Tahoe Traffic and the Winter of Discontent

For a lot of folks visiting Tahoe, this is the winter of our discontent.

The snow is back – which is great.  Great for skiers, great for our creeks, great for our water supplies.

Pictured: Squaw Valley and its Snowpack

But this winter has also brought a whole lot of something else to Tahoe: traffic.

Maybe you live in the Bay Area and you hit the road to go skiing.  Maybe you live in Tahoe City and you just want to pick up your kid from daycare.  Or you live in Truckee and you need to get to work on time.

And then you hit it: traffic stacked up and solid as a brick wall – on Interstate 80, on Highway 89, or in your own neighborhood.  Gridlock so bad the Sacramento Bee called it Northern California’s “biggest traffic jam”.


Pictured: Stop and Go on I-80

And there might be little reward upon reaching your destination.  Even after sitting in traffic, travelers are routinely turned back from Squaw Valley this winter.  After creeping for hours along 89 – only to be told: lot’s full, go home.

Pictured: Go Home

The problem is rooted in two things: first, everything we love about Tahoe – the lake, the mountains, the skiing – is what attracts us and others to visit in the first place.  Second, we continue to approve development out of scale with Tahoe’s infrastructure.

And that’s where Sierra Watch – and our shared effort to Keep Squaw True – comes in.

When facing any problem, the first step towards real solutions is to stop making it worse.  It’s the first rule of holes: stop digging!

Unfortunately, new development would do just that: make Tahoe traffic much, much worse.

The Martis Valley and Squaw Valley proposals would add 8,000 new daily car trips to North Tahoe roads.  Next time you hit that wall of stopped cars, try to imagine 8,000 more on the road with you.

Pictured: Tahoe City to Truckee in Two Hours

That kind of gridlock is more than just an inconvenience.

It’s a safety issue – when fire trucks and ambulances are stuck in traffic.

Pictured: Illegal parking on Squaw Valley Road

It’s a threat to our local economy – when disillusioned visitors vow never to return.

It’s a menace to Lake Tahoe – when the pollutants from vehicle traffic cloud the lake and rob it of its famous clarity.

And it’s a hazard to the classic Tahoe experience – when we replace the legacy of the Great Outdoors, passed on from generation to generation, with hours stuck behind the wheel.

Tahoe deserves better.  Unfortunately, as we learned last fall, Placer County decision-makers cannot be trusted to protect Tahoe values from over-development.

So, unless we want to spend our time in Tahoe in traffic, it’s up to us.

To get involved call or email Sierra Watch Field Representative Chase Schweitzer, (530) 448-1506 or cschweitzer@sierrawatch.org, and sign the petition linked below if you haven’t already.