SJR 12 would establish completion the Tahoe East Shore Trail from Incline Village to Spooner Summit as a priority and urges Congress to provide federal funding to facilitate that process, while SCR 8 seeks to support the identification of transportation priorities for the Lake Tahoe Basin.
If passed, these resolutions would be seen as a motion of support for the thirteen agencies collaboratively advocating for and implementing the 2013 State Highway 28 National Scenic Byway Corridor Management Plan. The Corridor Management Plan (CMP) seeks to address the safety, transportation, environmental, recreation, scenic and economic needs along State Route 28 from Incline Village to the Spooner Summit Intersection at US 50.
“The solutions [in the CMP] include a trail so that people are not having to walk on the highway, relocating parking to safer off-highway locations and introducing seasonal public transit,” Carl Hasty, district manager for the Tahoe Transportation District (TTD), said. “This gives a full, multimodal suite of solutions in that corridor to help manage the number of folks who come and use that area.”
The need for the solutions presented in the CMP has grown significantly in recent years, particularly as recreational day-use has increased due to the growing population centers around Lake Tahoe.
“While the resident population of Tahoe has been rather stable for a number of years now, we have a lot more outside day-use coming from Northwestern Nevada or the Sacramento area,” Hasty said. “State Route 28 between Incline Village and US 50 is our longest stretch of undeveloped shoreline on the lake, so it’s a very attractive, desirable place to be. We can end up with more than a thousand cars parking on the shoulder and that’s become a safety issue for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists and it’s also an environmental issue when we get that much more erosion from this uncontrolled access.”
A major priority of the CMP is constructing a shared-use path, called the Tahoe East Shore Trail, spanning the 11-mile stretch along State Route 28. To date, the first three miles have already been completed. However, the CMP agencies are looking for passage of SJR 12 to streamline the process of its completion.
“The most visible part [of CMP] is the first three miles of the shared-use path, which is a Class One Trail going from the old Ponderosa Parking Lot to Sand Harbor State Park,” said Hasty by phone. “We are now in the process of addressing the next eight miles from Sand Harbor to Spooner. By addressing the next eight miles in increments, we can put together dollars to get these things on the ground.”
According to Hasty, once the remaining eight miles of the Tahoe East Shore Trail are designed, allocating funds for its construction will continue to be a viable challenge.
“For Lake Tahoe, we often have to put together a variety of different funding sources in order to make a project happen. We go after what are called ‘discretionary grants.’ In this case, the federal government has a number of transportation grant sources and you don’t know whether you’re going to be selected or not. So it’s always important to have support when you are submitting applications and [SJR 12] helps us with that,” said Hasty.
Lake Tahoe, due to its location, presents a particularly unique set of challenges when implementing large-scale projects like the ones presented in the CMP.
“I’m not aware of any place as beautiful or as popular as Tahoe, but still has two states, five counties, one incorporated city and a federal agency as the biggest land manager,” Jim Lawrence, deputy director for the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, said during a committee hearing on SJR 12 earlier this month. “But since most of the parking lots and trail-work that’s remaining is on Forest Service lands and there’s possible federal spending packages coming, supporting [SJR 12] would be very helpful for securing additional federal funds needed to get this project completed.”
While the TTD and its twelve partnering agencies have been implementing its CMP in segments, they recently announced another major step for the Tahoe East Shore Trail.
“We contracted with the Forest Service and just completed the Environmental Analysis for the next eight miles [of the Tahoe East Shore Trail] and that’s an important milestone for the pursuit of any other dollars,” Hasty explained. “Now we’re taking the segment of expanding the two Forest Service [parking] lots for the trail connection. We have some dollars to design that with and we’ll seek construction dollars once this design is done.”
Beyond the completion of the Tahoe East Shore Trail, the TTD and its partner agencies will be exploring other means like shuttle services and cross-lake ferries to alleviate congestion on Lake Tahoe’s roads. It’s for this purpose that passage of SCR 8 would support determining public transit and other transportation options for Lake Tahoe’s future.
“Part of our long-range transit plan is a cross-lake passenger ferry that would be a high-speed, low-wake vessel that would provide a year-round connection between the north and south end of Lake Tahoe,” Hasty said.
In the meantime, different public transit systems have been or will be implemented. The Tahoe Truckee Area Regional Transit System (TART) operates out of Placer County to connect Truckee with the West Shore and North Lake Tahoe. After a brief pause due to COVID-19, the TTD will be re-starting its East Shore Express service from Incline Village to Sand Harbor, while the Visitors Bureau will be sponsoring a micro-transit shuttle service within Incline Village and Crystal Bay.
Additionally, this summer Washoe RTC will be piloting a shuttle service from the bottom of the Mt. Rose Highway to the Summit Park and Ride location, Sand Harbor and Incline Village.
“We’re really looking to connect more inter-regionally, so people would have an option to be able to get up here without being in their cars,” Hasty said of an interconnected regional transport system. “These are little trials to illustrate this connectivity that the future can bring us. It doesn’t mean everybody’s got to come up in that way, but we need to alleviate and address congestion with these multimodal options internal to the Basin.”
This inter-regional, multi-agency partnership established by the CMP demonstrates the complex challenges in protecting Lake Tahoe’s pristine ecosystems, while preserving its status as a safe and enjoyable destination for both tourists and its residential community.
“This corridor plan exemplifies that everyone who has a stake in that corridor, particularly from a management perspective, are working together and not just in their respective domains,” Hasty said. “Better solutions come when we leverage each other and are able to muster all of our resources to improve safety and access to the lake. So it’s an investment for now, it’s an investment for the long-term and that’s what this whole multimodal approach is about.”
Scott King writes about science and the environment for the Ally. Support his work in the Ally.