Federal infrastructure stimulus announced in February could pave the way to faster development at Sacramento’s 244-acre Railyards. The long-planned mixed-use project owned by S. Thomas Enterprises was selected by the Sacramento Area Council of Governments to receive $20 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds. The stimulus funds will push work on track realignment and road building ahead by six months, according to Suheil Totah, vice president of Thomas Enterprises. “This is tremendously significant for the project because the money wasn’t expected and now we will be able to move forward on items that had been put on hold,” Totah says.

Photo: California State Railroad Museum
In the mid-19th century, Sacramento’s Railyards was the largest industrial hub west of the Mississippi and is now considered the country’s largest urban infill project. As environmental cleanup comes to an end, infrastructure development for a 240-acre mixed-use community is gearing up.

Before the ARRA stimulus was announced, Thomas Enterprises pre-qualified a short list of contractors for a series of contracts to install infrastructure on the site. The list includes bridge-builder Rancho Cordova, Calif.-based C.C. Myers, Inc., Omaha, Neb.-based Kiewit Pacific and Sacramento, Calif.-based Teichert Construction. Bidding closed March 31 on a $150,000 contract for rehabilitation grading to refill holes left during the environmental remediation of what the Environmental Protection Agency identified as a National Priorities List site. It involved moving about 17,000 yards of dirt and demolishing and removing two concrete slabs.

Grading is just the beginning of a series of large projects, according to Elias Rashmawi, director of land redevelopment at the Railyards. A $500,000 rough grading and $24.6 million road construction contract could go out as soon as the end of April for Railyards Boulevard, 5th and 6th streets. Contract for two bridges totaling $15 million would follow in the summer and another $15 million by the end of 2010. The city of Sacramento, which owns the railroad station on the site, withdrew an RFQ for a planned parking garage due to budget constraints.

“This schedule is dependent on the state quickly distributing [Proposition 1B and 1C] bond money,” says Rashmawi. “All of these projects are interconnected and we have to complete the foundation before we can use the federal stimulus money for track relocation.”

Each piece would have gone to the City for approval individually, probably in 2010, but because of the ARRA deadline to have all allocations ready by December 1, Thomas Enterprises fast-tracked plans in parallel to get them all approved at once. “That moves the rest of the project forward as well,” Rashmawi says.

Thomas Enterprises and the City of Sacramento have been working on environmental clean up and specific plans for the brownfield site for three years. In January, the project received $950,000 in federal omnibus earmarks and the team was lobbying for more federal help to jumpstart development. They completed the National Environmental Protection Agency process in addition to the California Environmental Quality Act.

Construction companies are still waiting to see the money. Jeff Lund, vice president of North Highlands, Calif.-based Lund Construction, who is on the pre-qualified list and bid on the first project, says he would probably only have to hire five our six people initially to do the work, but could need up to 20 people for the latter phases of the job.

Rashmawi estimated as many as 3,000 construction workers would ultimately work on the project.

David Swartz, Teichert Construction Sacramento district manager says he is anticipating a number of new contracts coming available, but won’t start hiring until plans are more concrete and his company has won a significant number of projects.