ALTA – Residents of small towns near Interstate 80 are fed up because every time the interstate closes due to severe weather, they have to deal with what comes with tourists headed up the mountain.
Neighbors were hoping a community meeting with Caltrans and law enforcement, held Saturday, would lead to some solutions.
“We’re not really set up to handle the number of people who want to come up and see the snow,” said resident Guy Graham.
Record-setting snowfall in areas of the Sierra closed the freeway several times over the last few months.
Tourists heading to ski resorts were forced to wait it out, often heading to small towns like Alta.
“They use the local facilities as dumps,” Graham exclaimed.
Neighbors have to deal with snarling traffic and trash.
“Somebody going to the bathroom on our front porch. Leaving their McDonald’s trash. We have dealt with that. You can’t go grocery shopping, you just can’t get out,” said resident Bev Adams.
Officials hope to prevent people from going to the bathroom private property by offering travelers a more appropriate option.
“We’re trying to work on possibly getting port-a-potties somehow. So, when the road does close, we can get these port-a-potties staged,” said Sgt. Ty Conners with the Placer County Sherriff’s Office.
There are also safety concerns due to jammed streets.
“We had a child pinned in a vehicle in a rollover accident on Interstate 80 and our first responders could not get out,” Adams said.
One of their biggest issues comes from GPS services that tell drivers they can skip the interstate closure by going through small towns.
“People need to understand the GPS is wrong. There are no side streets… there are no shortcuts to get to the ski area,” Adams exclaimed.
Officials and neighbors hope to work with GPS services to correct these instructions moving forward.
They are shifting their focus to road signs and social media, as a way to warn drivers heading up the Sierra to turn around if the weather is bad.
Neighbors just hope they won’t be left out in the cold and that all this talk will lead to real action.
“They are listening to us. This is a first step,” Graham stated.
Locals don’t want the momentum to stop so they plan to keep meeting to talk about these solutions moving forward.