Synchronously today, Terry Preston (WALKSacramento) and SABA (Jim Brown) posted to Facebook with a link to an article “Is it time to start dismantling downtown freeways?” I encourage you to follow and join in those discussions: Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates and Terry Preston. I am glad to see this being discussed. I posted on this blog about the same topic, “and the freeways” back in March.
I think the highest value change that could be made is to narrow and deck over Interstate 5 through downtown so that the street grid could be reconnected. However, this might well be the most difficult one of all to accomplish. I think we can bring grid reconnection to the Entertainment and Sports Complex (the arena) planning effort. If we could get even one east-west street back into the grid as part of the arena, we would have made valuable progress. Sacramento’s connection to the Sacramento River will be a core part of its renewal, but that can’t happen as long as Interstate 5 divides downtown in two. The city is planning on reconnecting N Street over the freeway as part of the Riverfront Reconnection, once funding is obtained, but that is only one street and many more are needed.
A freeway conversion that would be easy to accomplish, much less expensive, and demonstrate the value to be recovered, is to convert the Hwy 160 freeway section between midtown and Del Paso Blvd into a grid street. I missed this opportunity in my freeway post. 16th Street, changed to a two-way street, would connect directly over the American River into Del Paso Blvd. The east side of the river bridge could carry motor vehicle traffic, while the west side which already carries one SacRT light rail track could be converted to an alternative modes bridge. Adding a second light rail track would remove the bottleneck created by only having one track for this 7/10 mile section between Sproule Street on the south and Globe Avenue station on the north. The other lanes could be converted to a pedestrian and bicycle facility. With extra space, some additional amenities could be added which focus on the river view.
The viaduct north of the river could be brought back down to ground level so that the interchange with Northgate Blvd becomes a normal intersection.
The east-west section of the freeway could be converted to a boulevard, connecting to Del Paso Blvd on the west and to Exposition Blvd and possibly Arden Way on the east. This would take some traffic pressure off the parallel Arden Way, allowing it be traffic calmed and become part of its neighborhood rather than a high-speed expressway.
This conversion would not reduce the need for an additional transit/bicycle/pedestrian crossing of the American River, which is addressed in the American River Crossing Alternatives Study.