Could US 50 on Lake Tahoe’s East Shore be reduced to two lanes? |

Could US 50 on Lake Tahoe’s East Shore be reduced to two lanes?

Claire Cudahy
Around 250 people attended the meeting at Zephyr Cove Elementary School on May 31 where NDOT presented a slew of potential "safety improvment" projects for U.S. 50 on Lake Tahoe's East Shore.
Claire Cudahy / Tahoe Daily Tribune |

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Email to give NDOT input on the potential changes to U.S. 50 from NV 28 to Stateline. Include “U.S. 50 Lake Tahoe Corridor Safety Improvements” in the subject line.

In the name of safety, Nevada Department of Transportation is exploring a slew of changes to U.S. 50 on Tahoe’s East Shore, including reduction of the highway to two lanes.

“This is why we are here tonight — the crash data,” said Kent Steele, senior designer for NDOT, at a May 31-meeting held to get community feedback on the potential changes.

Over the last seven years, there have been 682 crashes, including 382 injury crashes and 12 fatalities, from the stretch of U.S. 50 starting at the junction of Nevada Route 28 down to Stateline.

At the meeting, which was attended by nearly 250 people, a variety of “safety improvements” — none of which are set in stone, assured Steele — were showcased on poster boards with the option for attendees to indicate with a sticker whether or not they liked them.

Possible solutions included re-striping the highway with new lane configurations. One example depicted what it would look like near Warrior Way if the highway was reduced to one lane in each direction, allowing for the addition of a center turn lane, roadside parking, and a bike lane.

Other potential projects included roundabouts at Elks Point Road in Zephyr Cove, near Zephyr Cove Resort, and the junction of U.S. 50 and Nevada Route 28. The reduction of Cave Rock to one lane, acceleration and deceleration lanes to get vehicles on and off the highway safely, as well as right hand storage lanes were also presented.

No studies have been conducted yet examining how these changes would impact traffic flow, though Steele said that is the next step, along with breaking down the crash data by cause.

Approximately every 10 years NDOT repaves its highways in Lake Tahoe, and U.S. 50 is slated for work in the next three to five years.

“It’s a blank slate,” said Steele, noting that this was the first time NDOT had come forward with project ideas this early in the process.

Comments from the public were recorded at the meeting, and in another nine months, NDOT will come back with more refined projects. After another public comment opportunity, it’s on to the design process, which takes roughly one to three years. Construction takes another one to three years.

Public reception to the potential highway changes was mixed.

“I looked partially from being a cyclist and biking around the lake for the last 40 plus years. The changes, some could be positive, but I just don’t know what we are going to do with the impact to traffic,” said Jeff Brumbach, a resident of Zephyr Heights.

For Stateline resident Ty Polastri, while some of the ideas like the suggested roundabouts have appeal, the potential traffic issues are of concern, too.

“They are finishing the freeway down in Carson, and that’s going to dump people on [U.S. 50], so I’d like to know what the traffic volume is currently, what is it forecasted to be, and how will this configuration impact that volume of traffic,” said Polastri.

Kingsbury Grade resident Carolyn Manchester was emphatically against the reduction of lanes on U.S. 50.

“I agree that there are intersections that need to be addressed, but taking a lane of traffic and using it for parking for the beachgoers?” said Manchester.

Manchester, who used to own a trucking business, also noted that this could have an impact on deliveries to local businesses.

Ultimately, there could be no changes made to U.S. 50 at all.

“There is the no build option — repaving and re-striping the road just as it is — but you’re not addressing the reason why we are here,” said Steele. “Those 682 crashes and 12 people that lost their lives.”

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