Town takes reins with mousehole problem | SierraSun.com

Town takes reins with mousehole problem

Christina Nelson

The Truckee Town Council took matters in its own hands last week with the mousehole project.

Instead of continuing to urge the California Department of Transportation to pursue a project to widen the State Route 89 undercrossing, Truckee became the lead agency for the project approval and preparation of the environmental document.

For years Truckee officials have recognized the mousehole as a safety hazard, and have been working with Caltrans and Union Pacific Railroad to come up with options to improve the undercrossing.

“The bridge works fine from a Union Pacific standpoint,” Truckee Public Works Director Dan Wilkins said. “They’re not really concerned with what’s going on underneath it.”

The mousehole was built in 1928 with the construction of Highway 89 to Lake Tahoe. The bridge supports train traffic above, but does not leave adequate room for pedestrians, cyclists and cars.

“Everyone does go through at the same time so it does cause problems,” Wilkins said.

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Previous studies for the improvement of the mousehole identified three options:

– Construct a separate tunnel for pedestrian and bicycle traffic.

– Construct a southbound tunnel for vehicle traffic. The northbound tunnel would accommodate cars, cyclists and pedestrians.

– Widen the current mousehole to accommodate everyone. Wilkins considers this option to be the most viable, but it does present problems.

“You have to build a bridge with active rail traffic running through it,” Wilkins said.

Although he ran through the construction options, Wilkins noted that the council was not approving a project.

“We’re not signing on for any of this,” Wilkins said.

The town would still have to hire consultants to come up with new plans, using the old plans as a starting point.

County Regional Transportation Improvement funds would pay up to $448,000 of the consultants fees, and any additional fees would be paid with $120,000 set aside by the town’s AB 1600 road improvement funds.

“It was very obvious that if the town didn’t take over this project the opportunity would be lost,” Councilman Josh Susman said. He noted that the opportunity for funding of the project could be lost if Truckee didn’t take on the lead agency status.

Council members noted that it’s a project that they’ve been wanting to push ahead with, primarily because of the safety problems.

“Having a safety hazard that we all live with on a daily basis is extremely uncomfortable,” Councilman Craig Threshie said.

But the council and Truckee town staff recognize that the project will have its obstacles to overcome – mainly working with Union Pacific.

“Look at Dan’s hair now because it may not be the same in three years,” Susman joked.

The town council also authorized the public works department to hire Bickett Engineering to perform design and engineering work on the Interstate 80/Highway 89 interchange roundabout for approximately $426,000.

Public works was also authorized to pay USR Greiner/Woodward Clyde $8,000 for work on coordination with Caltrans on the conceptual approval of the roundabout project.