Elk Grove changes train station plan

Faced with money concerns, the city of Elk Grove has decided against buying land on Elk Grove-Florin Road for a future train station. Officials say they have instead begun to study the possibility of building the new train and transit center on property the city already owns at the south end of town near Grant Line Road and Highway 99.

The potential site switch was prompted by two recent financial setbacks. Elk Grove failed to win a $4million federal transportation planning grant to launch the project. Elk Grove also recently learned in discussions with Union Pacific, the rail line owner, that the city would have to spend up to $100million to build two bridges at the site to elevate both Elk Grove-Florin Road and Sheldon Road over the tracks.

The cost of those bridges would have far exceeded the cost of the station itself, estimated at $25million, including the price of the land the city would have had to buy at that spot.

Richard Shepard, city public works director, said Elk Grove spent about $600,000 in state grant money on a station design for the Elk Grove-Florin site, but the city should be able to use most of those designs for a station at a different location. “That won’t be throwaway work,” he said.

The new site is farther from the city’s population center, but Shepard and other city officials said it is a better choice in other ways. The city already owns the land, and a $25million grade separation project is already funded and underway to elevate Grant Line Road over the tracks.

This week’s change in plans is the second for Elk Grove during the six years it has been planning a train and bus station. The city previously looked at a site off Elk Grove Boulevard in Old Town Elk Grove. City officials say they want to offer residents, including commuters to Sacramento, an alternative to driving on congested Highway 99.

City officials say the train station could serve as a stop for Amtrak’s San Joaquin passenger train system, which runs between Sacramento and Bakersfield, with a branch from Stockton to the Bay Area. The state’s planned high-speed rail trains also could at some point come through Elk Grove.

At the moment, though, Elk Grove does not have a firm commitment from Amtrak on when it would want to add a stop in the city, nor does it have the money to build the station.

“We still have to find the funds,” Shepard said. “There is no time frame, but ... within five years, that would be our goal.’

Sacramento Regional Transit also has long-range plans to extend its light-rail line to the southern end of Elk Grove. A shorter extension of the light-rail line from downtown Sacramento is under construction between Meadowview Road and Cosumnes River College, and is expected to open in fall 2015.

Call The Bee’s Tony Bizjak, (916)321-1059.

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