Back-Seat Driver

Beneath city streets lies ... who knows what?

Video: An inside look at Sacramento's new light rail extension

Take a preview tour of Regional Transit's new Blue Line to Cosumnes River College. Video by Tony Bizjak, The Sacramento Bee.
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Take a preview tour of Regional Transit's new Blue Line to Cosumnes River College. Video by Tony Bizjak, The Sacramento Bee.

Beware the thing that lurks below.

It sounds like a line from a horror story. In fact, though, it’s one of the main concerns for any civic project in downtown Sacramento that requires digging.

A few years ago, when Regional Transit was building a light-rail line on H Street, crews found remains of a Native American village inches below a sidewalk they had excavated. Those finds had to be handled delicately, costing time and money.

The transit director at the time said the agency had been “perhaps naive” about the tricky nature of digging downtown. You never know what you’ll find, but you better plan to run into a surprise. A few years earlier, crews unearthed artifacts from a Chinese settlement on I Street when they were preparing to build the federal courthouse.

In some instances, what lurks below is a treasure trove. Buried beneath a grassy slope in Old Sacramento are rows of Gold Rush-era picks and shovels in the ruins of a hardware store, as if waiting to be grabbed by miners headed to the hills in search of fortune. (Researchers in the 1970s found them, took notes, then carefully covered them over.)

But the biggest worry for crews working under downtown streets is more modern. The area is laced with utility lines – gas, sewer, water, telecommunications – and many of them are old and unmapped.

This is all a long-winded way to explain why L Street and some side streets downtown are still a construction zone of closed lanes and detours. The city is redoing its sewer and storm-drain system. The L Street portion was supposed to be done months ago, but crews once again found themselves dodging unexpected utility lines.

Officials say they still have a month to go before the streets are fixed and repaved ... and once again hide what lurks beneath.

Light rail: Judgment day

Sacramento Regional Transit opens its light-rail extension this morning from Meadowview station to Cosumnes River College. I’d like to hear from first-time riders about their initial impressions. If you’re on board today, tweet @tonybizjak and include a photo so we can see what you see. Or email me.

Here’s a video we made from the train operator’s cab on the new line.

Student rail riders

Much has been made of how the light-rail extension offers commuters an alternative to Highway 99. That’s true for some commuters, but one group that will benefit is Los Rios Community College District students. The extension now connects Cosumnes River College and Sacramento City College, allowing students without cars to take classes at both campuses.

The college district is tripling down on light rail soon: It’s planning an October opening of Folsom Lake College’s new Rancho Cordova Center, which is across Folsom Boulevard from the Mather/Mills light-rail station.

Take a preview tour of Regional Transit's new Blue Line to Cosumnes River College. Video by Tony Bizjak, The Sacramento Bee.

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