My Turn: Simplicity is best | SierraSun.com

My Turn: Simplicity is best

Nicole Gergans

It is time for positive change in Kings Beach change that the business community and environmental advocates should all be able to support. After a decade-long planning process involving multiple agencies and the general public, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) Governing Board will convene on June 25th to make a crucial decision regarding the future of the Kings Beach Commercial Core. The board will vote on whether to approve a transition to a three-lane roadway that improves water and air quality, provides a safe environment for pedestrians and cyclists, and strongly enhances the scenic beauty of this recreational community.The board will have to carefully consider the views of the opponents who support a four-lane highway alternative. The opponents are sincere and have legitimate concerns, since every alternative configuration for the roadway has costs and risks as well as benefits. On balance, however, the League to Save Lake Tahoe thinks they are mistaken. The four-lane design is geared towards private automobile travel, treats Kings Beach as a thoroughfare instead of a destination, disregards safety concerns, and lacks the environmental advantages of the three-lane design.Why is the Keep Tahoe Blue group so concerned? Scientific research has concluded that roads are the supreme culprits in fine sediment loading to the lake, which in turn is the chief cause of diminishing lake clarity. The three-lane roadway design, which includes the installation of two roundabouts, two bike lanes, wider sidewalks, limited on-street parking, and increased landscaped areas, will assist in reducing the towns sediment and nutrient contributions to the lake. During winter road maintenance, after sand and gravel are laid on roadways, passing cars break these materials into fine particulate matter which is transferred to lake waters by aerial transport or surface runoff. A decrease in roadway surface translates to less sand and gravel used in winter operations and ultimately a decrease in sediments entering the lake.The Kings Beach commercial cores location on the shore of Lake Tahoe makes the management of pollutants a matter of critical concern. It is important to note that the Regional Water Boards Basin Plan relies on local jurisdiction to employ projects that will collectively meet the requirements of the Lake Tahoe Basin. The TRPA now has an opportunity to credit Placer County and the Kings Beach community in making progress towards achieving environmental goals. In addition to approving the three-lane configuration, the TRPA should further maximize the reduction in fine sediments to the lake by mandating the use of cold-climate pervious and semi-pervious materials in sidewalk design.The three-lane alternative will also enhance the towns scenic quality and charm. It will reduce vehicle emissions and improve air quality by providing a community that is enjoyable to experience by foot or bicycle. One of the major components of the three-lane arrangement is the emphasis on bike and pedestrian safety. Safety features include calmer traffic due to roundabouts, islands of safety for pedestrians, reduction in the number of lanes to be crossed, as well as designated bike lanes for cyclists. Additionally, the three-lane plan will require two less construction seasons than the four-lane plan which will substantially reduce impacts to air quality, water quality, and traffic. The environmentally preferred three-lane roadway design is supported by Caltrans, the TRPA Advisory Planning Commission, the Placer County Planning Commission, and a great majority of Kings Beach residents and visitors. It is time for the Governing Board to join these groups in approving a plan that maximizes improvements to water and air quality (including lake clarity) and creates a commercial core friendly to resident families, visitors, and businesses alike.

Nicole Gergans is a environmental program advocate for the League to Save Lake Tahoe