No early warning is given for drivers used to two lanes going straight on Lake Tahoe Boulevard at Viking Road. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

In anticipation of completing a $3.3 million Class 1 bike trail that runs five-eighths of a mile along Lake Tahoe Boulevard, South Lake Tahoe officials have restriped that road to get motorists used to what will likely be permanent changes.

Less than a week into the process the city has heard plenty of complaints, social media has been less than kind, and drivers are clearly not getting what is going on. One of the biggest changes is the creation of a right hand lane going to South Tahoe High School at Viking Road. In less than 10 minutes on July 25 several vehicles continued straight on Lake Tahoe Boulevard. The problem is there is a single right arrow painted on the roadway right at the intersection, which isn’t enough warning or information for drivers to know what is going on.

On the other side of the road headed toward the Y a solid white line has been painted so an entire lane is no longer accessible to drivers. Center turn lanes are also new. The city painted the lines without giving the public any warning or explanation for why it was doing this.

Called the Lake Tahoe Boulevard Bike Trail, it will essentially connect with where El Dorado County’s paved trail ends at the entrance to STHS. Cyclists and walkers will have to cross the road to hook up with the new trail that is slated to be built in 2022. It will then go along the south side of the boulevard toward the Y, connecting with the paved walkway at the bus terminal at the corner at the Y.

“This is a new technique that a lot of the country is doing. If you can get outside and stripe ahead of time, it represents what will be built in the future,” explained Jim Marino, with the South Lake Tahoe Public Works Department. “It gets everyone used to it and we get feedback.”

This saves money and frustration down the road so a multi-million dollar project doesn’t get put in the ground with a ton of unforeseen problems.

The city will take input from users to see what improvements can be made to the design before going out to bid. South Tahoe did this with Al Tahoe Boulevard a few years ago. Lines were repainted and this year construction is under way.

The new lines on Lake Tahoe Boulevard are being called a “roadway diet” and “traffic calming” so drivers slow down, especially in the area of the high school. Truck traffic going to the asphalt plant and other industrial businesses are the biggest speeders, according to city officials. The new road alignment is designed to help slow those vehicles down.

The trail will be lighted, which adds to the cost of the project. More trails on the South Shore are coming with lights like the recently completed Sierra Boulevard path. When Pioneer Trail was improved several years ago lights were added. For years they have been at Linear Park, which goes from about where McDonald’s is in midtown to the Stateline area.

Part of the expense also includes acquisition costs for rights-of-way. The trail is being built on the Raley’s side of the road because there are fewer businesses, not as many ingresses/egresses, fewer utilities to contend with, and less right-of-way to secure. The trail will be about 10-feet wide, meet ADA standards, and be multi-use. Project costs also include improvements to the actual boulevard as well. Money has been secured for the entire project; most from federal alternative transportation grants. The city will contribute about $100,000.

The next project on the city’s list after the Lake Tahoe Boulevard path is done will be the Tahoe Valley erosion control and green belt plan. This is still in the planning stages. This would create a Class 1 path in front Tahoe Crossings (the old factory stores complex), go through the California Tahoe Conservancy lot, out toward Melba Drive, connect with Third Street, where cyclists would then cross Highway 50 to connect with the Class 1 that goes to Stateline.

South Lake Tahoe’s five-year capital improvement plan is slated to be on the City Council’s Aug. 11 agenda, with possible adoption two weeks later on Aug. 25.

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