Caltrans on Core: ‘Alternative 2 … would not be acceptable’
Caltrans has rejected roundabout Alternative 2 in the Kings Beach Commercial Core Improvement project, which features three lanes, sidewalks and seasonal on-street parking.
In a letter addressed to Placer County Supervisor Bruce Kranz, Caltrans officials said that of the four alternatives they favored Alternative 3, which features four-lanes and traffic lights, as the superior selection for Kings Beach’s impending facelift.
The letter was sent on Oct. 2 in response to a telephone conversation between Supervisor Kranz and Caltrans District Director Jody Jones.
“My letter to Supervisor Kranz was in response to his request … asking for Caltrans’ technical opinion about the traffic impacts of the alternatives,” Jones said in a phone interview. “I am coming at this strictly from a traffic perspective.”
The three-lane alternative will create traffic congestion coming through downtown Kings Beach on Highway 28, Jones said.
The gridlock will encourage drivers to pursue alternative routes of travel through the town’s backstreets, which are frequented by pedestrians, she added.
“The situation is just exacerbated when you have parking,” Jones said.
Even though Alternative 2 states there will be no on-street parking during the peak summer months, Jones said she was doubtful the county would be able to enforce such a rule.
“I don’t think that parking is a problem only in the summertime,” Jones said, noting peak holiday ski weekends. “It isn’t as simple as saying we can block off the parking in the summer and then let people park there in the winter. That’s why it’s a problem.”
Caltrans said it preferred the four-lane alternative because it “minimizes congestion and delays during peak periods and improves pedestrian safety,” according to the letter.
Caltrans is willing to accept Alternative 4, which also offers roundabouts, two travel lanes and a center turning lane, because it does not feature on-highway parking.
The roundabouts and three-lanes in Alternative 4, however, are only borderline acceptable when it comes to their impacts on traffic congestion, Jones said.
“Alternative 4 has serious traffic impacts that the county should clearly understand when making their decision,” Jones wrote in the letter. “These impacts, including substantial traffic delays during peak periods and increased ‘cut through’ traffic on the residential streets, will ultimately be the county’s responsibility to address.”
Caltrans still has not finished its review of the 750-pages of public comments and response it received from the county’s department of Public Works on July 31.
Jones said she expected the review to be complete by mid-November.
Supervisor Kranz said he spoke with Caltrans to gain insight on where the state agency stood with respect to the project.
“Our public works people wanted to get some information from Caltrans so that they could finish off their proposal,” Kranz said. “This thing’s taken forever and we need to have some information on it.”
Public Works Director Ken Grehm said he will be looking into the reasoning behind Caltrans’ decision.
“[The letter] did beg a couple of questions as to their thought process,” Grehm said. “We kind of thought [Alternatives] 2 and 4 were coequal as far as traffic impacts.”
Caltrans is a partner on the core improvement project with lead agency Placer County, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and the Federal Highway Administration. All four agencies must sign off on the same alternative for the project’s approval.
Jones said she will not sign off on Alternative 2.
Kranz said that though Caltrans may state that now, there’s no telling if the state’s opinion will change in the future.
“If you know anything about government, things change as you move them up the decisionmakers,” Kranz said. “I’ve worked for government long enough to know that when you get controversy in play, [the issue] gets elevated up to the top dog.”
The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency is still reviewing public comment as well, said agency spokesman Jeff Cowen. He said TRPA had no response to Caltrans’ letter.
“We’re still reviewing for our issues,” Cowen said. “Once we’re done with that, we’ll coordinate with everybody.”
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