The Sacramento Light Rail Blue Line on January 7 was awarded $135 million by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The funding is to help pay for a 4.3-mile extension project that will link downtown Sacramento to the growing South Sacramento County corridor and offer commuters an alternative to congested Highway 99, while bringing new transit service to Cosumnes River College, one of the area’s major employers.
The overall $270 million project received the $135 million through the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) New Starts process. The New Starts process is the federal government's primary financial resource for supporting locally planned, implemented, and operated transit capital investments.
“It’s a competitive grant process in which eligible projects compete for limited funds,” says Ed Scofield, Director of Project Management, for Sacramento Regional Transit (SACRT), which operates the line. “The New Starts process is lengthy and [we] worked with FTA over the last 12 years, developing numerous documents for review/approval, to receive the funding.”
The project extends the Blue Line light rail line 4.3 miles from Meadowview Road to Cosumnes River College and includes four new stations at Morrison Creek, Franklin Boulevard, Center Parkway and the college. The project will also create 2,700 park-and-ride spaces and a major new transit center at the Cosumnes River College Station.
SACRT says ridership on Sacramento’s existing light rail system rose by 7.4 % between fiscal year 2011 and 2012, and the area population is expected to grow steadily over the next five years as the local economy continues to improve. Extending the Blue Line will improve access to the area’s major employers and encourage new retail and residential development in specially zoned areas. The extension project is estimated to generate 1,000 jobs or more over the next two years.
The extension project is one of the highest priority transit projects in the region. The Sacramento Regional Transit District began construction in May 2012 on two light rail bridges over Cosumnes River Boulevard and Morrison Creek in preparation of the future Blue Line to Cosumnes River College (CRC) light rail extension project.
The project is scheduled to complete in September 2015. It broke ground in fall 2011 on the parking structure at the college, and in spring of last year on the light rail structures. Scofield says the “Civil/Track/Systems/Stations/Structures” contract will go out to bid this month (January 2013) and is expected to break ground in April.
Scofield says other than coordinating the extension of Cosumnes River Boulevard to Interstate 5 “through numerous environmental constraints,” he doesn’t see any major construction challenges in completing the work.
“RT has opened five light rail extensions in 10 years, so we are confident we’ll be able to address any challenges that arise,” he says.