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Sacramento South Line Light Rail to Meadowview
Phase I Grand Opening Festivities

September 26, 2003
By Matt Melzer of TrainWeb.com

Friday, September 26

Continuing California's rail and transit renaissance, Sacramento Regional Transit expanded (and continues to expand) its popular light rail system, the latest addition being Phase I of the new South Line to Meadowview. While the existing Watt/I-80 - Mather Field/Mills line (which originally opened on a limited segment in 1987) runs bi-directionally through downtown Sacramento, the South Line turns at St. Rose of Lima Park station, departs from existing trackage after the 16th Street station, and runs parallel to the Union Pacific (ex-Southern Pacific) Fresno Subdivision (used by Amtrak's San Joaquins), allowing for relatively easy acquisition of a dedicated right-of-way for the South Line. With seven new stations at Broadway, 4th Avenue/Wayne Hultgren, City College, Fruitridge, 47th Avenue, Florin, and Meadowview, the 6.3-mile line was constructed at a fully-funded cost of $222 million. Projections suggest that 8,100 daily passengers will utilize the new service by 2005, easing the burden on Interstate 5, Highway 99, and other major thoroughfares. Scheduled to open in 2007 or 2008, Phase II of the South Line will see an additional 4.9-mile extension parallel to Cosumnes River Boulevard, with four new stations and a terminus at Calvine/Auberry.

I awoke at 8 AM to attend the Grand Opening of the South Line, and left my home in Santa Cruz at 8:35 AM. Driving highways 1, 17, 280, 680, 580, 205, 5, I arrived at the sprawling Florin Road Light Rail station at 11:25 AM. Though the hot sun was beating down on the concrete landscape, public turnout was impressive, and the ceremony had already begun. Democratic Congressman James L. Oberstar of Minnesota, one of the few great champions in Congress of public investment in rail transit, was speaking. I obtained a press kit, then listened to the tail end of Congressman Oberstar's speech. He reflected on the dozens of nationwide success stories of light rail, even in such unlikely cities as Denver, San Diego, Dallas, or Salt Lake City. He praised Jeff Morales of Caltrans for helping to implement a great statewide rail program, and urged the passage of TEA-3, the most favorable proposed legislation to reauthorize the soon-to-expire Transit Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21). What Congressman Oberstar asserted that stood out in my mind was that fact that for every dollar of public investment in rail transit, three dollars of private development are shown to follow.

Other speeches of note during the ceremony included the comments of State Assemblyman Darrell Steinberg, who illustrated the link between construction of transit and revival of communities. Indeed, among the fact sheets included in my press kit was one which noted any transit-oriented development in the areas of each new station, as well as the public art displayed at the stations. Sacramento Mayor Heather Fargo reached out to her entire constituency, saying that light rail transit is for everyone, and challenging commuters to try it once or twice a week. "Sacramento is on a roll," exclaimed Mayor Fargo, who excitedly announced that the next important project for Sacramento RT will be the new Sacramento Intermodal Station, centered around the current Amtrak station. Existing light rail will be extended 0.7 miles to the west to the Amtrak station, and 10.2 miles east from Mather Field/Mills to Historic Folsom. This extension is slated to open in 2005.

After all of the guests of honor spoke, all dignitaries and members of the media were free to walk down the red carpet to board a four-car VIP train to Sacramento City College for the ribbon cutting ceremony. I boarded the front car of this brand-new trainset, part of forty cars built by the Spanish company Construcciones y Auxilar de Ferrocarriles (CAF) to augment the existing thirty-six Siemens-Duewag cars and to be used on the new South Line and future Folsom line. The interior of the train was bright, colorful, comfortable, and very well air-conditioned. We departed northward from Florin at 12:26 PM, passing the 47th Avenue and Fruitridge stations without stopping (though, automated announcements for the stations were made). Also, our train's operator did not blow the horn at any of the grade crossings, probably because the crossings have been enhanced with quad gates or barricades.

