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Davis, California

Friday, May 17, 2024

Sacramento’s new public transportation

A resurgence of the streetcar systems

The Sacramento Streetcar project has become official after much debate about Sacramento public transportation. The City of Sacramento had a streetcar system decades ago, but was taken out by competition with the development of more automobiles and big oil companies. The proposal called for a $200 million streetcar line, which would span 3.3 miles, running between Sacramento and West Sacramento. This project has been underway for over 10 years, and is being finalized within the next few years.

“I think we’re at a tipping point now where people are recognizing the benefit of living closer to the central city and recognizing that it’s beneficial to have more transportation options that don’t require them all to have a single occupancy vehicle, especially when you’re talking about shorter trips between home and work, home and entertainment, things like that,” said Fedolia Harris, a City of Sacramento Streetcar Project member. “A system like a streetcar is perfectly suited for those kinds of trips.”

The environmental review and preliminary designs have been completed, and members are now waiting to finalize some of the details of the financial plan. Once the federal government makes its final decision on a large portion of the funding— about 50 percent — the project will continue to progress. If the final approval is given this year, it will take approximately seven or eight years to complete.

“If all goes well, we want the system to be under construction in 2018 and open to the public in late 2020/early 2021,” Harris said.

The Downtown/Riverfront Streetcar Project has been seeking funding through the Federal Transit Administration. When the project organization first applied for it, the maximum possible amount to receive was $75 million. The Obama administration agreed that the streetcar project was beneficial and that $75 million should be set aside.

The program then changed and maximum set allowance went from $75 million to $100 million, so the streetcar project was given additional components and is now waiting for the federal government to react to the $100 million proposal. Additional money is coming from the City of Sacramento, the City of West Sacramento, the State of California and the county of Sacramento.

“I think it’s going to be awesome,” Harris said. “We refer to the streetcar as a pedestrian accelerator — it goes to all those places that you could technically walk to, but if you’re really trying to enjoy yourself, getting there a little bit faster, really comes in handy. It connects the two cities across the river, which effectively expands our downtown into […] West Sacramento.”

The streetcar line will potentially connect three major sports facilities, including Raley Field, home of the Sacramento River Cats baseball team, a new Downtown Sports and Entertainment Center and the Golden 1 Center for the Sacramento Kings.

“What the streetcar system is is a connector system, so it connects you between various types of existing public transit systems,” said Mike Luken, the Port and Transportation manager for the city of West Sacramento. “It provides a connection between downtown West Sacramento to downtown Sacramento, and it also provides great economic development benefits to promote redevelopment of both riverfronts and downtown Sacramento.”

The streetcar line will also connect major parts of the city, including Midtown, the Washington District, the Downtown Plaza, the old Sacramento Historic District and the Sacramento Convention Center. In addition to providing a major mode of transportation throughout the cities of Sacramento and West Sacramento, the streetcar system comes with major economic benefits. Many storefronts that are expected to open up along the line will have high value, since they will be common and easily accessible destinations.

“I think it’s a nice asset to have and we also believe that we’ll have pretty substantial financial benefits for the property owners, as well as the city within close proximity to the line,” Harris said. “It’s a great transportation component, it’s a great economic benefit component, just all around the type of system that the city of Sac stature should have.”

The streetcar is also very environmentally friendly; it will reduce both traffic and carbon dioxide emissions from single-occupancy vehicles.

Although the project is only in its early stages, there are hopes of expanding it down the line by providing additional tracks to connect the south over the proposed Broadway Bridge into the Broadway area.

“Projects and other development is proposed in association with a streetcar line because it’s a permanent investment in the public center and private sector into an area and it spurs additional development around it,” Luken said. “So when you look at the city of Portland, or the city of Seattle, or other places that have put in street cars, you essentially see hundreds of millions of dollars of additional investments in those areas directly related to the investment in the streetcar, with a permanent infrastructure improvement in those areas.”

The addition of the Downtown/Riverfront Streetcar Project running between Sacramento and West Sacramento will add to the resurgence of streetcars across the country, and provide the public with economically friendly transportation.

“A lot of the infrastructure [of streetcars], in theory, is already there — we did have streetcars for over a century, the first one pulled by mules, then electricity; they covered both sides of the river,” said Christopher Cabaldon, mayor of West Sacramento, on KVIE. “And today it’s just putting that back in place, so we know how to make that work, and it’s happening in city after city around the country.”
Written by: Kaelyn Tuermer-Lee  city@theaggie.org


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