I Street into Old Sacramento

The City of Sacramento sponsored Envision Sacramento website seeks input from the public on a number of issues. One of the topics was “What are your ideas on improving the Old Sacramento connection from downtown Sacramento via I Street?” You can view the comments, just below the survey, but to comment yourself you must create an account.

I Street entrance to Old Sacramento, from Envision Sacramento
I Street entrance to Old Sacramento, from Envision Sacramento

The topic uses the photo at right to illustrate the question. What you can’t see in the photo is that behind the photographer and across 3rd Street (to the left), pedestrian access is on the south side, but to the west, it is on the north side.

Comments include a number about the aesthetics of this entrance to Old Sacramento, including the having a dark freeway under crossing as the main route into the one of the highlights of Sacramento, with poor signing for motor vehicle drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians. A surprising (to me) number of comments, though, were about the transportation aspects, that it is really not safe for bicyclists or pedestrians to use this entrance, even if they know it is there, and the paucity of other options. I think it is clear that the commenters agreed that the way in which Interstate 5 severed the connections between downtown and Old Sacramento is a major issue.

A gallery of photos shows some of the specific problems at this location.

I Street does not really serve as an access to Old Sacramento for pedestrians and bicyclists. I Street from 6th Street westward really serves as a high-speed freeway onramp, not as a street. It is not welcoming for bicyclists or pedestrians, nor car drivers for that matter, even before they get to the freeway underpass.

red line shows the original and correct alignment of I Street
red line shows the original and correct alignment of I Street

The list of needed improvements is long, but includes:

  1. remove the freeway supports and the north portion of the parking garage so that I Street connects directly into Old Sac on the original grid rather than veering to the north (diagram at right)
  2. remove the free right turn from I Street eastbound to 3rd Street southbound, which makes it unsafe for pedestrians to cross 3rd Street
  3. add wide sidewalks to both north and south sides of I Street, at least 12 feet wide
  4. paint high visibility crosswalks on every leg of every intersection leading to and from this entrance, including I & 5th, I & 4th, I & 3rd, J & 3rd, and J & 4th; this would mean removal of all “no pedestrian crossing” signs
  5. modify or eliminate both the I Street bridge and I-15 northbound onramps so that it is safe for pedestrians and bicyclists to use I Street (it is not safe currently)
  6. convert the section of I Street from 5th Street to 3rd Street into a regular two-way street, so that traffic from Old Sacramento can get to 5th Street to access Sacramento Valley Station and points to the south and east; this logically leads to conversion of the section of 5th Street between J Street and I Street into a regular two-way street as well

And though the freeway won’t be removed, it should be placed below grade and decked rather than serving as a Berlin wall between downtown and Old Sac. Part of the secret here is to have Old Sacramento visible from downtown, and to have downtown visible from Old Sacramento, and that can’t happen so long as the elevated freeway is here. I’ll have more to say about that in a future post.

This entire area needs to return to its original configuration of a complete grid system of two-way streets.

Author: Dan Allison

Dan Allison is a Safe Routes to School Coordinator in the Sacramento area. Dan dances and backpacks, as much as possible.

One thought on “I Street into Old Sacramento”

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