Caltrans provides short-term Mousehole fixes | SierraSun.com

Caltrans provides short-term Mousehole fixes

Greyson Howard
Sierra Sun

Emma Garrard/Sierra SunA vehicle drives through the Mousehole Monday. White paint was added in an attempt to make pedestrians more visable. Some of the guard rails were also removed.

TRUCKEE ” Caltrans responded to recent requests for short-term fixes in the Mousehole.

On Dec. 11 Caltrans crews followed suggestions from a local group to remove some guard rails, replace some signs, and paint the inside of the railroad undercrossing on Highway 89 south.

“I’m surprised how quickly Caltrans jumped on that,” said David Yardas, member of the Mousehole Stakeholders Committee, which made the suggestions only one week before.

An accident on Dec. 1 on Highway 89 South highlighted a long-standing problem with the Mousehole. The accident occurred after a Subaru driven by a local resident swerved across the double-yellow lines, striking a delivery truck head on.

Caltrans Spokeswoman Shelly Chernicki said crews took advantage of the good weather and removed guard rails on the exiting side of each lane at the Mousehole, changed worded pedestrian signs to pictorial ones, and painted the inside of the tunnel white to increase pedestrian visibility.

“We removed the guardrails to give pedestrians more room, but we had to leave them on the approach sides so cars don’t run into the tunnel,” Chernicki said.

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Yardas said the new arrangement should make it easier for pedestrians approaching the tunnel, especially in snowy conditions.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” he said.

Unfortunately Chernicki said that fumes from cars that accumulated in the tunnel made it hard for the white paint to stick, so crews will have to power wash and repaint next summer.

She said Caltrans plans to add interior lighting by 2010 to further improve visibility in the Mousehole for pedestrians and cyclists.

“These are all short-term improvements until we can identify funding for the bigger project,” Chernicki said.

As for long-term solutions, Truckee Assistant Engineer Becky Bucar said recent geotechnical surveys should help the town and Caltrans figure out if boring more tunnels ” like a pedestrian tunnel and/or a second traffic tunnel ” is feasible.

If phasing in additional tunnels is doable, Bucar said it could be less expensive and more practical than replacing the entire undercrossing with a new bridge, which could cost between $50 million according to recent estimates.

Tunneling on the other hand could cost $35 million, saving $15 million over a new bridge, Bucar said.

Truckee Town Council will consider sending a letter to Caltrans with suggestions on the Mousehole on Thursday, Dec. 18 at 6 p.m. at Truckee Town Hall.