ISTEA Reauthorization
March 28, 1997

Thank you, Senator Reid, and Senator Chafee. I appreciate the opportunity to come before you today.

The Lake Tahoe Gaming Alliance is an organization representing the hotel casino resorts on the South Shore of Lake Tahoe. The Alliance takes a very strong leadership role in our region on transportation issues.

There are several important principles that went into the drafting of ISTEA as originally adopted in 1991. We believe that these principles are extremely important to the reauthorization of ISTEA that Congress is now considering. Those principles would be as follows: maintaining a strong national commitment to transportation, providing transportation choices, protecting public safety and the environment, assuring accountability, a strong role for the States and local government, and community and public involvement.

Reauthorization of ISTEA should continue to focus on partnerships and on a level playing field between highway construction and other transportation projects. My testimony this morning will focus on those programs that we have found to be of particular value from ISTEA and importance to the Lake Tahoe region.

One of the most important for us is the enhancements program. This program has allowed us access to funding for the design and construction of very important water quality improvements along our roadway network, which is very limited in Tahoe. These would include erosion control and drainage projects. Prior to ISTEA, as you know, there was little if any funding available for such projects and important considerations. Enhancement projects at Lake Tahoe have also included the construction of bicycle and pedestrian trails and sidewalks. It is a consensus goal at Lake Tahoe that we build a vastly improved trail network, including a bicycle trail that goes completely around the lake. We note that just on one 17-mile section of our current trail system, over 400,000 people use that section of trail each year. So, clearly, we have a need and a demand that must be addressed.

We at Lake Tahoe do support proposals to increase the amount of ISTEA funding dedicated to enhancement projects here as well as in the rest of the country. We have a lot of work to do in enhancements.

I did, Senator Reid and Senator Chafee, submit some photos of some enhancement projects that we have done at Lake Tahoe for your review.

We also strongly support the continuation of adequate funding for scenic by-ways projects. Thanks to ISTEA and a lot of support, we have Highway 28 along the East Shore of Lake Tahoe in Nevada that has been designated a scenic by-way. We also support historic and cultural preservation programs in ISTEA, the improvements to highways that are provided and also for the access to public lands that was mentioned earlier in testimony. This item is particularly significant at Tahoe, as it is in Nevada, where in Tahoe we have more than 70 percent of the basin watershed owned by the Federal Government. When you place the State holdings in California and Nevada into that, it's more than 80 percent of the public lands there, and access to those public lands for recreation is particularly vital for us.

In fact, at Lake Tahoe we're working very hard to move the public land management agencies, Federal and State, in the direction of partnerships to increase transit access to public lands. We look to the reauthorization of ISTEA to help provide us the flexibility and resources to accomplish this goal effectively and efficiently.

The new ISTEA should also, in our judgment, increase support for projects based on the use of innovative technologies as a means to reduce congestion and improve economic competitiveness and quality of life. With funds that we have secured from the Federal Government just this past year, with strong leadership from Senator Reid and others, we have a great pot of money that we've generated locally. We've put those together on the South Shore of the Lake, and we're moving forward to the development and implementation of what we're calling the Coordinated Transit System Project, and this will be using the technologies of Automatic Vehicle Location, or AVL, Advanced Traveler Information, ATI, and Computer-Aided Dispatching, or CAD.

While each of these technical strategies has been proven to date in its own right, they've never been deployed together as a package as we plan to do in South Lake Tahoe. Consequently, our CTS will be a cutting-edge project. Unique features of this project will be both the availability of service to the community at large, not just Paratransit, and the immediacy of response to ride requests. Through grants or similar programs, ISTEA should encourage and help fund such innovative projects, including ITS strategies. And, again, for the record we have submitted some technical descriptions of our CTS project for your consideration.

I would also note that Lake Tahoe, along with NDOT, Washoe County RTC, NHP, along with a number of entities in California, are involved in the TransCal field operational test. This is a test of various technologies up and down the I-80 and U.S. 50 corridors, which are vital to our area. We know that we will not likely see much new capacity so we're trying to do capacity management with technologies, and, again, we're involved in that TransCal FOT program.

As I think most of the folks in the room today are aware, Lake Tahoe is a very unique region. We're recognized as a national treasure and deserving of special planning and project considerations and a bi-State compact between the States of California and Nevada, which has been enacted by Congress as P.L. 96551. Each year more than two million people, many from metropolitan areas of the country, come to visit and recreate at Lake Tahoe. We ask the members of this committee and Congress to help us identify and explore how ISTEA might address the unique needs of Lake Tahoe, and, perhaps, Senator Reid will have an opportunity to do that at the Federal Summit at Lake Tahoe, which you are helping to spearhead later on this year.