Addressing Northstar’s traffic problems | SierraSun.com

Addressing Northstar’s traffic problems

Guest Column by Tim Silva

Dear Northstar Visitor, Northstar Owner and Neighbors:

During this past holiday period, heavy traffic congestion during peak periods made it very difficult to reach Northstar, and also made movement in the Tahoe region difficult.

People were inconvenienced, and some folks had difficulty reaching the resort and other regional destinations because of the traffic.

Traffic affects everyone’s life. It’s changeable and complicated. We want our residents and guests to better understand what we are doing now about traffic, as well as improvements you can expect in the future.

Here’s a rundown of what occurred this holiday season, as well as short-term and long-term traffic improvements planned:

What caused traffic?

— Weather-Several heavy storms provided tremendous snow conditions, the power was back on and the skies were clear.

— Extended vacation time – When Christmas and New Year’s fall in the middle of the week, many people extend their vacations.

— Wind-Windy conditions caused some ski resorts to reduce operations. But Northstar is usually less impacted, so many skiers came to Northstar instead.

— Close-to-home vacations – Since Sept. 11, more people are spending their vacations within driving distance of their homes, and Tahoe is within driving distance to several million people.

— Pent-up demand – After opening Nov. 22, the first month’s ski conditions were not optimum, creating pent up demand by people who wanted to use new season passes.

Current traffic management

— Free transit – We need and want people to use transit. Visitors and employees can park at the airport and take a free shuttle to Northstar.

— Employee incentives – We buy our employees breakfast and lunch as an incentive to park offsite.

— Carpools – We provide close-in parking slots to people who arrive at the resort with four or more people to a car, on a first-come, first-serve basis, as these spaces are limited. We are also promoting carpooling.

— Information – Changeable highway signs notify people when parking is full, and on our Web site and snowphone.

— Cooperative traffic management – Our trained public safety and parking staff work cooperatively with the California Highway Patrol to manage traffic and parking.

Short-term traffic improvements

— Traffic signal sequencing – We have already taken steps to get this corrected by the California Department of Transportation.

— Traffic hotline – We are looking into establishing a traffic hotline so people headed to Northstar can call from their cell phones and obtain traffic and parking updates.

— TV, radio – We are looking into extending our 1680 AM radio station frequency so it will reach the Town of Truckee, and town residents can obtain traffic updates via radio.

— Signage – Highway signs alert drivers when parking is full at Northstar.

— Traffic experts – We are working with traffic experts to not only make short-term improvements, but advise us concerning long-term improvements.

Long-term traffic solutions

Some people have asked us, given the traffic situation, won’t expanding the resort make things even more difficult?

But expansion plans actually provide us with the means to improve the traffic situation. Here’s how:

Improvements provide funding for traffic solutions – Real estate improvements actually provide Northstar and our development partner, East West Partners, with the opportunity to address difficult traffic issues.

We will be able to re-configure intersections, eliminate bottlenecks and rearrange parking to improve traffic circulation at the resort.

The real estate improvements allow us to complete traffic improvements that would not otherwise occur.

Traffic patterns differ between residents, day-skiers – Our traffic problems result from day skiers arriving and departing during peak weekend and holiday periods, and principally occur in time frames of a few hours. Northstar’s expansion plans call for increasing the number of residences at Northstar, and people with residences primarily arrive and depart the resort during non-peak hours.

— Northstar entry intersection improvement – As a result of the Northstar Village expansion, we expect to add a traffic signal and dedicated and expanded turn lanes on both Northstar Drive and Highway 267.

— Turning lanes – We anticipate adding turning lanes at the intersections of Northstar Drive and Basque Road and Big Springs Drive.

— Intercept lots – Perhaps one of the most important traffic improvements being contemplated for the future are “intercept lots.” These would “intercept” cars when they enter the resort.

— Off-site traffic improvements – If expansion of the resort proceeds, we expect to contribute significant funding to traffic improvements in Truckee, including a signal at the intersection of Donner Pass Road and Highway 267, near the railroad tracks.

— More transit – Northstar already provides free shuttles to employees and guests, and future plans call for expanding transit.

We know we have our work cut out for us when it comes to traffic. We are making every effort to stay on top of the traffic congestion issue.

We would very much like to hear from you with any suggestions you may have for how we can further improve the traffic situation.

Please call me at 562-2244.

Tim Silva is Northstar-at-Tahoe general manager.