Cave Rock safety project to impact Tahoe traffic for good chunk of 2016 | SierraSun.com

Cave Rock safety project to impact Tahoe traffic for good chunk of 2016

Caitlin Row
crow@tahoedailytribune.com

This rendering shows a planned 60-foot expansion of Cave Rock Tunnel along Highway 50. It includes a rock-fall shelter on the north side of the westbound tunnel.

ZEPHYR COVE, Nev. — When large boulders fell last February onto U.S. Highway 50 at Cave Rock, it caused damage to the road and tunnel portal.

The Nevada Department of Transportation installed steel netting, which is similar to a chain-link fence, to protect the area.

It's not a permanent solution, however.

That's why Devin Cartwright of NDOT — who presented to South Lake Tahoe City Council on Feb. 16 — said a 60-foot expansion, including a rock-fall shelter, is planned on the north side of the westbound tunnel.

Annual rock scaling, which can be invasive to the natural environment, was not considered an appropriate solution to solve safety concerns due to the Washoe Tribe's belief that Cave Rock is a holy site.

"NDOT wants to respect that," Cartwright said.

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Construction will start as early as May 2 and continue through November. NDOT has offered a $300,000 incentive to its contractor to finish the job early.

"We do want them to get out as soon as possible," Cartwright explained, as construction in the area is expected to cause traffic congestion.

A 25 mph speed limit through the single-lane construction area is planned, and work will likely occur Monday through Saturday, with an option to work all night "if it's a benefit," Cartwright added at Tuesday's meeting.

"I don't believe the project will impact tourism (meaning impacting the decision to visit); however, I do think the project will impact visitor and resident travel time to and from the South Shore," Lake Tahoe Visitor Authority's executive director Carol Chaplin said by email. "The key is excellent and timely communication. Based upon previous experience with NDOT on other projects, I believe we can partner with them on an effective communication plan that helps us mitigate the disruption as much as possible."

Cartwright also addressed concerns about scheduled running and cycling events planned throughout the area, including the Amgen Tour of California, which will ride around Lake Tahoe in mid-May.

"There will be no effect to those events hopefully," he said, adding, "I don't anticipate problems regarding Amgen. We've incorporated it into the (construction) contract. We will have traffic control set up to accommodate the event."

Other NDOT projects, which will occur simultaneously to the tunnel expansion, include water-quality improvements to keep fine sediments out of the lake, tunnel lighting for bicyclist and pedestrian safety and warning signs telling cars when bicycles or ice is present.

For more information, visit http://www.nevadadot.com.

MORE ABOUT THE PROJECT

It will pave the median ditch south of Cave Rock from the tunnels to the boat launch entrance.

It will mill and overlay a portion of the westbound lanes for approximately 650 feet near the tunnel extension.

It will remove and replace existing road signs near Cave Rock.

It will install two new overhead signs, one on each side of Cave Rock, approximately 500 feet ahead of each tunnel with flashing orange warning lights and LED messages. The signs will remain dark unless activated and will include the messages “BIKES IN TUNNEL” and “ICE IN TUNNEL.”

Low-lumen, downward-facing, approximately 1-inch wide, continuous-length, white LED lighting will be added to the left and right sides of the inside of both tunnels.

The eastbound and westbound tunnel’s interior concrete surfaces will be painted white from the existing concrete curb to a height of 8 feet above the curb to aid bicycle visibility.

Source: Nevada Department of Transportation