Plan to cut lanes from Tahoe highway draws local protests


A plan to reshape Highway 50 around Lake Tahoe has received so much pushback from concerned locals that the project is being delayed once again.

The Highway 50 Tahoe East Shore Corridor Management Plan is a massive, multi-agency restructuring of Tahoe’s most-trafficked route. U.S. Highway 50 was planned and built in the 1920s when the Tahoe Basin was a very different place, and recent studies by the Nevada Department of Transportation have shown that the main thoroughfare around the lake no longer safely accommodates the amount of drivers using it.

“Land use and residential communities have built out over time while recreation demand has increased dramatically,” the study found. “… US 50 no longer reflects or safely supports the travelers it serves. The result is unmanaged roadside parking and access, dangerous conflicts between pedestrians and vehicles, difficulty turning in/out of side streets and driveways, queuing from turning vehicles in travel lanes, and excessive speeds.”

The corridor management plan hopes to redo the highway over the next few years to better serve local residents and tourists to the region. Among the biggest changes would be reducing some parts of the road from four to two lanes, and removing all parking along the highway; currently, parking on the shoulder often fills up quickly near tourist sites like Zephyr Cove. 

The Nevada Department of Transportation proposes changing parts of Highway 50 around Tahoe for safety reasons over the next few years.

Devin Crowley, Nevada Department of Transportation/Handout

The study found that in a 13-mile stretch from Spooner Summit to the California border, one-third of traffic crashes were due to high speed. Sixty percent of crashes occurred in clear weather, and only 14% involved snow. By reducing the number of lanes, the plan aims to force drivers to slow down closer to the posted speed limit.



“When combined with strategies such as turn lanes and removing roadside parking on US 50, the roadway should operate safer, more reliably, and provide a smoother flow of traffic during peak visitation periods,” the study says.

On Nov. 17, public comment was allowed at a meeting of the Douglas County Board of Commissioners, and locals were almost uniformly in opposition to the reduction of lanes.

“The evacuation of South Lake Tahoe during the Caldor Fire made national headlines. Vehicles were backed up in excess of 30 miles,” resident Ellie Waller said. “All this and much, much more require scrutiny. I hope we take a longer look at this.”

Another Zephyr Heights resident called the plan to cut lanes “not acceptable for our very busy community.”

The Nevada Department of Transportation proposes changing parts of Highway 50 around Tahoe for safety reasons over the next few years.

The Nevada Department of Transportation proposes changing parts of Highway 50 around Tahoe for safety reasons over the next few years.

Devin Crowley, Nevada Department of Transportation/Handout

As a result of public comment in opposition to the project, the plan is being pushed back further. According to the Record-Courier, the issue is likely shelved until “early 2023.” The Record-Courier reported that principal engineer Bryan Grant wrote a statement about the delay to California state community development director Scott Morgan. 

“Based on the extensive public feedback regarding the (plan) following the two public canvassing meetings, the study team feels it prudent to change the timing of engaging your board of county commissioners,” Grant wrote. “This will give the study team time to continue to synthesize public comments, as well as complete a thorough review of the publicly proposed alternative concept.”

To review the full proposal and options being considered, see the corridor management plan from Nevada Department of Transportation.





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