Sacramento Preservation Commission Votes to Leave Depot in Place.
Special Meeting May 21, 2009
Report by Bill Kerby, RailPAC Treasurer
With only one dissenting vote, the Sacramento Preservation Commission voted to recommend the City Council rescind its 2004 compromise plan that would have kept the Sacramento Valley Station in proximity of the Union Pacific mainline by moving the entire depot complex more than a football field length.
(Looking east) The relocated tracks will approximately follow the pole line in this photo. The former SP shops now owned by the CSRM are in the background.
Citing the urgency to maintain a competitive bid for $20 million in federal stimulus funds to prepare the site for relocating tracks north of the station, the commission chose between options “don’t move” and “move” the historic structure. The City Council will receive this recommendation for a formal decision June Second.
The classic Sacramento train station is located near the current track alignment.
If the council chooses the “don’t move” alternative, the former Southern Pacific Railroad depot will be included in a three phase conversion plan. Phase one consists of a package of site preparation by the City and track construction by Union Pacific contractors. New tangent tracks, platforms and overhead canopies will be relocated north of the existing structures. Phase two consists of site and building improvements, including new main electrical service to and within the depot. A new tunnel will connect the existing depot to serve AMTRAK and Capitol Corridor passengers as they walk to the Union Pacific tracks. Sacramento Regional Transit riders of the light rail system will connect with the existing depot on relocated light rail tracks. In phase three, the section requiring much more study, new facilities must be scaled to accommodate high speed rail with a broader passenger base projected to handle 15 million people annually.
Distributed at the May 21st meeting, a May 14th letter by State Historic Preservation Officer, Milford Wayne Donaldson, took an unusual step in commenting early in their formal review process. “[T]his case is unusual,” Milford wrote, “in that it is a three-phase undertaking, with minimal impacts to historic properties in the initial phases and the potential for huge and adverse effects in the third phase.” He continued with a caution that “…the relocated building would leave behind the basement, a major part of the square footage of the structure. It is also highly probable that the relocation effort would result in major damage to the walls, the roof, and the remainder of the building, as it would surely be moved in pieces and reassembled at the new site.” Preservation in place is projected to cost $10 million less than moving the building, but cost projections were not discussed in this Preservation Commission meeting. By the end of phase two, the existing station and the adjacent former Railway Express Agency building will remain in place.
Keeping the buildings in place also prevents new buildings from blocking views between the depot and the I Street neighborhood. Fourth Street will be reopened from the Depot to I Street for outbound vehicular traffic; traffic that formerly admitted street cars and autos in the front parking area. Aside from one citizen’s comment, there was no discussion of access by a possible downtown street car system. Train passengers will continue to use the original structure for ticketing and baggage handling. Board member, Russ Jackson, upon hearing the results of the meeting, expressed optimism that the present depot can be configured into a functional train station where passengers move about the same distance from station to tracks as one finds at Los Angeles Union Station. Stay tuned to see if the Sacramento City Council agrees with the Preservation Commission recommendation.
(File Photos by Russ Jackson)