Talks begin about 3-lane system on Tahoe’s Hwy 89 for winter 2016-17
June 20, 2016
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OLYMPIC VALLEY, Calif. — It's no secret: On peak ski days at Truckee-Tahoe — especially like this past season when legit amounts of snow fell — motorists navigating Highway 89 between Truckee and Squaw Valley are slowed to a crawl.
With that in mind, the Truckee North Tahoe Transportation Management Association is starting discussions for a potential three-lane program on Highway 89 for the 2016-17 winter season in an effort to ease traffic congestion.
At the association's June 2 meeting, representatives from Squaw Valley | Alpine Meadows, Caltrans, California Highway Patrol and Placer County, among others, started a dialogue on such a program.
Mike Livak, executive vice president Squaw-Alpine, talked about the ski resort's use of a temporary three-lane program during the ski season over recent years.
The program, he said, routes two lanes of traffic inbound to Squaw Valley during the morning hours and two lanes outbound in the afternoon.
"That's worked quite well," Livak said. However, he added: "We did identify several occasions when there was a lot of cueing and congestion on Highway 89 proper.
"We thought it might be beneficial to experiment in some manner next season with a three-lane program (on Highway 89) of some sort — it could simply be on a few peak days where we try something."
Damion Farley, a Caltrans traffic reviewer for the Lake Tahoe Basin, said that, physically speaking, fitting three lanes on Highway 89 is possible.
"Highway 89 pinch points are 42 feet," said Farley, referring to the place on the road where congestion occurs. "I think we can get three lanes in there."
However, Farley cited traffic control, snow removal and condensed shoulder space as hurdles for such a project.
"Not knowing all the particulars yet, it's hard to say, 'yes, do it,' or 'no, don't do it,'" he added.
Livak said he envisions the program as a limited experiment only used when there is no snowfall and the shoulders are clear.
"Much like the preconditions that we used for our three lanes at Squaw Valley Road," he said, "you need a dry roadway surface, you need a full road width, and, probably, you need a full Squaw Valley three-lane program in or out to serve whichever direction you're on Highway 89."
Since discussions are in their infant stages, details regarding layout of the lanes and cost estimates are unknown.
Jamie Wright, executive director of the TMA, said the association is happy to coordinate meetings for further discussions on a pilot three-lane system on Highway 89 for the 2016-17 season.
Placer County, Caltrans and Squaw Valley will be meeting the second week in July and "working on this" throughout the summer, said Wright.