SACRAMENTO RT PLANS EXPANSION TO AIRPORT

Reported by Russ Jackson, with Bill Kerby PHOTOS by Russ Jackson

On Saturday, February 9, Sacramento Regional Transit held an open house to receive a project update and the draft Program EIR review. The project is a proposed extension of the current RT light rail system through the current rail station north across the American River, through the rapidly expanding Natomas area, ending at Sacramento International Airport.

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This “DNA” project, short for Downtown/Natomas/Airport corridor project is described as being a 13-mile, 14-station light rail transit extension, serving the future Railyards development and Regional Intermodal Facility (current train station), to “improve mobility and safety through the Corridor as the Natomas community continues to expand. The entire project is expected to be implemented in stages as funding becomes available.” Another RT extension is planned to extend the current south line to Consumnes River College.

RailPAC Treasurer Bill Kerby, Associate Director Mike Barnbaum, and this writer attended the session. What stood out was the plan to immediately go ahead with Phase 1 engineering over the next year. “MOS-1″ extends one mile from 7th and H to Richards Boulevard, with the target date for starting construction in 2009, and service “start-up possible as early as 2010.” This phase and the whole project is being prepared under California’s CEQA EIR requirements with no Federal actions being undertaken, which speeds up the process significantly. The cost of this first phase is expected to be $37.6 million. The full project cost is projected at near $700 million, and could be built by 2017.

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Phase 1 was explained to us by Darryl Abansado, P.E., RT’s Director of Civil and Track Design (above left). What is interesting about this first one-mile phase is the plan to run a single track up 7th through the existing tunnel under the Union Pacific Railroad to a Richards Blvd. station, taking it straight through the planned redevelopment project of the former Southern Pacific Railroad shops. When additional phases are built, after the City plans for the shops area is finalized and double tracking this line is required, a reroute will be built into the train station to a new platform.

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(Above) City Councilman Ray Tretheway expressed his support for the project in the general session.

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Sacramento County Supervisor Roger Dickinson (above right), in whose district this project will be built, told Mr. Kerby (left) and this writer that there is a “tremendous need for increased mobility.” Sac International has “12 million passengers a year now, and is expected to increase to 20 million.” Rosemary Covington from the RT told the group that “transit demand to downtown will increase by 87%,” and light rail is the solution to the problem as new freeways are just not going to be built. We noted that in this 850 page EIR document there is little definitive “this is what we will do.” But, the planning process is underway and while it will be over 10 more years when the plan is complete at least something is being done now.

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The meeting received excellent coverage by the Sacramento press and TV. RailPAC’s Mike Barnbaum (right above) was interviewed by Channel 10 News.

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