Sacramento April 28 kick-off event for track relocation and redevelopment of brownfield real estate

Movement on the Sacramento Railyards Project
Report, Comments, and Photos by Bill Kerby, RailPAC Treasurer, and Marcia Johnston, RailPAC Director.

“Begun!” With this message, dignitaries and the air horn of the California State Railroad Museum’s passenger locomotive ex-Southern Pacific #6051, which operated out of Los Angeles in its active days on the Sunset Limited and the Golden State Limited, signaled the realignment of track to move both passenger and freight traffic through the former Southern Pacific Railroad yard was finally under way.

Workers symbolically aligned a short section of prefabricated track so that its extension would pass under the comparatively short sections of already constructed road overpasses.

All rail traffic will thread under these underpasses before the tracks split passenger and freight movements on separated routes along lines more reminiscent of the original 1869 path near the shop complex. Train movements are planned for the new alignment in a year. Pedestrian movement will be possible with the construction of new tunnels over the same timeframe. Arrival of the day when the multimodal/high speed rail terminal, a union station of the future—as described by Joel Szabat , Deputy Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy in the U.S. Department of Transportation—will be constructed and then Sacramento can proclaim that the project is, as the famous telegraph message stated with the driving of the last spike on the transcontinental railroad 142 years ago: Done!

Congresswoman Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, spoke at the event.

Working on a current plan involving a dozen sources of funding, including as Congresswoman Doris Matsui pointed out, $26 million of federal fiscal stimulus money, are the band of funders who expect to build a new city within a city. Moving the track just a few hundred yards opens the way for development of a high-rise federal courthouse and a new intermodal complex. The existing depot will remain in place for modified uses, not yet specified. Numerous controversies and a bankruptcy ultimately led to a consensus plan for the transportation footprint through the yards. Though blocked in the past, now we can have “Full Steam Ahead in Sacramento.”

Continuation of the tradition of building locomotives and cars in the Sacramento area required relocation from highly valuable downtown real estate to more industrial locations. Siemens Mobility systems extends the tradition of building rail equipment with the expansion of their manufacturing complex in Sacramento County, where they are embarking on the manufacture of seventy electric passenger locomotives for use on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor while continuing to build vehicles that populate light rail lines for cities across the United States and Canada. Just as the 19th and 20th century factory complex that currently stands in Sacramento employed hundreds of skilled men and women who churned out railroad engines and cars, the twenty first century Siemens plant employs more than 800 people performing high quality work with state of the art capital facilities. Tomorrow’s visitors to the Historic Shop complex will learn how the past has shaped the present and will continue to influence the future.

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