Traffic lights coming to downtown Truckee intersections
Truckee is moving forward with plans to install traffic signals at two popular downtown intersections.
After months of deliberation over four designs that would improve the function of the Bridge Street intersections at Donner Pass Road and East and West River streets, town staff settled on stoplights.
“I think we’re on a good path with making the traffic pattern a little more predictable for both our locals, our visitors and newcomers who are unfamiliar with the flow of both those intersections,” said Council Member David Polivy. “I, too, am a roundabout diehard but this just might not be the right place.”
Other options included minor sidewalk improvements, the installation of two roundabouts at each intersection or the complete closure of Bridge Street over the train tracks. The 2025 general plan allows for a roundabout or traffic lights to be built, however it encourages the use of roundabouts.
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Of all the options, the installation of traffic signal is the one that requires the least amount of street widening — unless a center median is included in the design, said Dan Wilkins, public works director for the Town of Truckee. It also provides opportunities for pedestrians to cross under the protection of traffic signals. When a train approaches, Wilkins said, they would be able to sync the stoplights with the train, turning the intersection into a three-way intersection to keep the flow of traffic going.
One of the challenges with installing roundabouts is the limited amount of space available. If the town did pursue that option, the roundabouts would be the smallest in town, Wilkins said. While roundabouts help the flow of traffic, they could become gridlocked when a train comes.
“When a train comes, they tend to plug up more quickly than a traffic signal or the minor improvements,” said Wilkins. To prevent that from happening traffic lights would have to be installed to halt traffic coming into the roundabout when a train approaches.
To determine the direction of the project the town hosted public outreach meetings in which they surveyed participants interest in each intersection alternative. Of those who attended the meetings 53% were in favor of traffic lights. An online survey showed similar results with 55% in favor of traffic lights.
Currently the town is in the conceptual design phase of the intersections. Moving forward, staff will explore the specific details installing traffic lights will entail. This could include installing a center median so pedestrians can safely cross the road.
According to a town staff report, both intersections have been operating at the lowest level of operation due to stop-and-go conditions. The project aims to increase the traffic flow through the intersections while improving the safety of pedestrians.
Another goal of the project is to establish a quiet zone, which would mean train conductors would not be required to blow horns crossing through downtown.
Hannah Jones is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at 530-550-2652 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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