Up to $1 million in federal funds on tap for North Tahoe transportation | SierraSun.com

Up to $1 million in federal funds on tap for North Tahoe transportation

A Tahoe Area Regional Transit bus outside the Tahoe City Transit Center on Aug. 8.
Amanda Rhoades / Sierra Sun |

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Visit fhwa.dot.gov/fastact to learn more about the FAST Act.

TAHOE CITY, Calif. — Public transportation at North Lake Tahoe will receive an annual funding boost after an agreement was established July 26 between Placer County and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

According to a memorandum of understanding between the agencies, the deal will put $750,000 to $1 million of federal money in the hands of TRPA to use on improving transit in the North Lake Tahoe region each year.

Placer County supervisors approved the agreement on July 26.

“For the entire Tahoe Basin, it’s an improvement,” said Placer County Public Works Manager Will Garner. “It’s not all the money we need to do all of the things we’d like to do, but it is some.”

The money comes from the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST), which was passed December 2015. It provides additional funding for public transit initiatives across the county and allows urbanized areas to be eligible for an additional amount of those funds.

Previously, Placer County received $420,000 annually in federal transit funds under the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act.

Garner said the county expects to see the increase in funding within about a year, although there are a number of factors yet to be analyzed that will narrow the range of money to a more specific figure.

Those factors are things like population density and service miles, for example, which affects the amount of money Placer County receives for transit improvements.

“We’re already seeing some of those funds,” said Garner. “The FAST Act is already in effect, but we’re still in a bit of a transition.”

Placer County/North Lake Tahoe is eligible for the additional funding because the Lake Tahoe Basin is now classified as an urbanized area.

According to a February 2016 report from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration, the FAST Act treats Lake Tahoe as an urbanized area with more than 200,000 people because it considers the 145,000-person California population in conjunction with the 65,000 residents on the Nevada side of the lake.

Further, according to the Tahoe Transportation District, more than 200,000 people use the transportation infrastructure per day across all of Lake Tahoe. The infrastructure includes roads, public transportation, bike paths and trails.

“We’re not a truly urbanized area, we’re a designated urban area,” said Garner. “They’re also making an exception for the number of visitors to the region.”

The Placer County Board of Supervisors approved an updated Tahoe Area Regional Transit Systems Plan earlier this year. It outlines plans to expand the existing North Lake Tahoe transit system, which Garner said that federal funds will help pay for.

“We have a plan to expand our transit hours so that buses run later and also for them to run more frequently,” said Garner.

Under the FAST Act’s specifications, the money can go toward new equipment, such as the purchase of new buses, as well as operating costs.

Other ideas for improvement, as laid out in the TART plan update, include bringing on more administrative, dispatch and mechanic staff and increasing marketing efforts.

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