Connecting two of Tahoe’s bike trails |

Connecting two of Tahoe’s bike trails

Riding through Homewood can be a harrowing prospect for cyclists as they navigate the narrow road shoulder.

The one-mile ribbon of undeveloped gravel and blacktop is a gap in a larger North Tahoe network of bike trails maintained by the Tahoe City Public Utility District.

Plans for linking the stretch of road on Lake Tahoe’s West Shore to the 11 miles that run from Tahoe City to Sugar Pine State park are underway as the local utility secures funding for the design phase of the project, according to General Manager Cindy Gustafson.

Officials at the Tahoe utility received approval for $165,000 in planning grant money from the California Tahoe Conservancy two weeks ago.

“That project fits within our recreation and public access guidelines,” said the conservancy’s Peter Eichar, program analyst. “Recreational facilities is one of the primary things we fund.”

Gustafson said utility staff will go before the board of directors of the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association next week to ask for the same amount. Approval is likely as the funding was approved Tuesday by the association’s infrastructure committee.

The $330,000 will put the district in a position to finish the design of the trail and open the bidding process, Gustafson said.

Closing the missing trail link is in line with the transportation and public safety goals of Placer County, the Tahoe City Public Utility District and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, she said.

“Completing the bike network is a priority of the TRPA because one of our goals is to reduce dependency on the private automobile,” said TRPA Transportation Planner Karen Fink. “Also, closing the gaps in the system greatly increases usage and gives more people access to [that] system.”

The design phase of the project could be complete as early as December, according to the Tahoe utility’s Administrator of Planning and Public Works Alan Harry.

“Then we can begin construction as soon as TRPA allows in May [2009],” Harry said.

A rough estimate for construction of the trail is $1.8 million, according to Gustafson. Several utility poles stand within the proposed construction corridor.

“The specifics of the design will be intricate through this area,” she said.

Moving existing utilities underground is a distinct possibility, according to Harry, explaining the California Public Utility Commission requires state utilities to put money aside annually for the “undergrounding of overhead facilities.”

Another link possibly to be finished next year is the half-mile section of lakeside bike trail in Tahoe City between the Tahoe State Recreation Area and the vicinity of Grove Street, according to Gustafson. The Tahoe City and West Shore sections will bring the North Tahoe trail network to 20.5 miles, Gustafson said. After those are complete, the next priority would be the almost one-mile section between Sugar Pine State Park and Meeks Bay, she said.

The construction funding could come from a number of sources including traffic and air-quality mitigation fees, California Tahoe Conservancy grants, park dedication fees and private donations, Gustafson said.

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