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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.