For about 30 years, officials have been trying to find a way to take traffic off of Highway 50 and route it around the casinos, in Stateline. Now they have a plan that they say will help ease traffic congestion and help the environment.
"The concept, here, is to realign U.S. 50 and to take it from its current straight-through and realign it along the mountain side," Carl Hasty said.
Hasty is the District Manager for the Tahoe Transportation District and he says the plan is to put a roundabout at the intersection of U.S. 50 and Lake Parkway. The one-mile bypass would be four lanes with a middle turning lane. Highway 50 would shrink to two lanes, taking traffic away from the downtown core, adding appeal to outdoors enthusiasts.
"We're not pedestrian friendly," Hasty said. "We're not bike friendly. You are dependent on the car."
That's what several agencies and two states are trying to change. They say by shifting traffic farther away from the downtown area, it will help the environment, including the lake's clarity.
"By having traffic moving and not being jammed up, it helps on the emission side and makes those kinds of improvements," Hasty said. "So, treating the runoff before it gets to the lake as well as helping treat the air."
But there's a reason why this project has been in the works for three decades. First, they need the money. Officials have applied for a federal grant that will pay for about half of the $70 million project but they are still waiting to find out if they got it. That's also the estimated pricetag of razing 88 residential and commercial units, near Pioneer Trail and Highway 50.
"We can relocate a lot of them, including the businesses and I think this project helps open up opportunities that now don't exist," Hasty said.
"Basically, the new highway is going to be coming through my cash register, over there," Kurt Carlsen said.
Carlsen owns the Tahoe Bottle Shop and say relocating is not as easy as it sounds.
"It's a unique location that we have here at The Bottle Shop," Carlsen said. "That's why we have been in business for over 50 years and it would be hard to replicate that. However, I'm open for any suggestions."
Carlsen says he understands the need for the road, but doesn't like this plan, saying it benefits Nevada more than California.
"If it could be done another way to where it only positively effected California businesses involved, then I would be much more for the project," Carlsen said.
Next door, The Naked Fish sushi restaurant faces the same fate. General Manager Lance DeSilva has worked there for 12 years and worries he could lose his job.
"I think it's tragic that, in this economy, where it's hard to even keep a small business open that they're going to destroy successful small businesses and put people out of their homes," DeSilva said.
Transportation officials say they know there are a lot of unanswered questions and he's glad that those involved are raising their concerns.
"They're tuned in," Hasty said. "So, that energy that they all have with their concerns is the energy we put into creating solutions.
If this project does go through, officials say the earliest construction will begin is 2015.
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