Costs soar for proposed Mousehole bridge | SierraSun.com

Costs soar for proposed Mousehole bridge

Greyson Howard
Sierra Sun
Emma Garrard/Sierra SunCars drive through the Mousehole on Highway 89 Saturday afternoon.
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Plans to improve the Highway 89 railroad undercrossing known as the Mousehole have grown more complex ” and the projected cost has risen significantly.

After reviewing a range of possible solutions, the Truckee Town Council endorsed building a new bridge at an estimated cost of between $46 million and $52 million. Previous estimates had put a top price tag of $30 million on the project.

The Truckee Town Council last week selected one of the proposed solutions to fix the tight passage between Truckee and Squaw, Alpine Meadows, and Tahoe City to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety, as well as facilitate traffic flow.

The town and Caltrans have chosen to replace the mousehole-shaped tunnel beneath the Union Pacific rail line with a bridge spanning the highway. The project would require a few short-term fixes in the interim.

After working through costs and impacts of four alternatives, Caltrans and town staff recommended the same option to the Truckee Town Council.

In studying the traffic bottleneck, town staff identified environmental impacts to Donner Creek, the need to acquire private property in the nearby shopping center, high costs, and even potential historic issues with realigning the Union Pacific’s route, said Truckee Public Works Director Dan Wilkins.

“The railroad alignment is eligible for a National Historic Register,” Wilkins said at the meeting last Wednesday. “If we touch it, we could cause an effect to a historic resource.”

Cost estimates of the four options ranged from $46 million to $80 million, depending on the option and the requirements from the railroad, Wilkins said.

After considering the costs and impacts, town staff and Caltrans came up with a series of short-, medium- and long-term fixes.

Most immediately, Wilkins said the town could work with Caltrans to create a pedestrian signal, which would allow a pedestrian to push a button, giving one direction of traffic through the tunnel a red light.

“That may or may not be possible, but Caltrans we believe is at least open to that,” Wilkins said.

Council Member Carolyn Wallace Dee said if the town applied for the signal, it could possibly be funded by Caltrans and built within one or two years.

Next, depending on funding, Wilkins said Caltrans and the town could either build a pedestrian tunnel until more funding is found, or with enough funding, build a new bridge.

The bridge recommended to town council would require building a “shoofly,” or a temporary railroad bridge for train traffic while the Mousehole is replaced, Wilkins said

“The historic route doesn’t include the Mousehole itself,” Wallace Dee said. “It would still be in alignment with the shoofly option.”

Town council approved the recommended course of action, which would have lesser impacts on Donner Creek and cost between $46 million and $52 million.