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Traffic management plan could cut travel times

TANYA CANINO, Sun News Service

TAHOE CITY – Traffic management cuts the apres-ski trip from Olympic Valley to Tahoe City from two hours to a half hour.

It sends a message to the tourist caught in a West Shore jam on a summer afternoon that at least someone is trying to help move the cars over Fanny Bridge.

“It’s the single most effective thing in Tahoe for traffic,” said Jennifer Merchant, the executive director of the Truckee North Tahoe Transportation Management Association.

That’s why her organization, a public-private partnership to help solve transportation problems, is gathering agencies together Friday to figure out how to fill a void in traffic management.

Kim Hoskins, North Tahoe’s traffic manager, will leave April 14 to work for a construction company in Sacramento. She has been an employee of the Placer County Sheriff’s Tahoe Substation for the past three and a half years, according to Placer County Sheriff’s Capt. Kent Hawthorne.

While her duties have served the region, her position hasn’t been a good fit for the sheriff’s department, Hawthorne said. The department is not planning to rehire another traffic manager.

“It was rather unique for a sheriff’s department to venture into traffic management. We were sort of operating outside the box,” he said, adding that traffic management is usually done by police departments in incorporated towns and the California Highway Patrol in unincorporated areas.

The position in the sheriff’s department has also not been funded by Placer County. Hoskins began doing traffic management as an employee of the county’s Department of Public Works Department, but when she moved to the sheriff’s office, her salary didn’t.

“We had to absorb the entire cost of the program,” Hawthorne said.

The traffic management program cost about $210,000 last year and generated income of about $100,000 through traffic management contracts with the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association for Tahoe City management; Northstar-at-Tahoe for ski management; and the Town of Truckee.

Hawthorne said his department would like to free up some of its public safety funds from Proposition 172 to hire an additional deputy for problem-oriented policing in Kings Beach.

Yet, Hawthorne says traffic control is “absolutely” needed in the area.

Merchant agrees. Traffic control can be contracted to a private business or handled by each ski area, but it would be disjointed.

Hosken would count cars in a ski area parking lot to determine if three-lanes are needed in Tahoe City, for example.


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