Construction Project Could Significantly Ease Traffic to Lake Tahoe

Photo by Eric Marty

A proposed roundabout in Meyers, California, may alleviate one of the major pain points for drivers heading to Lake Tahoe. The new project aims to reduce the miles-long backups that often occur on Highway 50, as visitors try to enter South Lake Tahoe.

The roundabout, which was planned 30 years ago, is expected to be completed in 2024, and it will replace the current traffic light at the intersection of Highway 50 and Pioneer Trail. The intersection is about 5 miles south of South Lake Tahoe.

The Pioneer Trail/US Highway 50 Intersection Safety Improvement Project is focused on improving traffic flow through the intersection. It is expected to speed up the flow of traffic for the many visitors who turn right on Pioneer Trail to reach Heavenly Ski Resort and the hotels around Stateline, Nevada. The current intersection regularly backs up in both directions, particularly on Friday evenings as cars enter the basin, and Sunday evenings as skiers begin the drive back to the Bay Area.

Graphic by Donaldo Palaroan

Compared to traffic lights, roundabouts tend to have fewer crashes and reduce the wait time per vehicle by about 12 seconds. The proposed roundabout may reduce traffic by a minute for every five cars, which could make a significant difference for drivers stuck in a 100-car backup on a Friday evening.

The current design for the roundabout shows two dedicated lanes to speed up traffic. Cars turning onto Pioneer Trail from eastbound 50 and vehicles staying on westbound Highway 50 will be able to bypass the roundabout entirely without stopping, which isn’t an option at the current intersection.

While the project will likely speed up traffic, it also aims to achieve environmental goals. The roundabout will touch on the agency’s goals of improving air quality by minimizing idling time, improving walkability with safer bike and pedestrian walkways, and making it easier for public transportation vehicles to move through the area. The project is expected to cost more than $9 million, but less than 3% will come from local organizations. The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency will contribute about $198,000 earmarked for air quality mitigation projects. The remaining funds will come from the Federal Highway Administration, Caltrans, and the Regional Surface Transportation Program managed by TRPA but funded at the federal level.

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