Opinion: Some Fanny Bridge project options unconscionable, repulsive
After reviewing the Environmental Impact Statement for the realignment of Highway 89 through the 64 Acre parcel as part of the Fanny Bridge project, it became clear to me that the only alternatives worth considering are alternates 6a, 5, and 6, in that order. Alternates 1 through 4 should be disqualified. Here is my reasoning:
Alternates 1 through 4 require disturbing approximately 10 acres of the 64 Acre tract, including the removal of over 100 trees greater than 14 inches in diameter. The report specifies that even trees over 30 inches in diameter will also be removed, but the quantity is not noted.
Additionally, a total of approximately seven acres of forest land will be permanently paved over with impervious surfacing, and a new bridge — approximately 15 feet high(!) — will be constructed across the Truckee River. This alone is enough to disqualify alternates 1 through 4.
The 64 Acre tract, after the encroachment of the new transportation center, now contains only 35 acres of forested land. It is a heavily used recreational area; perhaps the only area in the vicinity that draws as many visitors is Commons Beach. To pave over seven acres of what is left with an elevated roadway and bridge is simply unconscionable.
The forested areas around Tahoe City are one of the biggest assets of our area. Residents and tourists alike recreate in the 64 Acre tract, but under alternates 1 through 4, not only will they not be able to enjoy being in the forest, but visually, it will no longer be a forest. It won’t be Tahoe. It will simply be another urban area that values pavement more than trees.
The reason I live here, the reason most of us live here, the reason the vast majority of tourists visit here, is because here we can be close to nature, whether while recreating or simply enjoying the view. Alternates 1 through 4 will destroy that closeness; they give no value to the visual characteristics of the forest.
This is my major problem with the EIS: It glosses over the impact of the major loss of forested land. The report simply says that, yes, the paving is a major impact to the area, but since it is an allowable use of the land, the impact is less than significant. I find this characterization repulsive.
A major adverse impact is still a major adverse impact, and it should have been heavily flagged in the EIS instead of swept under the carpet.
And what do we get in return for paving over the forest, more noise, more urban experience? Not much, it turns out. The Grove Street intersection will remain unaffected. This intersection is the primary barrier to traffic through Tahoe City, but nothing will be done about it: It fails now, and it will continue to fail after the project.
So after all the expense, disruption, loss of forest, and gain of pavement, traffic will move no faster going through Tahoe City than it does currently.
And amazingly, some traffic situations will be significantly worse after the paving. According to the EIS, the Granlibakken Drive/Hwy 89 intersection will experience a “significant adverse impact.” It is already difficult to turn onto Highway 89 from Granlibakken Drive. I can’t imagine funding a project that will make it worse. I expect most intersections down the West Shore will experience similar difficulties.
Now let’s turn to the remaining alternates. Alternate 6a, while not solving the problem of the Grove Street intersection and the Granlibakken Drive intersection, at least it won’t make Granlibakken Drive worse. And it will improve the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists at Fanny Bridge.
But if the two businesses that must be acquired cannot be reasonably induced to sell, then alternate 5 should be chosen — no project. Alternate 6 should only be considered if the proposed bridge is reduced from five lanes to four (or preferably, three) to reduce the impact.
The public comment period is open until February 17, after which no more public input will be heard. I invite you to join me in urging the TRPA to disqualify Alternates 1 through 4.
Simply send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org informing him of your wishes to disqualify alternates 1 through 4. Put “Fanny Bridge” in the re: space. Lets not pave paradise and turn the West Shore side streets into parking lots.
Ken Todd is a Tahoe City resident.
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