Roundabouts killed in Kings Beach
After an all-day meeting Wednesday, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency board shot down a plan featuring three lanes and roundabouts in the Kings Beach Commercial Core plan.
The plan to make Kings Beach more pedestrian friendly, improve water quality and enhance downtown aesthetics had previously been unanimously approved by both the Placer County Planning Commission and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Advisory Planning Commission, and came with recommendations from the League to Save Lake Tahoe and The Sierra Business Council.
“Many things affect the nature of a downtown, but nothing is more influential than the roadways that serve as main streets,” said John Singlaub, executive director of the planning agency, early in the meeting.
The vote means Placer County cannot bring a similar project back to the board for one year. Instead, Placer officials will likely submit an alternative that includes four lanes and traffic lights.
“We’re not going to give up on this project,” said Ken Grehm, director of public works for Placer County on Thursday. “We will explore the four-lane option further.”
County staff is still working to figure out exactly what the next steps will be, he said.
“We’re still trying to come to grips with what the governing board requested,” Grehm said.
On Wednesday, so-called three-laners and four-laners took turns debating the configuration of Highway 28 through Kings Beach at the TRPA meeting in Incline Village. Those at the meeting weighed three lanes and roundabouts against four lanes and traffic lights. Chief among people’s concerns were traffic congestion, pedestrian safety, parking and traffic spilling over into residential areas.
“It’s very clear to me it is about half and half,” TRPA board member Stuart Yount said of the audience. “This is the most divided and controversial subject I’ve seen.”
Those in favor of three lanes and roundabouts argued it was necessary to slow speeding traffic through town, would encourage pedestrians and cyclists to use the area, and would be better for the environment.
“When it was changed from two to four lanes, I think that was the beginning of the end for Kings Beach,” said Dave Ferrari of the Ferrari Family Resorts.
Dave Wilderotter, owner of Tahoe Dave’s in Kings Beach, Tahoe City, and Truckee pointed to the success of roundabouts in Truckee, and discussed the fears of some business owners over losing on-street parking.
“I was so afraid of losing parking on the highway [in Tahoe City] that my business would stop,” Wilderotter said. “Seven years later and my business has expanded. I’d rather have three lanes for my business in Kings Beach.”
But those against the project warned that predicted traffic gridlock with the three lane alternative would just shift the problem onto the residential streets of Kings Beach.
“They [Placer County staff] tell you traffic is already miserable but they are going to make it more miserable,” said Tom Turner, a local restaurant owner.
And in the end, enough of the board members agreed to effectively end any chances of three lanes and roundabouts in Kings Beach.
“With the four-lane alternative we are making a vast improvement over what we already have, there’s no doubt about it,” said Bruce Kranz, board member and Placer County supervisor. “I don’t understand how we are reducing pedestrian accidents when we are diverting traffic onto back roads without any sidewalks.”
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