Roundabouts may be Truckee’s traffic salvation
Enjoying Truckee’s new roundabout? There could be more coming, this time to the congested Highway 89 area, if plans by town engineer Dan Wilkins are approved.
Wilkins has drafted plans for the busy half-mile stretch of Highway 89 between Donner Pass Road and West River Street. The plan calls for improving the intersections, including the Interstate 80 offramps, by adding sidewalks and bike lanes and widening the road including the Union Pacific railroad tunnel, commonly known as the “mousehole” because of its narrow entrance.
Wilkins sees two possible alternatives to relieve the traffic pressures in the area.
The first option is to widen the road, install new traffic signals at critical intersections and make small improvements to the mousehole. The second option would be to widen the road, construct roundabouts and widen the mousehole with another two lanes.
“We’re trying to come up with a plan for how this roadway will look in the future, and the primary consideration is whether traffic signals or roundabouts are most appropriate,” he said.
The roundabouts would be at the base of the on and offramps to I-80, and possibly also on Donner Pass Road or Deerfield Drive. Wilkins says that roundabouts are generally safer, with fewer and less severe collisions than traditional stop light intersections.
Wilkins expects the first project to cost nearly $7 million, but emphasizes that the cost estimates at this stage are preliminary. He explains that 75 percent of the cost will be funded by the Nevada County Transportation Commission and 25 percent by the town of Truckee.
Intrawest, the company developing the Village of Squaw Valley, is required by Placer County to contribute a minimum of $150,000 to the mousehole reconstruction and $70,000 for Hwy. 89 improvements.
Wilkins estimates that the new traffic signals could be ready in two to five years, a time when both the Truckee and Squaw Valley areas are expected to grow significantly. The study expects a roughly 60 percent increase in vehicle traffic through the mousehole in the next 20 years.
In anticipation of the Village of Squaw Valley opening, Placer County has agreed to put a traffic signal at the intersection of Hwy. 89 and West River Street as early as next year.
The report says that the roadway has changed little since I-80 was built 40 years ago, and that the mousehole is unchanged since its construction in 1929.
Wilkins says that he hopes to find a solution for that congested area that will last the next 20 years.
Wilkins has made the draft version of State Route 89 Improvement Analysis available for public review at town hall. A workshop will be held there at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, July 26 in the board room. Wilkins expects to present the plan to Town Council in September.
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Nevada County is now likely to remain in the red tier barring “extenuating circumstances,” thanks to changes to the state’s reopening blueprint announced this week.