Construction on Donner Summit projected to end in 2022

The east end of Donner Pass Road is estimated to reopen Nov. 1; construction will continue into next summer


“Road closed” sign on Donner Pass Road heading to Donner Summit.
Elizabeth White

Construction on Donner Pass Road is slated for a July Fourth completion, officials said.

The project starts at the Soda Springs exit and ends at the town of Truckee. This project costs approximately $20 million, and has been underway since May 2020.

Apart from newly paved roads, there will also be added bike lanes and widened shoulders on the road for better access to climbing, biking, hiking and sightseeing. These newly paved and widened pullouts will include School House, Star Wall, Snowshed, Space Wall, Black Wall, and the Rainbow Bridge parking lot.

According to Patrick Perkins, Nevada County Public Works principal civil engineer, the east side of Donner Pass Road will be open again starting Nov. 1, with all work done by summer.

Perkins said that prior to the project, there were several gravel pullouts that were not to legal standard.

“So we’re trying to pave those out, making them a little bit bigger and wider so that when people are pulling over they’re completely out of the roadway to make it safer for everybody,” he said. “Some might be for one or two cars or some might be for three or four cars, it just depends. We’re trying to maximize space.”

Perkins said that the entire project is mainly focused on adding a 4-foot wide bicycle trail from the Soda Springs exit to the Truckee town limits. The project will widen the road, which will give cyclists more space and provide a safer environment for them.


The project has faced several challenges — the climate on the summit and the pandemic being its primary adversities.

Construction winding up for the season on Donner Summit.
Elizabeth White

“You’ve got rock on one side and nothing on the other side, so widening has definitely presented its challenges,” Perkins said.

Workers have had to chip, drill, and pull out granite in order to reach the desired length, which has taken up much of the project’s time. Additionally, due to the pandemic it has been difficult for crews to get the materials they need in a timely manner.

Perkins estimates that the project will be done near July Fourth, though many factors could alter that timeline. A long winter could delay the start time, or a continual shortage of manpower and materials.

“We’re 75-80% done with the project at this point,” Perkins said. “We do have a lot of paving to do on the east side next season and this season we are anticipating paving from the summit down to Rainbow Bridge, and then we’re going to wrap up for the year. Starting next season we’ll be working from Rainbow Bridge down to the town of Truckee limit.”

Perkins also noted that there is an ongoing effort between Placer and Nevada County to put out temporary restrooms and garbage facilities, but is unsure if the facilities will be offered in the coming summer seasons.

For residents living in the area, there is a portion of the road on the west side, past the Summit Haus, that is still partially open. People can use the Soda Springs exit onto I-80 to get into Truckee. There has been a traffic control crew stationed there for the past two summers.

“An ongoing concern we’ve had is trying to keep the wait times down.” Perkins said wait times for residents living on the road can sometimes be up to 20 minutes, with the goal being around 10 minutes.

“I know it’s been a long haul and it’s definitely inconvenient for the people that live there,” he said. “We’re trying our best to get things out of the way, and we really do appreciate their patience. We’re trying to put together a good project, and sometimes it takes a little bit longer than we think it’s going to, but I would rather take a little bit longer and get a good project than try to to rush through it and have something that’s not going to be a good product when everything is said and done.”

Elizabeth is is a staff writer with the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at

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