How do you build a bridge over nine rows of railroad tracks where trains are rolling through day and night?
That is the puzzle the city of Sacramento faced as it contemplated construction, possibly starting this winter, of a $6 million pedestrian and bike bridge over the Union Pacific and Sacramento Regional Transit tracks in Curtis Park.
The arched steel bridge will allow students, commuters and others a shortcut between Sacramento City College and the Curtis Park neighborhood, including the Curtis Park Village development now under construction in the former railyard just east of the tracks.
The answer, following several rounds of discussions among the city, UP and RT, is simple but will involve aerial acrobatics.
The city’s bridge contractor will build the 174-foot span at an off-site plant and transport it in several pieces to the site, where it will be assembled next to the tracks, then lifted by a crane and gingerly set onto its foundations.
“That will be a sight to see, the weekend we do that,” city project manager Ofelia Avalos said. “It’s going to be very challenging. There is a risk factor, but we decided this is the best way to build that thing.”
Construction and installation will take place over about 13 months, Avalos said. The end result will be an arched bridge that evokes the railyard’s history.
“It’s light and airy and has a bit of an industrial, antique look to it,” she said. “We could have built a boring pedestrian bridge like you see all over, but we wanted this to be iconic, that would attract people and encourage people to take public transportation.”
The bridge, financed mainly by federal and state transportation funds, is seen as a critical tool to make Curtis Park Village a pedestrian- and bicycle-oriented community, and to reduce the number of cars heading to and from the new development through old Curtis Park and on nearby Sutterville Road. The bridge’s west landing will be directly in front of the college’s light-rail station.
The Curtis Park Village site, once a part of the UP railyard, has been cleaned and prepped for 500 new residences, including senior housing at the base of the bridge, as well as some commercial development.
Kathy Anker of BlackPine Communities, which has broken ground on 12 cottages near the village’s north end, and plans 86 residences in total, said potential buyers will be encouraged as they see amenities like the bridge being built.
“It’s all about convenience,” Anker said. “A lot of people work downtown so they can just hop in light rail. The neighbors can go over to the college and take classes or play tennis.”
RT General Manager Mike Wiley said he hopes the bridge is in place when the first new Curtis Park Village residents move in, so that “the station is an option for them from day one.”
It remains uncertain, however, when the city can get started on construction. City officials had faced an Oct. 31 deadline to choose a contractor or risk losing federal grant funds, which are administered through the state. In order to meet that deadline, the city had said it would suspend its competitive bidding process and award a sole-source contract to the lowest bidder on the contract so far. But state officials on Thursday informed the city that they will extend the deadline until Dec. 10, allowing the city to continue the full bid process.
Call The Bee’s Tony Bizjak, (916) 321-1059.