Signal slated for Mousehole |

Signal slated for Mousehole

A temporary solution for the Highway 89 Mousehole undercrossing could be in place as early as 2009.

Working with Caltrans, the Town of Truckee has been zeroing in on a fix for the Mousehole railroad undercrossing to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety and reduce traffic congestion. But funding has not been forthcoming for the project, which could cost between $46 and $52 million.

“The Mousehole is a problem and has been a problem for many years,” said state Senator Dave Cox, who toured the Mousehole March 27. “But finding $40 to $50 million is not an insignificant challenge.”

A number of solutions ranging from digging additional tunnels to building an all-new bridge have been whittled down to a series of steps that could begin with a pedestrian traffic signal, followed by a temporary pedestrian tunnel, and ultimately end with a new bridge to replace the concrete bore.

“The pedestrian signal would stop traffic to let pedestrians through,” said Public Works Director Dan Wilkins for the Town of Truckee. “So one of the first things Caltrans will have to look at is making sure it doesn’t create any secondary safety issues.”

John Eaton, president of the Mountain Area Preservation Foundation, said safety is his main concern, and said he is in favor of a short term solution until a permanent one can be built.

“It’s going to be so long before they can rebuild that, so I think this is a really good idea,” Eaton said.

The signal would likely benefit pedestrians more than cyclists, said David Yardas, board member of the Truckee Trails Foundation.

“Cyclists may not stop to push the button, but they are at somewhat lower risk, so the priority initially is pedestrian safety,” Yardas said. “It would still have some benefit to cyclists.”

Right now the plans Caltrans and the town have been working on are being reviewed by a third party, but as long as the results don’t send them back to the drawing board, Wilkins said it will take two more years of planning and environmental review before tackling the bigger parts of the project.

This means, at the earliest, a new tunnel for pedestrians and cyclists could be built in 2011.

“If the interim signal reduces some of that need for the pedestrian bore, we could potentially wait and just build the bridge,” Wilkins said.

If funding becomes available for the bridge, work could begin on that part of the project as early as 2011.

Building a new bridge would mean first dropping in a temporary bridge, rerouting the railroad over that, and then replacing the Mousehole with a new, permanent bridge, Wilkins said.

A town council sub-committee is also reviewing the project, Wilkins said.

“Part of the purpose of that group is to reduce the likelihood of any environmental challenge,” Wilkins said, as the group includes representatives from local environmental, bicycle, historical, and residents’ groups.

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