It’s full throttle for downtown arena project; expect traffic delays

After months of quiet prep work, the Sacramento Kings downtown arena construction project goes public this week.

Crews will be restriping J, L and Fifth streets, pushing traffic away from the site to give the project elbow room. Workers will erect 9-foot noise-dampening walls at key spots in the streets around the project in the next few days, allowing space for the first of up to 16,500 dump truck trips hauling demolition debris and dirt over the next few months. Tractors were being delivered to the site. Some demolition begins Friday.

Both J and L streets will maintain three lanes throughout the two-plus-year project. Crews, however, plan to take one northbound lane of Fifth Street where it dips under the mall to allow for truck access to the site. Several bus stops on L Street will be relocated to Capitol Mall in the next few days, and some portions of the J and L street sidewalks will be closed for the duration.

“That makes sure we have space outside the demolition zone for safety for the public,” said Matt Hiser, project supervisor with Turner Construction. “This is tight for Sacramento.”

City officials said they are pleased all lanes on J and L will remain open. There also will be no detours during the project.

“It’s amazing,” city spokesman Linda Tucker said. “We have more traffic impacts than this when we do road resurfacing,”

Drivers will, however, find themselves sharing the streets as early as next week with trucks taking debris to recycling sites around the county. Those trucks will be running all hours of the day and night, Monday through Saturday, Hiser said.

The demolition expected to begin Friday will not initially be visible to the public. Crews will use Bobcat tractors inside buildings to remove interior walls and ceilings. An exterior portion of 515 L Street will be knocked down on Tuesday. The main demolition work is two weeks away, Hiser said, and will take place between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

“Most equipment is long-reach excavator with an attachment, a bucket and thumb, like a big hand,” Hiser said. “They can actually grab material and control how they pull it down.”

Pre-demolition work has been underway 24 hours a day in recent weeks as crews hurry to meet a tight schedule for construction of the $477 million sports and entertainment facility, and its front plaza, in time for the opening of the Kings’ 2016 basketball season.

The project is jointly financed by the city of Sacramento and the Sacramento Kings. The city will own the arena, and the Kings will operate it.

The demolition work – involving the takedown of many of the buildings between Fifth, Seventh, J and L streets, notably the shuttered former men’s Macy’s store – is perhaps the largest in downtown since the height of the redevelopment era in the 1960s. Much of the demolition involves the eastern portion of the Downtown Plaza shopping mall that was built in 1993 on that 1960s demolition site.

The city has granted several variances for the project, including later work hours, Saturdays, and some all-night work.

The west portion of Downtown Plaza, including the Macy’s store, will remain open for business during construction.

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