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R Street viaduct to become pedestrian/bike bridge

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It’s been one of downtown bicyclists’ (and skaters’) favorite secrets—the old railroad viaduct that crosses I-5 at R Street, connecting the CalPERS neighborhood to the Sacramento River and the bike trail.

Never fully converted from its old use as a railroad bridge that brought trains from the riverfront up R Street into the heart of downtown, the bridge will be a fully paved and lit bike and pedestrian bridge by August.

Though the tracks were removed and the surface paved, the entrances on both sides were never finished, and remain loose gravel. And over the years, skaters have handcrafted some small skate ramps out of random curbs on the sides, as well as adding graffiti and an array of cigarette butts and the occasional condom.

"It’s been an attractive nuisance," says Dave Green, senior estimator for Lund Construction, which is taking on the project after years—he guestimates eight—of back and forth between the city and the state, who owned the right-of-way. Now that those issues are solved, Lund will be tackling the project on a budget of under $200,000—what Green calls a really good improvement for what it will cost. 

In addition to the repaving of the bridge with a traffic line down the middle and asphalt paving at the entrances on both ends (and a connection to the new bike trail being constructed across Front Street, by the river), the improvements will also include replacing the current railing with a safety fence and, most importantly, lighting that will make the bridge a safer and more attractive option at night.

With improvements on the other side of Front Street stretching from Tower Bridge to Pioneer Bridge, an improved, more-obvious pedestrian/bike bridge (with ADA-compliant access points) could be a solid step toward connecting downtown to the Sacramento River.

The bridge will be closed starting June 15 and although the sign says it will be closed until August 30, Lund’s Green says that it should be open in a mere six weeks: August 1.

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