It's been long in coming, but Sacramento and West Sacramento are moving to increase the ties that bind them, one city to the other.
Both city councils this month unanimously approved resolutions to seek federal funding to build one new bridge to connect their municipalities, and are about to apply for federal money for a second span.
Despite last-minute griping from some Land Park activists, that's really good news. The first bridge contemplated would replace the archaic I Street Bridge and would be located just north of the existing I Street crossing. The urgent need for that bridge and the location is not contested.
However, the second bridge, which both resolutions say, somewhat vaguely, would be located "immediately south of the existing Pioneer Bridge," is controversial in some quarters. The maps accompanying the resolutions clearly show Broadway as the landing point for the bridge on the Sacramento side of the river. Opponents worry a bridge at Broadway would divert commuter traffic through the Land Park and Southside Park neighborhoods. Jim Randlett, a Land Park resident who heads an informal group called the Sacramento Rivers Crossing Association, complains that the bridge resolutions were placed on the two councils' consent calendars, with scant notice to the public. He called the votes a "sneak attack."
That's a bit much. The river crossings issue has been debated for years. In fact, Land Park residents were instrumental in taking any consideration for a bridge at Sutterville Road, the preferred location for many West Sacramento residents, off the table.
While there had been a plan to conduct feasibility studies to consider seven other potential locations, local transportation planners had to move quickly to take advantage of a federal funding window that was about to close. Their quick action means that Sacramento is likely to win approval for a much-needed replacement bridge for the century-old I Street span. It also puts the region in position to apply for the next round of federal funding for design and environmental work for the southern crossing, which will probably be at Broadway but not definitely. The design and environmental work will determine if Broadway is the best location. In fact, it will be the very feasibility study Broadway bridge skeptics say they were promised.
After extensive discussions with property owners and residents on both sides of the river, both cities have agreed that any bridge built will be neighborhood friendly. By that they mean that it will have a low profile, one easily integrated into the surrounding communities, and that it will accommodate not just cars, but pedestrians, bicycles and possibly trolley cars.
The west end of Broadway is already slated for a much-needed makeover, with new housing and retail development being planned. A new bridge could enhance that effort and help transform the moribund stretch of a once-thriving business corridor. The bridge represents an opportunity that should be embraced, not feared.