Caltrans, the California state agency responsible for roads and highways, has proposed scaling back road improvements originally designed to improve US-50, a major thoroughfare between California and Nevada serving the Lake Tahoe area. This proposal has been met with resistance from South Lake Tahoe officials and environmental groups in both Nevada and California. The initial plan was to improve two miles of highway from Trout Creek Bridge to the “Y” intersection on the California side. As well as improving the road surface, Class 2 bike lanes would be put in as well as a five-foot sidewalk and bus pull-outs. While the proposed work was to take place on the California side of the state line, Nevada Lake Tahoe residents and businesses would also have benefited, particularly since so many of them work on the California side in various tourist industries surrounding the lake.
CALIFORNIA’S DECISIONS AFFECT NEVADA RESIDENTS
Due to budget cuts and higher than anticipated costs, however, the idea was scrapped. The idea was amended to just one mile of highway to Upper Truckee Bridge with work to be finished in 2017. The road from Upper Truckee Bridge to the “Y” intersection was put on hold. Officials are angry at this proposal because that stretch of highway is unsafe for cyclists who must navigate a narrow or crumbling bike lane. Opponents are also accusing Caltrans of not living up to the proposed street initiatives that would improve safety for pedestrians. A South Lake Tahoe City Council member, JoAnn Conner, said that “We are trying to be more bike-friendly and we really need cooperation from our state arm of the transport system.” She called Caltrans pulling out of innovative and creative walkable spaces proposal “very disappointing”. Caltrans said that as they got further into the project design, more utility and right of way conflicts arose. The costs also rose to around $38.5 million. Steve Nelson, spokesman for Caltrans District 3, said that “we have submitted a program-change request” and that “one reason we selected that stretch of road as opposed to the other stretch was that most of the water quality improvements are in that stretch”. This is not the first time Caltrans has scaled back projects in the Tahoe area. Angela Swanson, another member of the City Council, recounts how several years ago Caltrans returned $100 million to the State that was allocated to Tahoe road projects under the excuse of budget challenges. The Lake Tahoe Sustainability Collaborative has identified areas of the road that are putting cyclists at risk due to the erosion. Deteriorating pavements and narrow lanes can put cyclists at risk and cause accidents and injuries.
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SUING FOR A NEVADA ROAD ACCIDENT
What makes the situation even more complicated is that many Nevada residents live and work in this area and may be involved in a bike accident in California. This means that the process of collecting damages may be even more complicated than usual. If you have been injured while cycling or driving on an unsafe road, you must know your rights and how you can claim damages for the negligence of the person or group who caused your accident. Contact Bernstein and Poisson in Las Vegas to see if a personal injury lawsuit may be possible for your case.