Fanny Bridge replacement
A popular Lake Tahoe landmark in Tahoe City and frequent traffic chokepoint will soon be a much different place.
Fanny Bridge, named such for the frequent scene of the posteriors of folks leaning over its railing to gaze at fish swimming below, is now the focal point of one of Lake Tahoe’s most significant transportation upgrades.
“This is a keystone project in that it addresses a number of needs,” said Carl Hasty, executive director of the Tahoe Transportation District, lead agency in the State Route 89/Fanny Bridge Revitalization Project."There are not a lot of these kind of improvements taking place around Lake Tahoe.”
Located at Lake Tahoe’s outlet to the Truckee River and just downstream of the Lake Tahoe Dam, Fanny Bridge carries Highway 89 traffic headed west toward Truckee and east into downtown Tahoe City and Highway 28 toward Nevada. Officials say replacing the two-lane concrete structure, now 90 years old, has long been overdue.
The bridge is often the scene of stop-and-go gridlock. During peak summertime periods, northbound traffic can back up for miles, making for decidedly tedious travel and frustrated residents and visitors alike.
There are conflicts as well. Heavy automobile traffic is joined by lines of bicyclists and legions of pedestrians, many of them there to check out the big trout often seen swimming in the swirling blue pools between the bridge and dam.
“It can get pretty messy at times, that’s for sure,” Hasty said of a situation that can pose significant safety hazards.
“It’s an iconic bridge,” said Peter Kraatz, assistant public works director for Placer County, another key project sponsor.
“People want to see the fish and there’s just a lot of conflict there,” Kraatz said. “This project will help with that a lot.”
The $35 million revitalization project will divert much of Highway 89’s traffic over a second bridge being built downstream. Construction began last spring, with much of the work being completed over this summer. The entire project is expected to be wrapped up in 2019.
Work involves realignment of Highway 89, routing highway traffic through two roundabout intersections and over the new two-lane bridge spanning the Truckee River. Because most northbound traffic heads toward Truckee, those changes are expected to significantly reduce traffic volume and resulting problems in the area of the existing Fanny Bridge.
That bridge will be replaced with a new one of similar appearance. The old road alignment will be taken over by Placer County and changed to a far more bicycle and pedestrian-friendly area designed to celebrate the river.
“It’s not just dealing with the automobiles, but it’s making it easier for the pedestrians and bicyclists to get through this part of town,” Kraatz said. “A lot of people look at this as a bypass, but, really, what it does is help split traffic up. It will be a lot more pedestrian friendly.”
The new town center at the old Fanny Bridge can be closed to traffic when needed. That will allow the area to become a welcoming center for special events such as concerts, craft fairs, parades and such.
“If you want to close it down for events like farmers markets, you’ve got that option now,” Hasty said.
“It can really be an asset, and it will provide a much better traffic flow situation for Tahoe City,” Hasty said.