Caltrans eyes I-80 ramp closures
Town officials oppose Caltrans’ latest configuration of the Highway 267 Bypass.
At last week’s regular town council meeting, Truckee councilmembers directed staff to send a letter signed by Mayor Bob Drake to Caltrans, Sen. Tim Leslie and Assemblyman Bernie Richter expressing the town’s surprise and concern over the bypass design plan.
Town Engineer Jon Lander said he met with Caltrans representatives July 14 when two project modifications were brought to light: construction has been condensed to one phase and the off and on ramps at the Highway 267-Interstate 80 junction will be closed.
“In starting the design, Caltrans staff has felt they should make it all one project and not divide it into two pieces,” Lander said at the meeting. “Partly because they were uncertain when they could get the funding for the second phase and, secondly, because it appears they can do all of that construction within the funding they have.
“What this does is move us to the final phase of ramp configurations with I-80 and what they are proposing is eliminating the ramps at the (Highway 267-I-80) intersection.”
Should the current design move forward – it is funded for construction in 1999 – eastbound travelers stopping in downtown Truckee would have to cross I-80 to the north, continue to a new intersection at Highway 89 and turn south, cross I-80 again and make a left turn to an eastbound I-80 on ramp.
“When questioned about the circuitous routing, Caltrans brought forth the route agreements signed by Nevada County in 1992,” Lander said. “They clearly show the county’s approval of closing all existing ramps to I-80.”
Shortly after the county’s approval of the ramp closures, Truckee incorporated in
Bypass alternative locations recognized before included moving the interchange either to the west or east of the Olympic Heights subdivision. Positioning the interchange west of Olympic Heights would carry traffic too close to the subdivision, while placing it farther east would infringe on Truckee-Tahoe Airport District lands.
“The conclusion was that the proposed location would be the best given the environmental constraints,” Lander said.
Another issue discussed regarding the bypass was its infringement on Truckee Sanitary District and Tahoe-Truckee Sanitation Agency lands, specifically with the use and maintenance of Joerger Drive.
Currently, TSD, TTSA and Teichert Aggregates have a three-way agreement to maintain the private road, which will lie beneath the bypass. The two special districts are involved in a proposed land exchange with the Truckee-Donner Recreation and Park District to create ballfields east of TSD offices.
“The districts have suggested that a possible solution to the new park land would be to convert Joerger Drive into a public road, or develop another existing road from Ranch Road off Martis Drive toward the TSD offices,” Lander said. “The discussion with Caltrans is that this (present) alignment would require an undercrossing of the bypass.”
Lander said Caltrans indicated it would be willing work toward bringing Joerger Drive up to public road standards if the ballfield plan will take effect in the near future. Also town staff has contacted TSD, TTSA, TTAD, TDRPD, Teichert representatives and Caltrans on the Joerger Drive idea.
Caltrans’ engineer for the project is scheduled to meet with councilmembers at the Sept. 4 regular meeting.
After hearing the bypass update, councilmembers were in agreement to oppose the ramp closures and work toward securing an underpass to reach the proposed ballfields.
“I think we ought to most vigorously oppose the closing of the eastbound ramps. We just went through this general plan process where that is one of our main gateways,” Drake said. “A lot of people come in (to town) that way and I don’t see any legitimate reason why those should be closed.”
“I would echo very strongly the comment about the eastbound off ramp. It is crazy not to have that,” Councilman Steve Carpenter said.
Councilman Josh Susman said the proposed bypass alignment was not what town residents were presented with in 1992, despite attending lengthy public hearings on the issue.
“This alignment appears to be a pretty deviant design for what this community was led to believe and expect and was promised from Caltrans,” he said. “I am completely shocked by this presentation.”
Pat Sutton, town resident and Truckee-Donner Public Utility District board member, said community members have supported the bypass in theory since 1983 and that it had been in the works 20 years before that.
“It has taken 14 years to get to this point and now we find what they are going to do will impact this community,” she said. “It is going to make it very inconvenient for us to get across town or to access the freeway. (And) it will encourage state highway traffic on town streets.”
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