Making moves on the Mousehole | SierraSun.com

Making moves on the Mousehole

Greyson Howard
Sierra Sun

Option 4: Construct a bridge with four lanes of traffic, no median.

Town of Truckee officials want to urge Caltrans to narrow its focus on the Mousehole project to make limited funding last.

Town council is reviewing five proposed improvements to the railroad over-crossing on Highway 89 south ” which range from boring additional tunnels to replacing the crossing with an all-new bridge ” and may narrow down the options to one or two to help focus engineering and planning efforts.

To date, Caltrans has spent about $500,000 of its $1.1 million budget for engineering and environmental work on the Mousehole, said Truckee Senior Engineer Todd Landry. Funding for improvement of the Mousehole is in short supply, and the Town of Truckee wants to ensure what little there is stretches as far as possible.

Landry said staff will likely recommend options four and five, which would replace the Mousehole with a new bridge, but the decision will ultimately be up to council.

He said those options are most closely in-line with town priorities for traffic mobility as well as pedestrian and bicycle access, although some in the community favored an option that preserves the historic tunnel.

“We could put an arch facade on the bridge to keep the Mousehole look,” Landry said.

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Introducing its most recent members to the issue, the council will review the town priorities on the Mousehole in their discussion of the options next month, Landry said.

“We want to validate the original purpose and need of this project and make sure the council is in agreement,” Landry said.

Because Caltrans has already spent a considerable portion of its funds allocated for the Mousehole project, Landry said narrowing down the choices for improvements would focus the remaining money more effectively.

“It’s their road so they can say ‘we don’t like the town recommendation,’ but they would probably take our recommendation,” Landry said.

Daniel Landon, executive director of the Nevada County Transportation Commission, said the commission has been working with Caltrans and the Town of Truckee on funding, but no money for construction has been identified.

The $2.1 billion Corridor Mobility Improvement Account, started with Proposition 1B funding approved by voters in November, requires that projects begin construction by 2012, Landon said, making the Mousehole ineligible.

“In order to be constructible by 2012, the design work and environmental clearance would have to already be done,” Landon said. “But the environmental review will probably take another two to three years.”

Shelly Chernicki, spokesperson for Caltrans, said the environmental review should be complete by the spring of 2008.

While the Mousehole replacement will improve congestion issues, which is a requirement for Proposition 1B funding, Chernicki said it is out-competed by other projects.

“Congestion at the Mousehole pales in comparison to Sacramento or Los Angeles,” Chernicki said.