Roundabouts, medians dominate Truckee’s Donner Pass Road upgrade talks |

Roundabouts, medians dominate Truckee’s Donner Pass Road upgrade talks

Gene Welch, left, and Mary Lou Welch observe the exhibit showing alternative design options that are under consideration for Donner Pass Road at the Envision DPR public meeting on March 3.
Kaleb M. Roedel / Sierra Sun |

TRUCKEE, Calif. — Residents got their second look last week at the vision town planners have for major renovation of a large stretch of Donner Pass Road west of downtown.

The project, called Envision DPR, blueprints a number of improvements on Truckee’s busiest road between the McIver roundabout near Brickelltown and Cold Stream Road on the west end of town near Donner Memorial State Park.

At a public workshop on March 3, Envision DPR’s preliminary designs and concepts — phase 1 — were unrolled to the community. Phase 1 includes connecting sidewalks and improving pedestrian crossings from Northwoods Boulevard to Frates Lane/Highway 89, according to the town.

The goal of the workshop was to “prioritize the different project components” being considered for the corridor, said Becky Bucar, a town engineering manager on the project.

In a meeting consisting of roughly 60 people, residents raised questions concerning the effectiveness of roundabouts, the impacts of medians and landscaping maintenance along the corridor, among others.

“People brought up a lot of great questions and things to think about,” Bucar said. “It was good to have that question-and-answer session; it was good for everybody to hear questions the community has.”

Many of the questions concerned two concepts: medians along Donner Pass Road and roundabouts at minor intersections.

Mirroring the public outreach results to date, the implementation of medians received little enthusiasm at last week’s workshop. The primary reasons being that medians would limit left turns in and out of sites as well as impact emergency vehicle access, Bucar said.

“It’s pretty clear that medians are not gaining as much support as the other pieces,” she continued. “If we took what we heard from the past workshop and we were trying to prioritize projects, we probably aren’t going to be pursing medians any time in the near future.”

Nevertheless, Bucar added, the project staff will continue to include the concept of medians throughout the public process to get a “full picture” of the community’s priorities.

Regarding roundabouts, the project staff’s prioritization exhibit showed upwards of seven roundabouts replacing existing traffic signals along Donner Pass Road. The proposed roundabouts included four large roundabouts at major intersections (I-80 East and Colstream, I-80 West, Northwoods and Highway 89/Frates Lane) and three smaller roundabouts at minor intersections (Richards Boulevard or Highway Road, Donner Trail Road and Meadow Way).

Many residents raised concerns of the small roundabouts as they only allow u-turns for an average-sized vehicle. In other words, a semi-truck or a bus would be unable to circle them.

“My take on it, I think there’s a general acceptance of these larger roundabouts at the major intersections,” Bucar said. “My impression was the concern was these smaller roundabouts, and that’s understandable. We sort of tested these smaller roundabouts as a standalone project for the community.”

Bucar said that while many attendees lobbied critical questions related to the proposal, there remains a strong interest and excitement for the improvement of Donner Pass Road.

“I think the fact we had a pretty good turnout, I think that shows there’s definitely interest,” Bucar said. “With any workshop you’re going to hear a lot of concerns, but I do feel like there is — not only on the staff level, but in the community — an interest in improving that corridor. And I think people see the value in some of the concepts we’re developing.”

Bucar said the Envision DPR staff is now working on the next section of the project, Highway 89 South to McIver Crossing, and another workshop will take place in the summer.

Additionally, Bucar said, the project staff is working on developing a funding strategy for underground utilities along the corridor as well as establishing a maintenance district.

Currently, the maintenance for sidewalks lies with the individual property owners. In a maintenance district, the property owners help fund the maintenance of the corridor done by one entity, Bucar said.

Initial construction of the project would take place in 2017 and be partially funded by a $1.5 million grant from the federal Highway Safety Improvement Program, according to previous reports.

Town staff plans to gather more input through an online survey on the project website

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