Mousehole cost estimates draw flak from council
Frustration boiled to the surface during a Caltrans presentation to town council Thursday on the Highway 89 railroad undercrossing.
Caltrans Project Manager Winder Bajwa discussed where things stand in the process to replace the aging tunnel, including the need to find funding and adopt timelines.
But a few councilmembers weren’t happy with the state of affairs.
Bajwa said funding to take the project through environmental and engineering review is now estimated at $1.1 million more than previously, due to increased engineering and environmental support costs from the 2005-06 estimate.
Truckee Public Works Director Dan Wilkins said the higher price tag represents a worst-case scenario if all alternatives (long-span bridge, short-span bridge, or a second bore) survive the planning process without any being weeded out.
Bajwa said a typical project cycle for something of the Mousehole redesign would take four to five years ” two for engineering and environmental work and finding funding, two for design work and right-of-way acquisitions, and one to two years of construction.
That means in the best-case scenario, construction would begin in 2012 and finish in 2014, he said.
Councilmember Carolyn Wallace Dee didn’t think the project should take that long.
“That frightens me; the need is here today,” she said.
Dee also said a design proposal would be needed by next January in order to start looking for funding, and urged Caltrans to meet that deadline.
In his presentation, Bajwa also re-introduced an alternative that would include a second and third tunnel for traffic and bicycle/ pedestrian access respectively, but some councilmembers saw that as backpedaling.
“I think this is outrageous to bring this alternative out of the blue,” said Councilmember Josh Susman. “We asked Caltrans to take this project back to be the lead agency, but I’m starting to think that was a big mistake.”
Wilkins said minimal time and effort had been expended by bringing back the already dismissed option, adding that it shouldn’t affect the project’s funding or timeline.
In the end, the Truckee Town Council directed Caltrans and town staff to proceed without the re-introduced three-tunnel option, and also agreed to create a stakeholders committee to offer advise on the project.
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