Bypass finally opens in Truckee

Christina Nelson
Photo by Colin FisherSeveral of Truckee's town leaders bring out the giant scissors for last week's ribbon cutting.

There were firsts, and lasts on the Truckee Bypass last week.

Standing near the middle of the bridge, bundled up in jackets, scarves and hats, onlookers watched the ribbon cutting ceremony of the long-awaited bridge on Oct. 24.

Speakers, policymakers and local officials took in a view from the bridge that can only be seen now while driving 55 mph across the 1,500-foot span of concrete.

“Typically when we open a project there’s little fanfare,” said John Rodrigues, Caltrans chief of north region construction. “Typically we open it and people just use it.”

“Here we are all complete and not a minute too soon – there were a few snowflakes out this morning,” said Barbara Green, Nevada County supervisor.

A small podium set up on the west side of the bridge was surrounded by folding chairs – left largely empty. Onlookers chose to stand, watching the Railroad Regulators, the Tahoe Truckee High School Wolverine marching band and the event’s speakers.

The band – playing the “Star-Spangled Banner” – was displaying its “brand spankin’ new uniforms,” said Caltrans spokesman Mark Dinger.

Four horses – led by Truckee’s Railroad Regulators – walked a portion of the bridge and, in general, remained calm while California Department of Transportation officials unveiled their newest gem.

“It’s probably a first and a last for this bypass,” said Vice Mayor Ten Owens, as the horses did their business in the middle of the road.

Former-Mayor Bob Drake represented Congressman Walley Herger, and had a second opportunity to speak as a key player in the development of the bypass.

“Gee, with a reaction like that I’m a write-in candidate (for town council),” Drake said, after applause from the crowd.

Councilman Josh Susman, who was at the groundbreaking on Aug. 31, 1999, described the completion of the bypass as “a dream.”

The bypass – which spans 1,500-feet over the Truckee River, Glenshire Drive and Union Pacific Railroad tracks – cost $33.5 million.

It is the first stretch of highway to have been opened in this area since the Squaw Valley Olympics in 1960.

As the bypass project progressed from conceptual plans to construction, some downtown merchants felt their business would slow without the same amount of traffic passing through downtown.

But Caltrans resident engineer Robert Burton said he hopes those merchants will wait at least a year before they decide that the bypass has either hurt or helped their businesses.

“I think ultimately it will all work out,” Burton said.

Although traffic began to flow on the bypass at around 5 p.m. that day, the project will not be complete until next spring.

Caltrans will remove portions of the roadway that currently connect Highway 80 and 267. Highway 89 South from Sierraville will connect drivers to Highway 267 when the roadwork is complete.

As for reaction to the bypass so far, Dinger said it’s too early to tell.

“We’re going to certainly tell by this winter how effective it’s going to be,” he said.

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