Tahoe’s all torn up over roads
Motorists may see Tahoe roads as a plethora of potholes.
California’s roadways were rated the third worst in the country by the Road Information Program’s annual report. Only Louisiana and Missouri showed worse deterioration.
The Tahoe Basin is no exception, because it, like much of the rest of California, has harsh climatic conditions. Climate along with traffic and quality of road maintenance are the contributing elements that determine a road’s rate of deterioration.
“It really comes down to three factors,” said Road Information Program Research Director Frank Moretti. “One is how heavy the traffic on the road is. The second is the type of weather an area faces and California, between the mountains and deserts, has major deterioration factors. And then the very critical factor is the maintenance, and California hasn’t been able to keep up with the deterioration due to the great amount of traffic on the roads.”
Between 1980 and 2000 California’s population increased by 33 percent. Meanwhile, the number of vehicle miles traveled on California roads increased during that same period from 155 billion miles to 300 billion miles per year.
While heavier traffic also plays a role in the deterioration of roads in Tahoe, it is a secondary contributing factor. Since road repair during the winter months is limited, workers are often forced to wait until spring to deal with the deterioration.
As a result roadwork is often backed up even during the summer season.
“Two-thirds of the roads in (El Dorado) County need work,” said Executive Director of the Builder’s Exchange Karen Kitchens. “Tahoe has 12 to 15 percent of the roads in the county but will probably get 25 to 30 percent of the funding because the roads are in such bad shape. Unfortunately, if the roads are not maintained to a certain level then they start breaking down.”
In conjunction with their road study, the Road Information Program rated states according to the additional costs for motorists as a result of poor roads. California came in fourth worst in that category, with drivers paying an average of $354 a year for damage related to poor road conditions. Mark Wolverton of California Colors Collision Repair in South Lake Tahoe said he sees substantial damage to cars due to poor road quality.
“Winter is always bad because there are rocks in the road and they usually get cleaned up, but in the winter there really isn’t much you can do about it,” Wolverton said. “Winter is just hard on the roads. Every year they are going through and repaving them.”
While Tahoe residents are not happy with the quality of the roads they accept that it as another factor to deal with living in the Sierra.
“(Road workers) do the best they can, but it is Tahoe. It gets tore up,” said South Tahoe resident Eric Dolinar. “Your car is going to deteriorate up here. (Cars) don’t last as long up here as they do in the valley. They are always repairing (U.S. Highway) 50. One thing that really tears up the roads is the tourists driving on dry pavement with chains.”
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