Tahoe biking: Officials attempt to connect trail network’s missing West Shore link | SierraSun.com

Tahoe biking: Officials attempt to connect trail network’s missing West Shore link

Submitted to mrenda@sierrasun.com Bicyclists have to share a narrow stretch of road with motorists near Homewood Ski Resort on the West Shore. In the background, one cyclist executes a precarious road crossing and#8212; a safety hazard officials are attempting to alleviate by constructing an off-the-road class 1 bike path.

TAHOE CITY – Regional transportation officials are confident the establishment of a comprehensive and safe bicycle trail network can alleviate resident and visitor dependence on motor vehicles, therefore reducing carbon footprints and helping preserve Lake Tahoe’s famed clarity.

However, while the northwestern portion of Lake Tahoe boasts one of the most extensive and connected bicycle networks of anywhere in the basin, one stretch on the West Shore is void of a serviceable path, creating a safety hazard that officials say is a dissuading factor for some commuters who may otherwise use bicycles as a viable to-and-from work option.

The “critical missing link,” said Cindy Gustafson, general manager of the Tahoe City Public Utility District, is a mile stretch of Highway 89 from Cherry Street to Fawn Street in Homewood that forces West Shore cyclists and pedestrians into a dangerous game of competing with automobiles for road space.

“Five years ago, we had a bike to school day, and we had to call California Highway Patrol to escort the children through (the section of road in Homewood),” said West Shore resident Sue Rae Irelan, during the June 21 meeting of the TCPUD board of directors.

In an effort to assuage safety concerns and enhance trail connectivity on the West Shore, PUD staff at the June 21 meeting unveiled plans for a class 1 bicycle path. Dokken Engineering – the company leading design of the Kings Beach Commercial Core Improvement Project – has been contracted to design a set of alternatives for the project.

The preferred alternative dictates the trail run on the mountain side of Highway 89, beginning at Cherry Street, running south to Trout Street, up to Sans Souci Terrace and over to Silver Street, where the trail would connect with the Sans Souci/Fawn Street Bike Path.

The majority of the trail will run through public right of way, but some private property easements will be required, said Kelli Twomey, district community relations director. In all, 10 private properties would be impacted by the preferred alternative, she said, although eight of the ten are fewer than 200 square feet. The cost estimate for the entire project is $2.3 million.

“This alignment was developed with the purpose of minimizing impacts to private property and tree removal,” said Matt Homolka, district engineer with TCPUD.

Kim Donaldson, West Shore resident, criticized the preferred alignment as disruptive to private property and expensive due to the need to negotiate and pay for easement rights.

Homolka maintained the alignment represents the most cost-effective way to provide a trail that promotes public safety and does not impact private business along Highway 89.

Gustafson said TCPUD staff is currently working with would-be affected property owners regarding easement negotiations.

The board did not take any action pertinent to the bike path, but announced it will soon submit the alternatives for environmental analysis.

Homolka said the plan calls for formal public outreach to begin in October of this year; an optimistic forecast calls for construction on the project to begin in spring 2012.

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