was anything legally the county could do. 

Transportation department staff said the only ones who can legally pursue something are the drivers who receive citations and that the county has no legal authority.

“We need to put a fire under the apps that are sending people down roads where it can lead to citations,” Novasel said. “It’s really frustrating. We need to go to the state level.”

Eric Royer of Caltrans also said his agency counted traffic during Labor Day at Pioneer Trail and US 50 and at the roundabout. He said that the new roundabout project that could break ground in the spring/summer of 2024, the Tribune previously reported, “will do wonders for keeping traffic flowing on US 50.” Royer said the roundabout would help keep a steady flow of traffic moving. 

There were some public comments following the decision, including one of the pilot program creators Jeffrey Spencer who said that having a steady stream of cars going through Meyers wouldn’t allow for people making a left to enter the roadway.

But the pilot program isn’t being thrown away although the signs that prohibit right hand turns on Sundays and holidays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. will be removed on Nov. 1 or 2. Martinez said he will continue looking at the program once the new roundabout is complete.

“I wish this one was more successful than what we saw,” Martinez said. “But we’re not going to give up. We’re not going to stop.”

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