Downtown streets, train tracks at crossroads
Recent General Plan meetings concluded that a third downtown railroad crossing could dramatically improve traffic around Commercial Row, but the same plan could cleave the heart of Truckee.The Truckee Town Council backed a third railroad crossing, dubbed the easterly undercrossing because it will dip under the tracks east of Bridge Street. Such a proposal, though, will likely mean the closure of the current Bridge Street crossing.Town officials project that to get approval from Union Pacific Railroad for the undercrossing, they will likely have to agree to a closure of the Bridge Street crossing over the tracks. Union Pacific is attempting to eliminate at-grade crossings nationwide.
“Closing Bridge Street scares me quite a bit,” said Jerry Wood, owner of the White Buffalo. “It just puts a wall, an unpenetrable wall there.” Critics say the Bridge Street closure could create two halves of downtown, attracting people to either West River Street or Commercial Row, but cutting off the pedestrian flow between the two historic areas. “You cut the town in half and you will severely hurt the vitality of the downtown core,” said Wood.
The benefits of the undecrossing are not so much a convenience as they are a necessity, town staff said. Soon traffic downtown will fall below acceptable levels if the road structure is not changed.”The traffic conditions we had three years ago [before the state Route 267 Bypass] – those are the conditions that we will have if we do not do something,” said Dan Wilkins, Truckee public works director.The easterly undercrossing would be part of a major revamp of road patterns east of town, including a realignment of Glenshire Drive to eliminate the need for a left turn onto Donner Pass Road to get downtown. Instead of taking the left turn, Glenshire Drive would run through the future railyard development, with right-hand turn access to the easterly undercrossing.
While deciding to pursue the road options, town officials were cautious of the impacts a realignment of Glenshire, a new railroad crossing and the closure of Bridge Street could have on the historic downtown’s character.”There has been dialogue about what does this do to Commercial Row. And those are crucial, crucial issues for our town,” said Community Development Director Tony Lashbrook.To the west of downtown, the council upheld the planning commission recommendation on Deerfield Drive, allowing a emergency access but still leaving the door open for a local access road between Deerfield Drive and future development to the west.Deerfield residents speaking at the meeting agreed with the commission’s recommendations, and were pleased that the access would provide a pedestrian and bicycle route without attracting cut-through traffic from other parts of town.