An update of a study of regional tourism was presented at the March 6 meeting of the El Dorado County Transportation Commission.
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Called the Bay-To-Tahoe Basin Recreation and Tourism Rural Roadway Impact Study, the study was commissioned in 2012 and prepared by the firm of Wood Rodgers at a cost of $239,775, with funding provided by Caltrans.
Making the presentation was Mark Rayback, who is the vice president and a board member of Wood Rodgers. Rayback is also a former chief of staff at Caltrans.
Rayback noted that the purpose of the study was to analyze the impact of regional tourism travel on Interstate 80, U.S. Highway 50 and State Routes 20, 49, 88, 89 and 267 within El Dorado, Placer, Amador and Nevada Counties.
The information will be used in rural transportation planning, policy, management, maintenance and funding decisions for the region.
Part of the data collection for the study included destination surveys of those living in the Sacramento and Bay Area to determine where people were coming from and where they were going. According to Rayback, some 30,000 people were contacted using an automated phone survey. That was followed up with more in-depth interviews of almost 1,000 people. In particular people were asked why they were traveling and what would make them linger along the way.
Rayback said it’s estimated that those coming from Sacramento and the Bay Area alone make 6.5 million trips yearly to the Tahoe region. That number doesn’t include those coming from Nevada, elsewhere in California or outside California.
However, 50 percent of those traveling from the Bay area don’t stop along the way nor do 85 percent of those traveling from Sacramento.
Rayback said there is also more traffic flowing to north shore of Tahoe than the south shore. He said it might be due to recent improvements to north shore ski areas and a new interchange in the area.
When asked what would make them stop, people mentioned going sightseeing, shopping and camping. They also said they would be more likely to stop if there were better roadways, better hotel accommodations, better signage, better access and egress from highways, and better restaurants. Fifty-four percent also said they would be willing to try transit if it were developed in the area. One suggestion was a wine bus or trolley.
Rayback said 31 percent of those surveyed get their information about attractions from newspapers. But they also get information from brochures, the Internet and other sources.
Noting the level of interest in agriculture tourism and viticulture in the foothill areas, he added that outdoor tourism and heritage tourism are draws that could be packaged together.
Overall, Rayback estimated the prospects for economic growth in the study area as strong and projected a one to three percent growth in tourism.
Rayback also touched on transportation improvement funding. Piggybacking on a presentation made earlier about the need for the state to upgrade and repair its transportation infrastructure, he noted there is a great deal of competition for what limited funding is available. State revenue streams are underfunded, he added, though cap-and-trade may generate money.
He concluded by suggesting more public-private partnerships are needed as well as additional steps to capture new resources. The data base from the study can also be used to build consensus on the impact of traffic trips through the area and what projects would be most beneficial to pursue to take advantage of the through traffic.
Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or [email protected] Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter.