North Tahoe highway overhaul getting mixed reactions
August 20, 2014
KINGS BEACH, Calif. — Upon entering Kings Beach, traffic slows as vehicles navigate between orange construction barrels, around a roundabout and past crews working on a multi-season road revitalization project.
Work on the "Core of the Core" project started in April to resize Highway 28 from four lanes to three, with the middle lane dedicated to turning; install sidewalks, curbs, gutters and landscaping along the south side of Highway 28 between Bear and Coon streets; and construct a roundabout at Coon Street.
"I think they are doing a great job," said Perry Deas, owner of Lake Tahoe Speciality Stove and Fireplace, located on Highway 28. "I think they are keeping things moving pretty good with what they've got to deal with."
Others, however, disagree.
"The new traffic pattern is a failure," Kings Beach resident Bruce Hara said in an email to the Sun. "… With just a moderate amount of traffic, cars back up (Highway) 267 past Speckled (Avenue); heavier traffic has cars almost to the summit of 267. Add backups past Gonowabie (Road) in Crystal Bay and past National (Avenue) in Tahoe Vista, and you see the evidence in front of me that shows failure, with little hope of recovery in the near future."
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The Core of the Core project — expected to take at least two construction seasons — is the first phase in the $50 million, two-phased Kings Beach Commercial Core Improvement Project, an initiative to upgrade and improve the 1.1-mile section of Highway 28 through town.
"My biggest concern about this project is the crosswalks," said Bryan Sampson, owner of Lakeview Threads, also located on 28. "They put the crosswalks too close to the roundabouts, so it slows everybody down and it's too compact there.
"If they had put them farther out, I feel like the flow would work a lot better."
Sarah Hughes, co-owner of Well Being Massage & Skin Care, said she likes that traffic has slowed.
"Things would move really fast, and it wasn't really safe, and now they've slowed down," she said. "They seem to look at our business or see us more, so I'm happy about that."
Another Highway 28 business is Kings Cafe, which hasn't been impacted by construction as much as was expected, said Josh Fisher, a manager for the restaurant.
"We're still busy even though we thought construction would slow us down a lot," he said. "… We thought it would be slow; it would kill business, but it hasn't."
"IT'S LIKE A MAZE'
In early July, crews moved their work off Highway 28 into the Grid neighborhood, installing drainage, sidewalks and surface improvements.
"I don't like seeing all this digging up and sidewalks because I like seeing nature, dirt and trees," said Kings Beach resident Trix Kout, whose street is slated to get a sidewalk installed. "… I'd rather see dirt and plants rather than gravel and man-made sidewalks — that's why I like Kings Beach."
Others like the changes they are seeing.
"What they've done so far looks great," said Andrew Jones, a Kings Beach resident. "Once it's finished, it should be nice."
In the meantime, the only qualm he has is the changing road closures in the Grid.
"There's a different street that's blocked off pretty much every day," Jones said. "You'll go down one street and be like, 'Oh, this one's blocked today,' and then you need to make a U-turn, and you're trying to get to work.
"… It's hard to keep track of which streets are open and which are closed, but everything looks great."
Fisher, who lives in the Grid, added: "It's like a maze."
Crews will resume highway work in September, with a focus on constructing the Bear Street roundabout after Labor Day.
In addition, sidewalks, curb/gutter and parking improvements will be installed along the north side of 28, between Bear and Coon Streets.
"I can't wait for it to be over, but it's going to be an added bonus for this entire community," Sampson said. "I think a lot of things are going to change as soon as it's done.
"… The quicker they move, the happier I think the locals will be."
Entire core project completion isn't expected until at least 2017.