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Open house event to discuss Riverfront, Old Sac connector

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A project designed to help reconnect downtown Sacramento to the riverfront and Old Sacramento is well under way, and the public is invited to learn more about it at an open house Wednesday.

The informational meeting will provide a project overview, details on key elements and the anticipated schedule and next steps, according to a recent press release from city’s Department of Transportation, which is co-sponsoring the open house with the project team.

“It’s been about three years since we’ve had a public meeting on the project,” said Linda Tucker, spokeswoman for the Department of Transportation. “Since that time, the economy has changed and the project has been scaled back to a more realistic project.”

Tucker said the public is invited to stop in anytime between 5 and 7 p.m. at the Tsakopoulos Library Galleria, and city staff and technical specialists will be on-hand to answer questions and provide more details about the project.

When the I-5 Riverfront Reconnection Project was in its initial vision stage, the City Council had considered creating a deck over the freeway to reconnect downtown to the riverfront.

A project review study found the decking idea was too expensive, so it was scrapped in favor of the current bridging project, according to the Department of Transportation website.

The current design – which includes bike and pedestrian improvements to Capitol Mall, a new gateway entrance into Old Sacramento and a new N Street bridge crossing I-5 – is in the environmental review stages now, and the public may review draft environmental impact reports until Aug. 31.

Of the estimated $38 million design and construction cost for the project, about $5 million comes from federal sources, another $1 million comes from local funding, and an additional $300,000 comes from a Caltrans community-planning grant, Tucker said.

Future financing for design and construction will be sought once the planning and environmental phase is completed. That funding is likely to come from a variety of public and private funding sources, according to the Department of Transportation website.

Ultimately, the goal of the I-5 Riverfront Reconnection Project is to ease the way for vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians to and from downtown Sacramento to the riverfront and Old Sacramento, according to the project website.

“It’ll be a much better gateway to that historic district when all is said and done,” Tucker said. “Once (we) improve the access, it opens up the riverfront area, and opportunities to spur development will start to take shape.”

According to the press release, the environmental document will be finalized and presented to the City Council for adoption in late September or early October.

After that, the city will move forward with the final engineering on the first phase of the project including the improvements to Capitol Mall, an added sidewalk along the south side of the O Street bridge, and a connection from Second Street on Capitol Mall to Old Sacramento.

Depending on available funding, construction for the first phase of improvements could begin as early as 2014.

The open house event will be held from 5-7 p.m. Wednesday at the Tsakopoulos Library Galleria, 828 I St.

To read the environmental document online, submit comments and learn more about the project, visit the project website.

Melissa Corker is a Staff Reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow her on Twitter @MelissaCorker.

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Melissa Corker

  • Paul Brown

    They really need to just bite the bullet and bury I-5. Sacramento is a river city, and these half-measures will only make the eventual deck project that much more expensive.

    • The only real solution is a deck or “Roof” over I-5, if you will, from Capitol Mall to P Street. Wait for more flush economic times and have a real solution rather than something that is a joke.

  • I agree with you in theory. But post recession a full on change like what we all dream of for I5 is just not possible. Do the most with the financial capability that’s possible for the immediate future and move on to the next project.

    • Mark

      I agree with you to a point. I do not think the plans that the City’s DOT have come up with is what we asked for so why should we spend any money on half measures that won’t do the trick. We don’t have to bury or cap the freeway to reconnect the riverfront with the rest of city but it sounds like they are trotting out the same basic plan they had a couple of years ago. I’ll have to go see on Wednesday to decide.

  • Mark

    This is typical of how things get done (or don’t get done) in this town. The public went to the City with a desire to mend the gap. Then the city set up committee that took public input and came back saying the ideas were too expensive and wouldn’t accomplish what the public wanted in the first place. (Actually, they came back with some pretty lame ideas first that the public didn’t like). Once the original idea to deck the freeway was rejected as too costly they never really went back to the public for alternatives. Instead they just came up with their own ideas and will now trot them out so we can admire their handiwork.

  • It’s a missed opportunity for sure. And half-measures are just so much bureaucratic wheelspin.

  • William Burg

    There really isn’t a way to get rid of I-5: decking it would be incredibly expensive, as would relocating it, and putting it underground even more expensive and probably very, very risky. Not many people wanted to be near the river when I-5 came through town–like a lot of cities, the waterfront was considered a dangerous, undesirable area where respectable people didn’t go. So it wasn’t considered a great loss, at least not at the time. Some cities have been able to reclaim their waterfronts by demolishing or rerouting the highways that blocked them off (which of course means finding another row of things to demolish or tunnel through to make way for the new rerouting)–but many of them haven’t added much besides little-used walking paths, and plans for future neighborhoods that may never arrive. In the long run, building a new neighborhood on the river side of I-5 (in the Docks area between Old Sac and Hwy 50) will depend on having suitable connections over I-5, even if we can’t find a way to get rid of it.

    Really, the only way to be rid of I-5 would be if the automobile becomes obsolete, and the highways that carry them (and trucks) become unnecessary. Until then, we can wail about it, or dream of the day when it isn’t there, or we can at least do something about it. This isn’t a perfect plan, but it’s a start.

    • Not happening. Trucks ship goods and services, and individuals want their mobility.

      Wait for better times and then put a deck “roof” over three blocks of it. Anything less will be a joke.

  • Mark

    William I think you are brilliant when it comes to history but I respectfully disagree when it comes to assessing the success of removing highways. Not sure what demolished highways you are talking about? I can think of a few (because only a few have been removed) that has seen a lot of new development in the wake of their demise. And I think saying we will need to wait until the automobile is obsolete is a bit of defeatist. We could build the Western Bypass as Caltrans once proposed and then turn the downtown section of I-5 into a wide landscaped surface boulevard ala the Embarcadero. That would reconnect the city and riverfront, provide many more access points and open a lot of new land for redevelopment throughout downtown – while still keeping most of the current freeway a limited access commuter expressway. If that doesn’t appeal to people then at the very least we should build several pedestrian/bike bridges over the freeway. What we do not need is better auto access to Old Sacramento -lack of cars it not Old Sacramento’s problem.

    • William Burg

      One example would be San Francisco, where the Embarcadero Freeway was removed from San Francisco’s waterfront. That removal is what catalyzed the current Embarcadero, bringing that end of Market Street back to life and making restoration of the historic Ferry Building possible. Portland removed a section of Highway 99 from its waterfront to create Harbor Drive. In both cases, the demolished highway was not replaced. The point is that Sacramento was not the only city, not by a long shot, that cut off its waterfront with a highway–and some cities have seen the folly of their ways.

      Yes, the perfect answer would involve relocation of Interstate 5, and replacing it with a street-level boulevard (although a bridge would still be needed over the Union Pacific main line at I Street.) It’s an easy answer to think up–but a difficult answer to pay for and execute. It may be decades off. or a lifetime–and I’d rather see some change, even if it’s just incremental, before that.

  • Mark

    I saw the plans tonight. I think given the constraints that Caltrans and budget place on the project they’ve come up with a pretty good plan. I’m still not convinced that it’s the best possible way to reconnect – at least for the pedestrian. The quickest way to travel between two points is in a straight line so I would prefer constructing a pedestrian and bike only bridge over I-5 between the Capitol Mall at 3rd and Old Sacramento at Neasham Circle and L. But I’d totally be happy with the what they’ve come up with.

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