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Feds reject bypass ramp design

JOHN A. BAYLESS

Work on the Highway 267 Bypass is moving ahead, but federal officials dealt a harsh blow last week to Truckee’s plans for retaining two ramps at Highway 89 and Interstate 80 once the new road is complete.

The Sacramento office of the Federal Highway Administration flatly rejected the proposal made by Truckee and Caltrans to keep a westbound on ramp and east bound off ramp at Highway 89 North.

Truckee funded about $140,000 in design and engineering work for plans to retain the ramps. Those plans were forwarded to Caltrans months ago, and officials there selected the least expensive variant, which would cost about $800,000.

However, when Caltrans submitted the ramp request to FHWA, the agency denied it, citing safety concerns and low expected traffic flow.

“It went to FHWA in Sacramento and they rejected it,” Town Manager Steve Wright said. “According to Congressman Wally Herger’s office, it is now at the FHWA office in Washington, D.C., where it is being reconsidered.”

Wright said the town is contacting congressional delegates, including Herger and senators Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein.

“We are looking for some direction and recommendation from them,” Wright said. “We are suggesting that it may be time for a Truckee delegation to go to Washington to meet with the FHWA and discuss these issues.”

A citizen’s committee formed in December 1997 and presented the town’s consensus to Caltrans – Proceed with the construction of the Highway 267 Bypass; retain the ramps if possible, but don’t let the ramp project delay the bypass itself.

The committee will also help to develop a plan for the next step in the process, Wright said.

“We called the citizen’s committee back in session,” Wright said. “It will meet this Friday at 4 p.m. in town hall to discuss what our strategy should be.”

FHWA cited four reasons for its decision in the rejection letter to Caltrans district director Irene Itamura.

According to the FHWA letter:

It does not appear that the proposed ramps are warranted, based on low projected traffic volume.

The proposed ramps do not allow adequate “spacing” from the adjacent, relocated interchange. Interchange spacing is a design feature that is critical to the safe and efficient utilization of freeways, and is therefore followed to the maximum extent possible.

Partial interchanges can confuse those drivers that are unfamiliar with the area and can lead to wrong-way movements. Generally, partial interchanges on the interstate system are only considered on a case-by-case basis for special purpose access, or where the construction of a partial interchange will be followed up with construction activities to complete the interchange in the near future.

It appears there are adequate local roads available to the traveling public, and that modifications to the local road system could be made to address circulation issues.

If the ramps at Highway 89 North and Interstate 80 are closed, the only direct access for freeway travelers to Truckee’s downtown will be via the central Truckee off ramp and the Highway 267 Bypass ramps, which will be located more than half a mile east of the current Highway 89 interchange. Motorists exiting at the bypass would have to backtrack on a connector road to Highway 89 to reach downtown.

Sierra Sun E-mail: sun@tahoe.com

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