Freeze, it’s the Pretty Police | SierraSun.com

Freeze, it’s the Pretty Police

I’m all for aesthetics, after all, who likes to look at ugly things? Isn’t that why many of us choose to live in the Sierra? But a recent news bit out of the “stoopid file” just makes me shake my head.Seems the folks at the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency – from now on to be known as the “Pretty Police,” are considering taking Caltrans to court over an ugly guardrail. In October, those bland and obviously aesthetically clueless engineers at Caltrans installed shiny, acid-etched guardrail instead of rustrail, which is brown in color, up top Brockway Summit on Route 267 between Kings Beach and Truckee. As TRPA is the guardian of Lake Tahoe’s clarity and the surrounding basin, it “cooperatively leads the effort to preserve, restore and enhance the unique natural and human environment of the Lake Tahoe region now and in the future.”OK, I guess brown guardrail falls under the “enhance” part. Just as the those aesthetically pleasing new brown poles holding up the traffic signals at the Highway 267 and North Lake Boulevard intersection do. What else explains the back-up of cars there but motorists slowing down to ogle that fine brown hue on the posts?After all, the new poles, part of a $167,000 traffic signal improvement project at the Kings Beach intersection this summer, are possibly the only brown traffic poles in the state, said Caltrans spokesman Mark Dinger a few months ago. As such, the poles are surely attracting tourists rather than that thing nearby – what is it again? – oh yes, Lake Tahoe!TRPA’s main charge – ensuring the health of a national treasure – is noble and needed. The agency has taken hits over the years for being, well, fascist in its management style. But in a place where the stakes – and real estate prices – are so high, better bulldog than lapdog.Still, when your agency isn’t held in high regard in some quarters of the community it shouldn’t take more than a little common sense to know what battles to fight. The color of guardrails shouldn’t even qualify as a skirmish.At a recent TRPA board meeting, Julie Regan, the agency’s communications director, said the guardrail debacle “seems like it’s a cost issue and we’re trying to work through that with Caltrans.”Duh. Over the last year Caltrans has postponed millions of dollars worth of transportation projects around California due to the state’s budget woes. And in the long run, acid-etched metal lasts longer than – you guessed it, rustrail – next to a high-elevation highway where salt is used during the winter. Caltrans is planning to appeal TRPA’s consternation. Good for them. Maybe the lake’s protectors will go back to doing just that and stop playing Pretty Police.Jamie Bate is the editor of the Sierra Sun. Reach him at editor@sierrasun.com