The City of Sacramento and its partners should pursue replacing the I Street Bridge over the Sacramento River, investigate the removal of I Street’s I-5 northbound entrance ramp, and take a number of relatively low-cost, short-term actions to both improve access to its intermodal transportation hub and to attract transit-supportive development in the Depot District of the Sacramento Railyards, according to a panel of experts assembled by the Urban Land Institute’s Rose Center for Public Leadership who visited the site from October 10-12, 2012.
In their advice to the City on how to enhance access to the Depot District—some developable 17 acres in the southwest portion of the 240-acre Railyards redevelopment site (see Figure 1, above)—the Rose Center’s urban planning, development, and transportation experts stressed the need to immediately improve the pedestrian environment around the new Sacramento Valley Station and its associated transportation services, as well to inform the public about the Railyards’ history, infrastructure projects happening on the site, and the vision for the Railyards’ future.
In the short-term, the panel recommended that the City:
- Improve signage, wayfinding, lane-markings, and traffic signals in the vicinity of the Depot District as appropriate to enhance pedestrian access to intermodal transportation services
- Improve temporary at-grade parking areas adjacent to historic Southern Pacific Depot and pedestrian access from the garage under the I-5 viaduct
- Review the approved street design plans from the specific plan for the Railyards before constructing new infrastructure to ensure the original development concepts they were intended to support still make sense
- Ensure that the new county courthouse on Lot 41 (bound by 5th, 6th, G and H streets) is designed to create a gateway to Depot District
To improve governance and management of the infrastructure work happening in the Depot District and throughout the Railyards project area, the panel supports the City’s decision to appoint a single project manager within City government with decision-making authority. It is crucial that authority for critical decisions, including on-the-spot solutions, is centralized under this project manager and her team so that decisions are made with the bigger picture in mind and without any unintended consequences for development. The panel also recommended that the City create a formal coordination mechanism for its partner agencies and jurisdictions to regularly meet and provide updates about the project.
Now that the tracks have successfully been relocated and the new Sacramento Valley Station is operational, the panel suggested that the city introduce, celebrate and take advantage of the site’s new reality by hosting opening events and providing public information about the project’s progress and future, allowing temporary uses in the Depot District and events and festivals, and applying graphics and exterior lighting to the historic Central Shops buildings now that people can get near enough to actually see them for the first time.
The panel recommended the following longer-term actions to improve both the function of intermodal transportation activities as well as the potential for transit-supportive development in the Depot District and the greater Railyards redevelopment site:
- Pursue the replacement of the I Street Bridge as a bridge for vehicular traffic across the Sacramento River and the removal of its associated access viaducts (rail use would remain)
- Investigate the removal of I Street’s northbound I-5 on-ramp
- Study opportunities for new at-grade street connections to the Depot District
- Designate a street network hierarchy for streets accessing the Depot District (and future streets that will provide circulation within it) to establish infrastructure priorities and set development expectations
- Develop the intermodal facilities program based on actual and projected modal splits and usage patterns
- Create a strategic plan for the City’s downtown development activity goals
- Develop a Sacramento River plan addressing both sides of the river jointly with West Sacramento