Carson Valley could lose millions of dollars in tourist trade if a plan to close Kingsbury Grade for a month in May and September is implemented, business officials told representatives of the Nevada Department of Transportation on Thursday.
“The Kingsbury schedule needs to be rethought,” said Carson Valley Visitor’s Authority Executive Director A.J. Frels. “Obviously no one took the step to notify (the authority), and that appears to be true for all of the tourist driven businesses here. We expect tourism to be down, and anticipate a decline in transient occupancy tax. NDOT needs to find a different means of conducting this work that does not include closing Kingsbury Grade.”
State officials confirmed for Carson Valley Inn Marketing Director Bill Henderson that the summit of Kingsbury Grade would be closed to through traffic for two months this year.
Carson Valley Golf Course Owner Tom Brooks was told he would have to take Highway 50 to Kingsbury to reach the Ridge Tahoe.
State officials said the plan to close the highway at the summit before Memorial Day and after Labor Day in 2014, and before Memorial Day 2015 was discussed with stakeholders before it was confirmed.
Their theory is that it’s better to close the grade for three months, and be done with paving the highway by July 3, 2015, than to draw the work out for three years.
Project engineer Pedro Rodriquez said that Kingsbury’s mountain location, its urban setting and seasons make it a challenge to work on.
In addition to rebuilding the road from Highway 50 to the summit, the state plans to put a left turn lane at Kingsbury and Tramway, and a flashing red light so motorists driving up the grade know a car is turning left on the other side of the summit.
Henderson said he found out about the plan to close Kingsbury when the state made a presentation to Rotary.
“We were told this was pretty much decided,” he said. “There should be a way to access Tramway from the Valley.”
Minden Holiday Day Inn Express Manager Debra Lang said she’d booked rooms for several sports teams attending events at Lake Tahoe over the summer before she’d heard Kingsbury would be closed.
Lang, who’s past president of the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce, said her organization was another that wasn’t contacted by the state before the decision was made to close Kingsbury.
Soaring NV owner Laurie Harden said 80 percent of her glider ride customers come down Kingsbury Grade.
Residents also questioned the proposal to close Kingsbury for seven days a week, even though work would only be going on during six.
They asked why the grade couldn’t be open that seventh day, especially since emergency traffic and the BlueGo bus would be able to go through during the week.
Rodriquez said an estimated 10,000 people a day go over Kingsbury Grade, or about half the number that use the Lake Tahoe side.