Making the Mousehole safer
TRUCKEE ” A Monday afternoon accident on Highway 89 South highlighted a long-standing problem with the Mousehole.
The accident occurred after a Subaru driven by a local resident swerved across the double-yellow lines, striking a delivery truck head on. The narrow tunnel known as the Mousehole crossing under the railroad has long been a point of concern for traffic, bicyclists, and pedestrians.
“I believe it’s a tragedy waiting to happen,” said Truckee Police Sgt. Dan Johnston. “During traffic control during that incident we stopped a family of eight pushing two strollers walking against traffic towards the mobile home park.”
Led by the Truckee Health Challenge 2013 Coalition, a Tuesday meeting brought local residents together to discuss short-term solutions for walkability through the Mousehole.
Over the last few years, plans have evolved for a second tunnel for pedestrians, and or the replacement of the tunnel with a wide bridge, but high costs have the town and Caltrans looking for temporary short-term solutions, said David Yardas, member of the Mousehole Stakeholders Committee.
Caltrans has shot down one potential short-term fix, saying the tunnel doesn’t meet their standards for a pedestrian-activated stop light, Yardas said.
“Solutions could include de-clutering the signs, modest changes to the flashing lights, and more European signs with figures instead of words,” Yardas said. “We’d still have flashing lights but instead of warning about the traffic signal, it would be all about people.”
Also subject to change would be the guard rails approaching the tunnel, he said.
“We called it a safe-haven approach to the tunnel without having to crawl over the rail,” Yardas said.
Speaking through a Spanish-speaking translator, residents of the Donner Creek Mobile Home Park urged expediency in any solutions for the Mousehole.
They said regardless of whether the guard rail was there or not, snow along the sides of the road made the approach problematic in the winter.
Sgt. Johnston said that while Monday’s accident was the only one he could remember in the Mousehole, he still considers it a risky spot.
“Everyone I know who drives through including Caltrans dread driving when a pedestrian or bicyclist is in the tunnel,” Johnston said.
Monday’s accident ” which resulted in moderate injuries to the Subaru driver and his granddaughter, also in the car ” is still under investigation, Sgt. Dan Johnston said.
While initial statements indicated the driver of the Subaru swerved to avoid a bicyclist in the tunnel, Johnston said he went further into oncoming traffic than that required.
“The sobriety of the driver is being investigated,” he said.
The bicyclist was unharmed and the truck driver complained of back pain, but wasn’t transported to the hospital, he said.