Council looks towards downtown intersection improvements | SierraSun.com

Council looks towards downtown intersection improvements

Hannah Jones
hjones@sierrasun.com

Officials are looking to make long-standing stop-and-go traffic congestion in downtown Truckee a thing of the past.

As development in Truckee expands with increasing levels of traffic to the downtown area, the town is assessing two main intersections and anticipates changes to increase pedestrian safety and mitigate higher traffic levels.

Bridge Street intersections at Donner Pass Road and East and West River Street are under review. According to a town staff report, both intersections are currently at the lowest level of operation due to stop-and-go conditions. However, the town has deemed the intersections acceptable, for now.

On Monday the council awarded a contract to Eastern Sierra Engineering for $608,635 to review the situation and draft an improvement plan. The project will also address the feasibility of establishing a quiet zone at the railroad crossing between the two intersections, which would eliminate the requirement of a train whistle when trains approach the crossing.

"Those intersections have been problematic for a very long time," said Vice Mayor David Tirman.

"If you're trying to control traffic you've already covered that," said Truckee resident Jeanie McCarthy to council members. "We've spent too much money on this."

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Council Member Morgan Goodwin said that the money is not coming directly from the taxpayer general fund and will be paid for partly by the Union Pacific Railroad through traffic impact fees.

"At the end of the day the focus of a project at this location is going to be more about pedestrian safety," said Dan Wilkins, town engineer. He said the initial amount requested of $608,635 represents a worst-case scenario. "We didn't want the contract to limit the creativity of contractors. I doubt we will use the entire amount," he said.

Currently the traffic traveling northbound on Bridge Street does not stop, in order to keep the tracks clear.

"This makes crossing the street as a pedestrian unappealing, creating a gap in the connectivity between the downtown core and the railyard," an Eastern Sierra Engineering report states.

The report suggests additional physical improvements would be needed to increase pedestrian safety and mitigate traffic congestion, including sidewalk installation on the east side of Bridge Street with a crosswalk across the tracks and the potential installation of roundabouts at the intersections.

By establishing a quiet zone at the train crossing, the town may need to install medians, four quadrant gates, and a vehicle detector.

At the town's request, the company will study intersection functions and their changing traffic patterns. Contractors are expected to develop up to 20 conceptual layouts and visually render the top five to be presented at six public meetings. They plan to develop the top layouts by February of 2019.

Hannah Jones is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at hjones@sierrasun.com or 530-550-2652.