Sacramento, don't bungle this one. It's too important. The California Department of Transportation is looking for a site to refurbish and repair Amtrak's growing fleet of Capitol Corridor and San Joaquin Corridor passenger trains. State officials are mulling two potential locations close to the city's core.
The city of Sacramento should embrace this opportunity, not discourage it.
As The Bee's Hudson Sangree reported on Sunday, a new working railyard in the capital city would provide scores of good-paying, permanent, high-skill jobs. Mechanics, electricians, sheet metal workers and others who maintain rail cars earn $28 an hour on average, with many earning much more. Given the impressive growth of passenger rail in California, the need for such workers will only increase.
While Sacramento would certainly welcome some good blue-collar jobs, city manager John Shirey seemed surprisingly cool to the idea of a new working railyard in the city. "We're not turning handsprings. We are being appropriately cautious," Shirey told The Sacramento Bee editorial board this week. "I am not convinced they have picked the two best locations."
The two sites under consideration straddle the Union Pacific rail line.
One is adjacent to Sutter's Landing, a proposed regional park. The other, just off the Capital City Freeway near east Sacramento, is slated for housing. As Shirey has said, both sites are sensitive.
No doubt there will be some opposition, but Sacramento cannot afford to turn up its nose at a golden opportunity to create high-paying jobs. If these sites don't work which is not to say they can't perhaps Sacramento ought to consider the industrial park at McClellan or even a new working railyard in the old downtown railyard.
For decades now, the city has envisioned a new downtown at that site, with offices, retail, housing, an intermodal station and museums showcasing the city's railroading past. But nothing is set in stone. After all, just a few months ago, everyone assumed the new Kings arena would be built in the old downtown railyard. That changed, and so can other things.
Plans for a new working railyard are still very much in the preliminary stages. Nonetheless, Department of Transportation rail officials say money is available now for right-of-way acquisition and to begin preparation of environmental documents.
Also, the need for a new maintenance facility in the Sacramento region is certain. Passenger rail is booming. The Oakland railyard has run out of room. Roseville lacks the track capacity to accommodate the extra work.
West Sacramento has been considered and rejected for technical reasons.
The city of Sacramento is where state rail officials want to invest $100 million to build their new state-of-the-art rail maintenance facility. The city should be encouraging that investment, not looking for excuses to reject it.