My Turn: Fanny Bridge project to aid in emergency egress, access

Duane Whitelaw and John PangSpecial to the Sun

TAHOE CITY, Calif. andamp;#8212; First, weandamp;#8217;d like to thank the Tahoe Transportation District (TTD) for working closely with our community to inform us about the proposed SR 89/Fanny Bridge Community Revitalization Project.The TTD has diligently noted that currently along State Route (SR) 89 (West Lake Boulevard), during an emergency situation such as a forest fire or earthquake, the number of north versus southbound lanes needed for evacuation over Fanny Bridge will vary based on the incident. When one southbound lane is being used over Fanny Bridge for emergency vehicles to access the West Shore, only one northbound lane is available for evacuation.As weandamp;#8217;ve discussed with representatives from the TTD, the SR 89/Fanny Bridge Community Revitalization Project proposed alternatives all offer at least three outbound (northbound) lanes going over the Truckee River in case of an emergency with one inbound lane devoted to emergency vehicles. Increasing the outbound, (northbound) evacuation capacities aids in meeting the safety needs of businesses and residents on the West Shore of Tahoe.To increase public safety during any type of emergency situation along the West Shore of Lake Tahoe, there is a need for additional emergency access and egress. Two ways in and out of the West Shore along SR 89 would be a tremendous benefit to our community and its safety. Anyone who works in public safety (i.e., law enforcement, ambulance drivers, paramedics, fire fighters) knows first-hand that better response time, even just seconds, can save lives.Looking closely at the current situation in terms of vehicular access and egress during an emergency situation on the West Shore, there are limited viable options. Currently, the community depends on a deteriorating Fanny Bridge. Basically, right now there are four ways in or out, but they are not all easily traveled or accessible from the north, south, east or west. To go east, one would need a boat. To go west from the West Shore if you cannot get over Fanny Bridge, you will need a serious four-wheel drive vehicle to get over the Rubicon Trail or mountain bike or good hiking shoes. If Fanny Bridge is out, you will not get far going north in a car.Keep in mind, any kind of an emergency can happen any time of the year. Going south on SR 89 is fine unless you hit one of the 40 or so days that Emerald Bay is closed due to avalanche hazards. In this case, North Tahoeandamp;#8217;s ambulances responding to Meeks Bay need to rapidly travel down the West Shore to get a sick or injured patient in order to turn around and get back to Tahoe Forest Hospital in Truckee. In these cases, minutes really matter.We also saw first-hand during the August 2007 Washoe fire near Granlibakken, traffic grid-lock on SR 89 to be a real constraint.For the safety of the public, two ways in and out of the West Shore are extremely important to us in an emergency situation. It increases the number of vehicles that are able to evacuate during an emergency and offers easier access for emergency vehicles.We ask those in the community who are not apprised of the SR 89/Fanny Bridge Community Revitalization project to be proactive and visit to learn more.Weandamp;#8217;re available to assist and offer the community information about Emergency Preparedness and Evacuation Planning. For North Tahoe Please visit: or contact the Board of Directors of the Fire Protection District and staff at or by calling 530-583-6911.For Meeks Bay, please visit or call 530-525-7548.Duane Whitelaw is chief of the North Tahoe Fire Protection District, and John Pang is chief of the Meeks Bay Fire Protection District.

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