A key challenge that both the Nevada and California Departments of Transportation face is to keep the major roads to and near Lake Tahoe open during the wintertime.
NDOT is responsible for maintaining four (4) of the roads that provide access to the Tahoe basin. They are as follows:
- SR 28 from Crystal Bay to the junction of U.S. 50
- U.S. 50 from the junction of U.S. 395 in Carson City to the Nevada/California state line (including SR760, Elks Point Road)
- SR 431 (Mt. Rose) from the junction of U.S. 395 in Reno to the junction with SR 28 in Incline Village
- SR 207 (Kingsbury Grade) from the junction of U.S. 395 in Gardnerville to the junction with U.S. 50 in Lake Tahoe
Winter maintenance is a very important part of working in the Lake Tahoe Basin. While trying to maintain the roads, NDOT also has the challenge of protecting the environment in and around the lake. NDOT uses a process of applying a sand/salt mixture and plowing to keep them clear. The sand/salt mixture creates unwanted sediment but is an essential part of wintertime maintenance. With the advancement of technology, real time pavement information such as surface air temperature, humidity and other useful data is being used to determine the proper mix of sand and salt that is required for a select section of roadway. This technology, known as the Road Weather Information System (RWIS), has allowed the NDOT to reduce the annual volume of sand and salt applied to its roads throughout the Tahoe Basin. In the Tahoe basin, NDOT has reduced winter road maintenance-related sand use from 4,300 cubic yards per year in 1990 to approximately 850 cubic yards, and reduced salt usage by 70 percent.
While reducing the amount of both sand and salt applied, NDOT is also actively developing effective means to trap, remove, and haul the applied sand from the Tahoe Basin. The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency presented NDOT with a “Best in the Basin Award” for sustainable maintenance for new facilities built to treat material collected during cleaning of roadside drainage facilities. At a total cost of $250,000, the facilities provide a cost-effective and environmentally-sound method of maintenance expected to save $4 million over the next 20 years.