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City council to consider options for new American River crossings

A map from the report, showing all eight options studied by city staff.

The city council is set to approve a recommendation to seek funding to look  into three potential new American River crossings connecting South Natomas and Downtown Sacramento.

A report commissioned by the city to look into new river crossings recommended pursuing three options out of a total of eight that were analyzed. You can read the full report here

One of the options would would add bike and pedestrian access to the west side of the existing I-5 bridge over the American River. Another would piggy back off the bridge planned by Regional Transit to serve the Green Line light rail transit extension to the airport. The third option would elevate Northgate Boulevard and replace the SR-160 bridges over the American River, adding additional bike and pedestrian access.

The three recommended options scale up in price. The addition of the bike lanes to the I-5 brige (option two in the report) would cost $21 million, the new crossing (option three) was estimated to cost $70 million and the changes to Northgate Boulevard and the SR-160 bridges (option eight) clocks in at $240 million.

Option three involves adding car lanes to the train, bike and pedestrian bridge already planned by RT for the Green Line extention. It would connect Sequoia Pacific Boulevard on the south with Truxel Road on the north.

Senior Planner "Sparky" Harris said the city would save money on option three because RT has already started conducting an environmental analysis.

“RT has already spent a lot of money on environmental analysis and they continue to do so,” Harris said. “You get a little bit of savings because we would do basically the same kind of environmental analysis.”

While Harris said that the city has yet to start negotiations with RT, the report indicates that adding to the Green Line extention might be the approach most likely to get funding:

“With future transportation funds being both competitive and limited, Alternative 3 has the best opportunity to secure competitive funds because it achieves multiple objectives at the federal, state, regional, and local level and leverages investments already being planned by RT”

Option eight is the most complicated and expensive. It’s feasibility rests on the fact that the current SR-160 bridge over the American River are in need of upgrades and that Caltrans, which owns them, might be able to procure the necessary funding. The plan would takes a “two birds, one stone” approach by calling for Caltrans to upgrade the bridges while also adding additional pedestrian and bike access. As the report explains:

"Alternative 8 not only expands accessibility in the Northgate Boulevard, Del Paso Boulevard, and SR-160 corridors, it also provides an enhanced bicycle and pedestrian crossing of the American River while eliminating safety concerns associated with the existing SR-160 bridge structures." 

The least expensive option, adding bike and pedestrian access to the west side of the existing I-5 bridge, is intended to be a practical alternative to the Jibboom Street Bridge.

“Putting bike and ped facilities on I-5 to us was an inexpensive way of still providing that bicycle and ped connection from one side of the river to the other on the west side to accommodate people that still want to use that corridor when the rains come,” Harris said.

The city council will vote Thursday on whether to allow city staff to seek funding to look further into the three recommended options in the report, including developing a public outreach plan, environmental and traffic analysis, and more detailed estimates of the construction costs.

Harris encouraged anyone with an opinion on the crossings to come to Thursday’s council meeting. Have any thoughts on which one you’d prefer? Sound off below.


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