Interstate 5 is a Berlin Wall through the heart of Sacramento, severing the connections between downtown and Old Sacramento. It was a product of a time when cars ruled the world, and no other values were of importance. Those times are over, and now it is time to tear down the wall and re-unify Sacramento. A map showing the general idea follows the break, but here are the highlights:
the current Interstate 5 elevated freeway would be torn down, and replaced by a trenched and decked section
I Street, J Street, L Street, and N Street would be reconnected over the freeway as regular streets; K Street would be reconnected over (not under) the freeway as a pedestrian and bicyclist street, the main grand entrance to Old Sacramento for tourists and many locals
Old Sacramento would not only be easily accessible from downtown, but visible from downtown
other adjustments would be made to the streets and circulation in this area
This will certainly not be my last post on these ideas, and I will explore the why and how of the pedestrian and bicyclist streets shown.
Note on terms: “cut and cover” is often used for underground transit and rail lines, but the term seems less commonly used for freeways, so I’ve used “trench and deck”; “the big dig” is also often used, after the project in Boston, which went way over budget and took years longer than intended, but apparently has had a very positive affect on the city
Traffic circulation, for everyone, is handicapped or prevented by an incomplete grid system in downtown and midtown Sacramento. Three recent posts have addressed this issue, I’m thinking about several more, and several posts over the last year were also on the same topic. So I created a new category for the Getting Around Sacramento blog, re-gridding Sacramento.
Re-gridding is an awkward phrase, but I haven’t come up with a better one yet, so I’ll use it for now.
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.
These photos are of the I Street entrance to Old Sacramento, showing various problems and hazards that exist for pedestrians and bicyclists at this location.
The crosswalks here are not really safe. All sorts of signing has been installed to try to make them safe, but that is a poor substitute for correct design.
The free right turn from I Street eastbound to 3rd Street southbound is taken at high speed by many drivers, leaving insufficient time to stop for pedestrians. It is especially challenging because the driver is leaving the dark area under the freeway underpass and entering a bright area on the street, and the eye adjustment period again leaves insufficient time to stop for pedestrians.
The sidewalk on the southwest corner of I Street and 3rd Street doesn’t really lead anywhere for a person wanting to go to Old Sacramento. There are stairs into the parking garage, but no ramp, and on 3rd Street the sidewalk ends at the driveway entrance to the parking garage. If an able bodied person does us the stairs, there is not indication once inside the parking garage about how to get to Old Sacramento, and several of the ways one might go are signed against pedestrians.
The sidewalk heading west from 5th Street is on the south side of I Street, and there is no sidewalk on the north side due to the high-speed onramps to Interstate 5 and I Street Bridge. From 3rd Street and on into Old Sacramento, the sidewalk is on the north side, and there is no sidewalk on the south side. So a pedestrian must cross over I Street in order to continue westward. It is not comfortable or safe to use this crosswalk. I watched a number of people crossing at other locations, including the island formed by the free right turn, because they didn’t feel safe using the crosswalk. Most motor vehicle drivers stop at the stop sign on I Street, but many do not.
With this post, I’ve added a new category to my blog: re-gridding Sacramento. I’ll have more to say about that category, and many more posts, in the near future.
Let’s say one was driving and wanted to leave the Sacramento Valley Station (Amtrak and Capitol Corridor) to head southbound or eastbound. Tough luck. The exit at the east end of the parking lot forces you to turn right, to the south, onto 5th Street. I often see people turning across the double yellow line to go northbound on 5th Street, and to be honest, I don’t blame them, because this is the logical though illegal way to go south or east.