My Turn: Why I voted for the four-lane proposal at Kings Beach
Tahoe Regional Planning Agency board member
A number of people have contacted me to criticize my support for a four-lane highway through Kings Beach, rather than the three-lane proposal presented at the last Tahoe Regional Planning Agency meeting.
I can not respond to everyone personally, so I hope this letter will reach those of you who sent me a message.
First of all, I take my position as a board member of TRPA seriously. Having criticized the agency for more than 15 years as a California senator and assemblyman, I finally have the opportunity to participate in its operation. I look forward to this new and important responsibility.
I don’t know if everyone is aware that the environmental documents state unequivocally that the three-lane proposal will degrade Lake Tahoe and the Kings Beach area in four distinct ways. First, it will degrade the TRPA established levels of service through Kings Beach below applicable standards. Second, it will degrade the intersection at Highway 267 below applicable standards. Third, it will increase average daily traffic on residential streets. Fourth, it will degrade transit operations.
I didn’t make this up. These are the findings of the environmental documents for the three-lane project.
So what does all of this mean? Well, it means that getting through Kings Beach will become similar to the traffic backlogs that we see at North Lake Tahoe; long delays on the east and north shores just to get to or through town.
Unlike Tahoe City, however, Kings Beach has a “grid” of streets that make it possible for automobiles to take short cuts through the residential areas to get to Highway 267. These streets are narrow and do not have sidewalks or gutters and are about the only place that the children who live in that area can play. As for my vote, I have no intention of supporting a proposal that will substantially increase traffic congestion, create gridlock and endanger the lives of the children who live at Kings Beach.
Now here is the clincher. If we were to adopt the three-lane proposal, each person voting yes would have to make a finding of overriding considerations for these impacts. In other words, they must say that the three-lane proposal is so important that its degradations are outweighed by its benefits. And, this must be stated in the face of a four-lane proposal has that has no degrading provisions.
I have received a number of critical e-mails. Some of them are polite and some are off the wall. All of them, however, show the passion of this issue. One would think that the community is unanimous in its desire for three lanes. That is not true, however. Many people at the public meeting spoke in favor of the four-lane alternative; I would guess about half of the people attending.
I was particularly moved by the statements of low-income families whose children have only the streets to play on. Why would I vote to jeopardize their safety?
My vote was my own. These are my reasons. I respect those of you who disagree with me, but I don’t feel that my appointment to TRPA was for the purpose of degrading our beautiful Lake Tahoe.