A pilot project that aimed to better manage Highway 89 traffic into Squaw Valley on high-volume ski days has been shelved for the remainder of the winter season.
The project, which temporarily extended the southbound turn lane along the road shoulder by 2,000 feet, turned out to be a learning lesson for Placer County officials. The project had a limited run from mid-February to early March before it was shuttered.
"Basically, what we observed out there is it's really hard to project when the congestion is going to occur," said Peter Kraatz, assistant director for the Placer County Department of Public Works and Facilities.
"It's hard to control driver behavior and get their attention. We learned from that pretty quickly. It's good information as we move (ahead)."
Some of the observations made were that when traffic volume was high the separation of the vehicles with right-hand turn lane cones worked well, largely because speeds were well below 55 mph.
But when traffic volume lowered, the speeds of drivers grew higher and that led to some unsafe conditions, such as drivers swerving around the cones used to mark the turn lane extension.
The turn lane extension, which allowed for about 100 vehicles to be separated from southbound traffic, is one of several congestion-relieving measures the county has been exploring.
The measures include the prioritization of public transit travel and carpooling, and are being done in partnership with the California Department of Transportation, California Highway Patrol, and Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows.
"We feel that any step that can be implemented in a collaborative effort with our regional authorities to stem traffic congestion is good," said Liesl Hepburn, director of public relations for Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows.
She added, "We are appreciative of our cooperative relationship with Placer County and look forward to evaluating this pilot program and exploring more ways that we can directly address traffic congestion."