RT Breaks Ground on First Phase of Airport Expansion

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(Sacramento, CA)
Monday, October 12, 2009
On Monday, Regional Transit started work on the mile-long first stage – from downtown through the future Railyards development out to Richards Boulevard and the River District
It seems like a lot of groundbreaking ceremonies these days try to do something unique, instead of just the usual “shoveling a bunch of dirt” routine. Sure enough, yesterday’s Green Line groundbreaking featured … well … a light rail train, of course.
(sound of light rail train)
Wiley: “Now arriving, the first train to the Township Nine 7th and Richards…”
RT Automated Voice: “7th and Richards – Township Nine.”
Okay, make that a golf cart dressed up as a light rail train – driving between a pair of green lines painted in the pavement – but you get the picture. Dignitaries like Congresswoman Doris Matsui and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson hopped off, and THEN, the shovels hit the dirt. Afterwards, RT General Manager Mike Wiley was excited about the first phase, but also looking down the road – or tracks, you might say.
Wiley: “Extending light rail to the airport has been for many, many years the number one transportation project on everybody’s mind throughout Sacramento. So it’s extremely critical that we get started.  And when the economy improves in the next several years, we’re gonna be ready to keep on going and cross the river and get through Natomas to the airport.”
The nearly $45 million first phase is paid for entirely with local funds – mostly from Measure A, a half-cent sales tax approved by county voters, but also with some internal borrowing within RT.
The crowd of at least a hundred people included city and county officials, as well as businesses and developers. One of the happiest developers there was Steve Goodwin, whose Township Nine project sits at the end of the Green Line’s first phase.  He’s expecting buildings to start popping up in the next several years … and called the Green Line “absolutely critical.”
Goodwin: “You can’t have a transit-oriented development without transit. The green line will provide a tremendous amenity for people to move here. To be able to just walk out your front door and hop on a line that can take you into downtown Sacramento – it’s a big deal.”
What’s even more of a big deal – at least from RT’s standpoint – is getting this first phase of the Green Line done on time and on budget. That’s because RT wants voters to approve a new sales tax to fund the rest of the Green Line … all the way out to the airport. Congresswoman Doris Matsui says a strong performance now can help make the case for more money later.
Matsui: “A lot of times, you have an assessment and people don’t really know where the money goes. You don’t really see it. It is really very true. They like to see something – and this is where their investment went.”
The Green Line is scheduled to open in November of 2010. And while nothing’s official yet, the RT Board is eyeing that same month’s election to send its sales tax measure to voters.