There are splendid plans for the Sacramento riverfront between Old Sacramento and Miller Park. None of them include abandoned freight trains or a worn bike path.
But that is the state of a promenade that abruptly ends about midway through what’s envisioned as a milelong stretch of scenic viewpoints, benches and a wide pedestrian and bike trail.
The extension of the promenade to Miller Park from O Street won’t occur until Sacramento is able to raise the estimated $11 million cost for the project, city officials said last week. Redevelopment funding and state grants helped pay for the most recent phase of work, but those sources are not available for future development.
Instead, city officials likely will rely on fees generated by downtown development, such as the new sports arena and mixed-use development planned for the Downtown Plaza site. Those fees may not be available for years, and the promenade will have to compete for those dollars with other parks proposed for the central city.
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The first segment of the promenade, from the Tower Bridge to O Street, was developed 15 years ago. In 2009, city officials extended the effort another 1,500 feet, from O Street to R Street. That project cost $4.9 million, and included construction of a small park, as well as benches and informational plaques that teach visitors about Sacramento River wildlife.
The next phase, estimated to cost about $5 million, would extend the promenade another two blocks, to T Street. There is no timeline for when that work could begin, leaving joggers and cyclists to maneuver a narrow path surrounded by weeds and rocks.
“The stretch we’ve completed has had such a nice impact,” said Leslie Fritzsche, the city’s downtown development manager. “It really comes down to resources. We’d love to have a bake sale and continue the promenade all the way to Miller Park.”
Fritzsche said the high cost of completing the project is a result of the path’s location. Widening the pedestrian path to 20 feet will require moving adjacent railroad tracks. What’s more, the promenade sits on a levee protecting Sacramento from flooding, and any work on the area must meet the specifications of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
City officials plan this year to explore a cheaper plan to get the project moving, Fritzsche said.
Despite its mixed terrain, the riverfront is heavily used by runners, cyclists and downtown workers on midday strolls. It provides sweeping views of the downtown skyline, the Tower Bridge, the Crocker Art Museum and Raley Field in West Sacramento.
Perhaps the most peculiar addition to the trail in recent months has been a pair of World War II-era steam locomotives. The trains were moved to the riverfront about a quarter mile north of Miller Park when workers began a track relocation project in the downtown railyard, where the locomotives had been stored.
California State Railroad Museum archives show that both locomotives were built in 1944 by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. The trains were donated to the state museum in 1986.
“They’re not going to be there forever,” said Paul Hammond, director of the Railroad Museum. “All the tracks in the railyard are taken up. We simply ran out of options.”
The locomotives, along with a handful of freight cars, have become popular targets for graffiti vandals in the months since they appeared along the Sacramento River. One locomotive has been claimed with the tag “Jackies Train” in big, pink letters.
“We’ve periodically painted over that,” Hammond said. “But it’s hard to stay ahead of it.”
Like the extension of the promenade, Hammond said there is no timeline in place for moving the trains to a safer location.