West Shore Association using grant to combat Lake Tahoe roadwork | SierraSun.com

West Shore Association using grant to combat Lake Tahoe roadwork

Josh Staab
jstaab@sierrasun.com

HOMEWOOD, Calif. — In an effort to offset a fourth straight summer of heavy Highway 89 roadwork, members of the West Shore Association are hoping an economic sponsorship can help boost seasonal business.

The association was recently awarded $5,000 from Placer County's Office of Economic Development.

"Because of the significant impact roadwork has had on everything between Emerald Bay and Tahoe City on Route 89, we are reminding motorists there is plenty to do on that road despite consistent traffic delays," said Jennifer Merchant, Placer County's Tahoe Executive Office deputy manager. "There are a lot of small businesses on West Shore, markets to vacation rentals, so we found it important to let the pubic know those places are available."

'OPEN FOR YOU'

Driving along 89 these days, it would be difficult to miss efforts to improve roadways and walkability.

From Mile 0.2 south of the El Dorado/Placer County line to the Truckee River Bridge, construction on new sidewalks, improved roadways and new drainage systems to collect runoff for stormwater treatment is snarling traffic.

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It's all in the spirit of revitalizing an area that could use a little TLC, said West Shore Association member and self-proclaimed "spark plug" Rob Weston.

Still, it isn't an ideal situation for residents or businesses that rely on the summer tourism uptick in the wake of four lackluster winters.

Despite the clear blue shorelines of Lake Tahoe, the hikes up and around Homewood, and the historic and picturesque settings of the Hellman-Ehrman Mansion, Weston and West Shore Association members feared the abundance of revitalization efforts would turn off would-be tourists and patrons to the area.

"They see the signs, get out their map and realize they can go around the lake, another way," Weston said. "They don't realize there is worse construction going (toward Kings Beach)."

Considering that, Caltrans donated a series of roadside signs to the West Shore Association.

Strategically placed every 20 feet or so by Weston himself, the bright yellow signs read "West Shore business open for you," "Parks, trails, lake open for you," "Markets, dining, lodging open for you," "Dine, shop, play, stop & stay," in large black capital letters.

With those in place, the association used the $5,000 sponsorship from Placer County for marketing and promotional materials to draw attention to what the West Shore has to offer.

'A CHALLENGING PROJECT'

However, Weston isn't alone in his efforts. Recently, Caltrans crews have joined in, adding even more signs that informing passersby of road conditions, length of construction and traffic delays.

"Caltrans recognizes the strain on West Shore businesses because of this project, and we want to work with the association to address their concerns," said Steve Nelson, Caltrans' Tahoe Basin outreach coordinator.

Roads and walkways aren't the only improvements being made, either.

The $70 million project, funded from state and federal water funds, will improve eroded and/or disturbed slopes, and Highway 89 shoulders are being widened to a minimum of four feet throughout the project limits.

Caltrans is also constructing new left-turn pockets at Gray Avenue, Moana Circle, McKinney Rubicon Springs Road, Ward Avenue, Sunnyside Lane, Olympic Drive (north), Granlibakken Road, and the entrance to the Tahoe City Transit Center.

The project began in 2012, requiring Southwest Gas to first move its gas lines that were in conflict with the Caltrans drainage improvements, Nelson said.

That aspect was completed in 2014. The full highway reconstruction began in 2014 and is scheduled to finish in fall 2016, Nelson said.

"It's been a challenging project to build due to the confined space compounded by high traffic volumes during peak seasons," he said. "The complexity of the project in a tight working space has been the primary challenge."

CORRECTION: This article has been updated from a previous version to indicate the $5,000 sponsorship was used to pay for marketing and promotional materials for the West Shore Association, and that Caltrans donated the signs to the association to be placed along Highway 89. The Sierra Sun regrets the error.

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More online

Visit tahoeroads.com/89_West_Shore to read about all aspects of the Highway 89 project.

Visit tahoewestshoreassoc.com to read more about the West Shore Association, which is amid a website redesign.