My Turn: The bridge no one wants
The Town of Truckee inherited a problem when the town incorporated in 1993. The problem is now 78 years old. I believe that it has been compromised with time and use. Im referring to a railroad bridge that belongs to the Union Pacific Railroad and a road that belongs to the state on California Highway 89. This bridge is best known as the Mousehole. I have asked my town council, Caltrans, Nevada County Transportation Commission, Governor Schwarzenegger, state senator, and state assemblyman in different forms (written and verbally) the following question: Is this community going to have to wait for a train to fall off that bridge or for a pedestrian or a cyclist to be killed before something is done? The town became the lead agency in 2003 to secure $498,000 in grant funds to begin project development activities because our famous Caltrans did not have adequate staffing resources to pursue the project. The funds were stalled due to statewide budget problems. Consequently, nothing was done. A half a million dollars sat in limbo.The federal government earmarked $2.8 million in federal funds with required 20 percent matching funds. The Town of Truckee gave these funds to Caltrans if they would become the lead agency again. The half million sitting in limbo offset the required matching funds. Caltrans has taken charge. It appears that Caltrans now has the staff resources available to pursue the Mousehole project. This is a joke. Caltrans has spent $500,000 on off-the-shelf stuff they had before receiving $3.3 million dollars. I believe they are wasting valuable public funds and time.The Town of Truckee has no ownership, liability, or maintenance responsibilities for this railroad bridge/state road. It would be in the best interests of the entire Lake Tahoe region if the Union Pacific Railroad and Caltrans were to become partners. The replacement of the Mousehole is and should be the responsibility of Union Pacific Railroad, the State of California, the federal government, and Nevada and Placer counties. The last people that should be paying for the replacement of the railroad bridge are the taxpayers of Truckee.In the interest of public safety, I believe the railroad tunnel should be condemned immediately. This bridge is suffering from old age. It has large severe cracking and water is weeping through the cracks. A human life is worth more than doing nothing. It will take Caltrans 10 years of planning just to get a working design off the boards and another 10 years to get the funding. That bridge will be 100-years-old before it is replaced. It is time to demand that something be done. The replacement of this bridge should be fast-tracked. We the people have the right to speak out on this issue. You will have an opportunity to speak out at the Town of Truckee council meeting, Town Hall, Thursday, February 18, at 6 p.m.This will always be the bridge that nobody wants unless the citizens of this community speak out. Our town leaders need your help and support. The railroad and Caltrans need to hear that the citizens of this community care about human life. They need to hear that the citizens want something done now. Government only moves when the people speak. Dennis A. Dickinson is a concerned and active resident of Truckee.