As we arrived at Sacramento City College at 12:32 PM, the Sacramento CC Band was playing festive music and a sizeable crowd cheered our arrival. A yellow ribbon was in place in an archway between the platform and the adjacent parking lot, with a podium behind the ribbon and local news crews on hand in front of it. I ran into and briefly spoke with Marcia Johnston, the newest director of the Rail Passenger Association of California, who was on hand taking photographs of the Grand Opening for her employer, the State of California. Dr. Beverly Scott, General Manager and CEO of Sacramento RT introduced Supervisor Roger Dickinson, who justified construction of the South Line by pointing out that the original starter segment of Sacramento's light rail exceeded the "ultimate" projected ridership (what was thought to be the highest possible number). After brief speeches were given by Councilmember Lauren Hammond, Los Rios Community College District Board President Pamela Hayes, and Sacramento City College President Dr. Robert Harris, the speakers cut the ribbon at 12:50 PM. Dr. Scott declared the South Line open, and day-long free rides commenced.

I reboarded the train for downtown, and we departed at 1:08 PM, marking the first "revenue" run of the South Line (even though no fares were being collected, thus no real revenues). I ended the north end of the new trackage as we left the UP Fresno Sub and arrived at 16th Street. At Archives Plaza, I caught a view of the Caltrans headquarters, and soon two brief views of the State Capitol followed. We arrived at St. Rose of Lima Park at 1:24 PM, and ran another block to 10th/K before the operator jogged to the other end to operate the train to Meadowview. We departed at 1:29 PM and crossed over to the southbound track. There was a big crowd at 7th/K, which delayed the train five minutes. We arrived at Meadowview at 2:02 PM, completing my new mileage on Phase I of the South Line. At 2:08 PM, the train departed for downtown, and two minutes later, I was back at Florin Road, where city workers were preparing for the upcoming evening's festivities. I, unfortunately, could not stay for that part of the event, which is mostly geared towards public awareness of the new line. The only activity I saw on the UP Fresno Sub all day was a hi-rail vehicle, and I snapped a photo of it along with two light rail trains. I soon left to beat the evening rush and return to Santa Cruz, ending an exciting day of victory for rail and transit advocates, even in this time of a jobless "economic recovery" and bankrupt governments. Hopefully budget politics will not derail current transit projects in Sacramento and elsewhere, as politicians must realize that few public investments create more jobs, encourage more private business investment, or help the environment better than rail. What is the cost of building rail? The answer, and the more appropriate question, is, what is the cost of doing nothing at all?

Celebrate with us!
The Sacramento Regional Transit District invites you to attend the South Line Light Rail Extension Grand Opening Festivities.
Official Grand Opening Ceremony
Florin Road Light Rail Station
10:30 a.m. - noon
MC: Dr. Beverly Scott, RT General Manager/CEO

Guest Speakers:
Minnesota Congressman James L. Oberstar
Assemblyman Darrell Steinberg
Mayor Heather Fargo
Supervisor Illa Collin
RT Board Chairman Don Nottoli
FTA Regional Administrator Leslie Rogers
Caltrans Director Jeff Morales

Ribbon Cutting
Sacramento City College Station
12:15 p.m.

Guest Speakers:
Supervisor Roger Dickinson
Councilmember Lauren Hammond
Los Rios Community College District Board President Pamela Hayes
Sacramento City College President Dr. Robert Harris

Community "Carnival" Festival
Florin Road Light Rail Station
5:00 - 9:00 p.m.
8:45 p.m. - Raffle drawing
9:00 p.m. - Fireworks display

Your local "Measure A" sales tax at work

Thank you to the following Grand Opening Event Sponsors:

Platinum Sponsors:
LTK Engineering Services
Parsons Brinckerhoff
Stacey and Whitbeck, Inc.
Silver Sponsors:
Anil Verma Associates, Inc.
DKS Associates
Mark Thomas & Company, Inc.
Pacific Project Management, Inc.
URS Corporation

Click on the below links to view each set of photos:
Set #01 / Set #02 / Set #03 / Set #04

Sacramento Regional Transit Light Rail Projects Web Site

Questions? Comments? E-mail matt@trainweb.com .

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