It sounds like sacrilege to knock down part of a major freeway. But that's what Sacramento City Councilman Steve Cohn and others at City Hall were talking about this week.
During a council discussion on opening the downtown railyard for development, Cohn suggested looking into eliminating the I Street entrance ramp to northbound Interstate 5.
Public Utilities Director Jerry Way told The Bee he would also like to look at knocking down both the nearby Jibboom Street ramp to the I Street bridge's upper deck and the portion of I Street that rises to the bridge.
Eliminating those three ramps, they say, would open acres of prime real estate for development.
We went out and looked. There is a surprising amount of land there next to the Sacramento River, just north of Old Sacramento and west of the railyard. But the site has been obscured and turned into a dead zone for the last half-century because of the web of roadways overhead, including massive I-5 itself.
Sacramento won't be knocking I-5 down anytime soon. It's too important, even though many people now regret the 1960s decision to build elevated roads along the waterfront.
(San Francisco faced a similar question. Remember the old Embarcadero Freeway separating downtown from the Ferry Building and the Bay? It took an earthquake for S.F. to decide to tear it down.)
But, as Sacramento officials talk about how to make better connections between the railyard, Old Sacramento and the rest of downtown, this idea of lopping off some steely road appendages is gaining ground.
There would be a price to pay, though. If they take out the I Street freeway ramp, an estimated 11,000 cars a day would be forced to wriggle up to Richards Boulevard or down to P Street to get onto the freeway northbound, the state Department of Transportation warned.
"You're going to make the issue worse at other locations," Caltrans' Dennis Keaton said.
And, if they took down the Jibboom and I streets ramps to the I Street Bridge upper deck, it would mean closing the bridge to cars.
That might not be so bad, city officials argue.
Union Pacific owns the 101-year-old I Street Bridge and would continue its use as a train bridge. But the city already wants to build a bigger bridge to West Sacramento somewhere farther north, possibly at Richards Boulevard.
If it does that, it won't need the I Street Bridge for cars, officials say. They can knock down the ramps and build a smaller ramp for bicyclists, pedestrians and rollerbladers to use the bridge's upper deck.
That would cost money the city doesn't have. Officials say they'll cross that financial bridge when they come to it. For now, they may include the idea in an upcoming railyard review.
"It makes for fun visioning," Way said.