Town representatives optimistic about bypass following trip to D.C. | SierraSun.com
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Town representatives optimistic about bypass following trip to D.C.

JOHN A. BAYLESS

Town representatives who traveled to Washington, D.C., in an attempt to retain ramps at Interstate 80 and Highway 89 North were cautiously optimistic following a meeting with Federal Highway Administrator Kenneth Wykie last Wednesday.

Councilmember Bob Drake said Wykie received the delegation well, and showed real interest in the presentation when Town Engineer Dan Wilkins began to discuss design options for the ramps.

“Town staff put together a presentation with each of us doing a highlight,” Drake said. “We each made a different pitch. Wykie started the conversation by saying that we would not get a decision today, and seemed attentive but not that enthusiastic.”

Drake said Wilkins’ part of the presentation included some alternative designs for the ramps which were previously passed over because of the expense.

“Wilkins presented one of the alternatives we had not focused on because it cost more money, and he [Wykie] seemed to be genuinely interested in that, and said ‘That answers the safety problem,'” Drake said. “He perked up and had more interest.”

Alternatives

The plan in which Wykie expressed interest was Alternative Three in the designs forwarded to Caltrans by Truckee, which has a price tag of about $1.2 million, compared to the $500,000 plan initially proposed by the town.

Wykie also contacted the Sacramento FHWA officer, Jeff Lindley, and asked him to go over the new information presented by the town. A few weeks ago, Lindley’s office rejected the town’s proposal to retain the ramps.

A delegation from the town will meet with Lindley on Nov. 23 to address the issue.

Drake said Wykie was also open to the impact that changes in federal highway funding legislation could have on the issue – especially the TEA-21 legislation, which emphasizes the preservation of historic districts such as Truckee’s downtown. He said Wykie was generally receptive to the Truckee group, even though no decision was made.

Sending a message

“In that sense, it was a positive trip,” Drake said. “It probably is impressive that a small community such as ourselves would travel across the country to appeal the case with the Federal Highway Administrator. It sent the message that this is a community that cares.”

Drake credited Town Manager Steve Wright for devising an effective presentation.

“It was strategized well,” Drake said. “He wrote up handouts and we each had a bulletized list of items. It was well planned and I believe it was effective.”

At Tuesday’s special Truckee Town Council meeting, Wright addressed the upcoming presentation in Sacramento.

He said the show of regional and legislative support won Truckee the meeting in D.C., but that the focus of the next presentation in Sacramento will be physical solutions to the problem.

Caltrans’ original design for the project removed all ramps at the interchange, and prompted widespread community concern, because of the reduced freeway access to downtown and the potential impact of increased traffic on the other off-ramps.

After months of discussions with Caltrans and about $140,000 in engineering and design expenditures by the town, the state agency agreed to forward a plan to retain the ramps to FHWA in Sacramento, which swiftly rejected it in September.

Town staff and council members communicated with Rep. Wally Herger, Sen. Barbara Boxer and Sen. Diane Feinstein, who helped arrange the town’s meeting with Wykie.

The Washington delegation included Mayor Ron Florian and Drake, along with Wright, Wilkins and Steve Frisch of the Truckee Downtown Merchants Association. Representatives from regional agencies also traveled with the delegation, including California Transportation Commissioner Ed Sylvester, Nevada County Transportation Commissioner Dan Landon, and Steve Teshara of the Truckee-North Tahoe Transportation Management Association.

Sierra Sun E-mail: sun@tahoe.com

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