Sacramento Regional Transit has agreed to give the city a nearly 5-mile stretch of unused train corridor to create a dedicated bike and pedestrian trail through neighborhoods south of downtown.
The paved path, to be called the Del Rio Trail, would run from the Sacramento Zoo at Sutterville Road along the corridor south to Meadowview Road, sliding mostly behind South Land Park backyards.
City officials believe they can start work on the paved trail in 2020 and finish it in 2021 at an estimated cost of $12 million from funds they hope to win from regional and state accounts for bike and pedestrian projects.
Longtime owner of the corridor, the Sacramento Regional Transit, agreed in principle on Monday to give the land to the city for free. Final details have yet to be worked out.
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SacRT officials said their agency will benefit by the creation of new bike and pedestrian links to bus stops. SacRT General Manager Henry Li said the rail agency considers the project a joint venture with the city and is an example of the transit agency's belief that it should help create "mobility solutions," not just run buses and light rail.
One transit board member said the property transfer is simply the right thing to do for the community. Jay Schenirer, who sits on the RT board and represents most of the trail area on the City Council, said the path will provide a transportation alternative for people from Elk Grove and the emerging Delta Shores area, as well as from Meadowview and other south Sacramento neighborhoods.
"Both RT and the city are looking at what is the best and highest use of the land for the community," Schenirer said. "This is something that is going to be quite wonderful. You are going to see families using it, people riding to work and pedestrians. I'm excited about it."
Members of neighborhood associations spoke in support of the land transfer this week at a SacRT board meeting.
"We view it as increasing the livability of the neighborhood," said South Land Park Neighborhood Association President Brian Ebbert.
The corridor once served a branch of the Sacramento Southern Railroad, where trains traveled until 1978, bringing agricultural products to market.
SacRT has owned the land since 1984, and once considered building a light rail line there. The light rail line instead was built along the Union Pacific rail corridor a mile and a half to the east, in part because of neighborhood opposition to trains running along the corridor.
The project may still require negotiations with the state. City engineer Jesse Gothan said Sacramento would like to extend the bike trail north from Sutterville Road, past the zoo and over Interstate 5, where it would connect with an existing bike path along the Sacramento River.
But the State Parks Department also has plans for that section of the track. It wants to extend its Old Sacramento tourist excursion trains south to the zoo and William Land Park.
"State Parks looks forward to working with the City of Sacramento on the proposed Del Rio Trail Project and adding a recreational trail to this area," State Parks local district superintendent Matthew Bellah said.
Gothan said the city will work with the state on ways to modify the rail corridor so it can accommodate both trains and a bike and pedestrian path.
The city also would have to find a safe way for pedestrians and cyclists to cross busy Sutterville and Fruitridge roads, Gotan said, likely by adding traffic signals there.