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With The Streetcar Project Stalled, Might Light Rail Connect Sacramento And West Sac?

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

For nearly a decade, city officials on both sides of the Sacramento River have focused on building a streetcar line to connect Sacramento and West Sacramento via the Tower Bridge. Those plans have been stalled for years, however, and now both cities are exploring other mass transit options — including expanding Regional Transit light rail.

The most recent setback for streetcar happened in January, when bids for a scaled-down project came in at almost double the budgeted costs, shocking planners. The lowest, a $184 million bid, was $76 million over budget. 

This came on the heels of some city of Sacramento residents voting down tax to help pay for a streetcar line in 2016. 

Now, it's back to the drawing board. 

Jason McCoy, a project manager for the city of West Sacramento, says officials on both sides of the river are looking at an even smaller streetcar project, and an alternative: light rail.

He says that the Tower Bridge “can accommodate either light rail vehicles or streetcar vehicles,” and that they “anticipate going forward with some rail project in the future."

A light rail line that extends over the Tower Bridge would require a new plan, with an eye toward retaining federal funding already secured for the proposed streetcar. 

Sacramento Regional Transit has little to say about the idea, but did release a statement regarding the streetcar line. “There is a consensus to move forward on a reduction of scope that can be built within budget and still honors the initial project goal,” it read.

CapRadio reached out to two of the streetcar’s biggest proponents, West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon and Sacramento City Councilman Steve Hansen, but neither were available to discuss the project’s future.

The Tower Bridge isn't the only way to connect the two cities with some form of mass transit. McCoy says West Sacramento has been planning for an additional connection farther north, as part of the new I Street Bridge project, which is currently in design phase.

A new I Street Bridge would include wide paths for pedestrians, bicycles, and vehicles, and there would still be enough room for a light rail line. Curre, there are four designs under consideration, and planners hope to narrow them down to two by October.  

The proposed Broadway Bridge project could also be a connector option, but that's still undergoing environmental review. 

There is yet another bridge project, but one that does not involve light rail or streetcars: the renovation of the existing I Street Bridge. The upper deck of the old I Street bridge will be converted to a bicycle and walking path, while the bottom portion remains open for trains.

Bob Moffitt

Sacramento Region Reporter

Bob reports on all things northern California and Nevada. His coverage of police technology, local athletes, and the environment has won a regional Associated Press and several Edward R. Murrow awards.   Read Full Bio 

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