Mousehole views vary |

Mousehole views vary

While opinions on the mousehole alternatives varied at Wednesday’s meeting, most people agreed some kind of change was necessary.

Caltrans personnel presented five alternatives to the current mousehole and discussed potential impact on the environment, traffic and the railroad.

Winder Bajwa, Caltrans project manager, said the open house was a first step in the process toward a mousehole solution. Caltrans will go through environmental review on the project and have another open house, probably next fall, before a final decision on design is made, Bajwa said.

Georgette Neale, the Caltrans environmental coordinator, said the environmental issues right now are working near both Donner Creek and the Truckee River.

“Alternatives four and five (the two bridge alternatives) are very different, they will have to blend in, and pile-driving on Donner Creek would also be an issue,” Neale said.

Dealing with the railroad both during and after the construction of one of the mousehole alternatives also poses a challenge. Scott Lanphier, a Caltrans transportation engineer, said the Union Pacific Railroad was opposed to the first three options, which would involve boring more tunnels under the track.

“They seemed a little indifferent,” Lanphier said. “The only concern was that there would be no impact on operations.”

The railroad favored the bridge alternatives because those would re-align the track to make for a better curve, he said.

Lanphier said the boring options could pose risks and that they weren’t realistic options. He said people he had talked to at the meeting were of mixed opinion. Some were against major change (in favor of keeping the mousehole and adding new bores), but most wanted to open it up with a bridge, he said.

Another possibility in dealing with the railroad traffic would be using a “shoo-fly,” which is a temporary train bridge to re-route traffic while work on the mousehole is being done. It would, however, be expensive, Lanphier said.

Jim Brake, from Caltrans Traffic Operations, said any of the alternatives with four lanes will handle the same amount of traffic, but the number of lanes between the mousehole and West River Street would also have to be addressed.

He also weighed the pros and cons of using a separate tunnel for bicycle and pedestrian traffic.

“If lots of pedestrians are on that lane then bikes won’t be, a lot of bikes want to be on the highway, so we would need bike lanes,” Brake said.

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