Work to start next month on ‘Y’ intersection |

Work to start next month on ‘Y’ intersection

Elaine Goodman

Tribune file photoA plan to widen the "Y" was approved by the South Lake Tahoe City Council on Tuesday. Construction will begin in early June.

The South Lake Tahoe City Council on Tuesday approved $2.5 million in contracts for widening the “Y” intersection at the west end of town over the summer.

The project will add one “straight-through” lane for each of the four legs of the intersection of highways 50 and 89. Each direction of travel will have two left-turn lanes, two straight-through lanes and a right-turn lane.

Although some remain disappointed a roundabout won’t be built at the busy intersection, Public Works Director John Greenhut described the project as “the best we can build right now.” Caltrans models found that a two-lane roundabout wouldn’t improve the flow of traffic at the intersection, and the state transportation agency rejected the roundabout idea in March 2006.

Caltrans is paying two-thirds of the $2.5 million cost of the project, with the city paying the remaining third.

On Tuesday, the council awarded contracts to four businesses that will work on the project: $2.2 million to JA Gonsalves & Son for construction; $311,477 to Vali Cooper & Associates for engineering, inspection and materials testing; $51,355 to Martin, Rivett & Olson Inc. for engineering services; and $7,500 to Andregg Geomatics for centerline staking.

The widening of the “Y” intersection won’t alleviate the Sunday traffic bottlenecks that result when visitors head out of town on busy weekends, Greenhut conceded. But the project will improve traffic flow during daytime and nonpeak travel periods, and also includes new curbs, gutters and sidewalks, landscaping, better drainage and Americans with Disabilities Act and other pedestrian-safety improvements.

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Councilwoman Kathay Lovell, who voted in favor of awarding the contracts Tuesday, said she “cringes” when she sees families with children in strollers trying to get across the intersection.

“Safer is safer. Better is better,” Lovell said. “I believe this is the right thing to do at this particular time.”

The council voted unanimously to approve the contracts, except that Councilman Ted Long abstained from voting on the contract to Gonsalves.

Long has been an outspoken advocate for a roundabout.

“I think we’re doing this because we don’t want to lose the Caltrans money and something’s better than nothing,” Long said in explaining his abstention. “There’s a better way to do this, and the money could be better spent.”

Mayor Mike Weber said he had been open to the idea of a roundabout but called the widening “a viable alternative.” Perhaps the roundabout could be revisited in the future, and should it become a reality, Weber joked that it could be called “the Long way home.”