1. What are the benefits of the Green Line?
Currently, Interstate 5 (I-5) is the only direct connection serving the communities between downtown Sacramento and the Sacramento International Airport. The State Department of Transportation reports that this stretch of I-5 is already heavily congested and operates unacceptably as evidenced by stop-and-go traffic during peak commute periods.
The Green Line to the Airport light rail extension provides a safe and affordable alternative travel choice to the congested I-5, as well as convenient connections to a variety of existing neighborhoods and planned infill and transit-oriented developments (TOD) such as River District, Railyards, Sleep Train Arena site and Greenbriar as well as to the Sacramento Valley Station and Sacramento International Airport. In so doing, the extension project would reduce congestion along I-5, energy consumption, and air and greenhouse emissions; support the goals, policies, and strategies in the City of Sacramento General Plan, the Sacramento Area Council of Governments’ Metropolitan Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy (MTP/SCS), and the Sacramento International Airport’s Master Plan. The extension also leverages opportunities for infill and transit oriented development within the region and enhances economic development in these areas. To read more about its benefits, please click here.
2. How many stations are proposed along the alignment?
There are currently 16 proposed stations along the alignment. The station locations are based on travel demand forecasts that project where riders would want to board or disembark. Such locations include existing and planned higher density residential areas, employment centers, major public facilities such as community centers, libraries, and high schools, major transfer points to other transit services such as RT bus routes, and activity centers that include gathering places, entertainment venues and mixed use developments.
The ridership along the line depends on many factors including the intensity of development at the station sites, the availability of parking, the demographics of the population along the corridor and the frequency of service. Importantly, the ability to divert traffic from other travel routes, such as I-5, is the travel time between a passenger’s origin (i.e., starting point) and destination. The Green Line will enable passengers to travel between the airport and the 7th & Richards/Township 9 Station on Richards Boulevard in 29 minutes. Preliminary ridership forecasts, based on prior studies and SACOG’s 2035 land use, population, and employment, show combined daily boardings exceeding 30,000 per day by 2035. Stations anticipated to experience heavier use include the Sacramento Valley Station, W. El Camino in south Natomas, Gateway Park and north Natomas Town Center in north Natomas, and the airport. These projections will be refined and updated as part of the EIR/EIS now underway.
3. How long will the project take to complete?
RT is currently developing preliminary engineering concepts and assessing the potential environmental impacts of the Locally Preferred Alternative, as amended; the Draft Environmental Impact Report / Environmental Impact Study (DEIR/EIS) is expected to be completed in late 2017. This phase will also include identification of potential phasing of the alignment. Following public review of the DEIR/EIS, RT will respond to comments and prepare a Final EIR/EIS. This environmental review process must be completed before RT and the FTA can take action to approve the project and advance it to the next phase of project development, “Engineering.”
To enter into the federal Engineering phase, RT must demonstrate the project’s readiness as measured by the FTA’s project justification and financial commitment criteria. RT anticipates entering the Engineering phase in 2019 / 2020. During this phase, detailed plans for the system, including its construction, operations, costs, and funding sources, will be finalized and prepare the project for a Full Funding Grant Agreement from the FTA. Completion of the Green Line to the Airport project is dependent on funding availability from federal and local sources. To learn more about future phases and the project schedule, click here.
4. How will it be paid for?
The Green Line project will require both federal and local funding sources, and RT is actively exploring all options. Possibilities include the federal New Starts program, other federal sources, airport contributions, developer fees, sales tax measures, state sources such as the State Transportation Improvement Program funds and the relatively recent state Cap and Trade programs, as well as potential Federal Highways/Caltrans contributions to provide congestion relief.
5. How will Green Line fit within existing neighborhoods?
RT is evaluating best practices on context sensitive solutions and urban design concepts. As part of that effort, in the fall and winter of 2014, RT met with more than 30 community representatives to discuss the potential design of the American River Bridge Crossing portion of the project. Community members discussed and commented on bridge types and elements, as well as important access and safety concerns for those who will use the bridge. As the project continues to progress, community members will be encouraged and offered opportunities to provide their input on ways to make the extension neighborhood friendly. The project team is continually working to ensure that the light rail service can be easily and safely accessed by pedestrians as well.
6. What is an Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS)?
An Environment Impact Report (EIR) is an informational document used in state, regional, and local planning and decision-making processes to meet the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Similarly, an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is used to meet the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). In general, the EIR/EIS for a proposed project must disclose the physical environmental, human, and socio-economics effects of implementing the project. The report provides the public and the “lead agencies” (those public agencies most responsible for implementing the project – at a local level, this would be RT; at the federal level, this would be the FTA, with background to make an informed judgment about the project. Information included in an EIR/EIS address, but is not limited to:
- Transportation, including traffic circulation, transit demand and safety
- Land Use and Community Character, including consistency with adopted plans and policies, land acquisition and displacement, visual quality, socioeconomics and effects to public services
- Natural Resources, including biology, water resources and air quality
- Cultural Resources, including historic, archaeological and Native American resources
- Natural and Man-Made Hazards, including hazardous materials; geotechnical hazards; flooding; and exposure to hazardous materials, noise, air emissions, and electromagnetic fields
- Utilities and Energy, including demand for power, water, wastewater treatment, and drainage infrastructure
The analyses examine both short-term, construction-related effects, as well as long-term, permanent effects. If the effects are considered adverse, mitigation measures must be recommended to ameliorate, minimize or reduce the effects.
7. How will the light rail cross the American River?
The Green Line extension will include a new bridge over the American River that will accommodate transit, bicycles and pedestrians, and include connections to the American River Parkway on the north and south sides of the river. This bridge was included as part of the Locally Preferred Alternative and design features have been refined and expanded through a series of community workshops.
Since adoption of the Locally Preferred Alternative, the City of Sacramento has completed a study of potential automobile crossings of the American River (American River Crossing Alternatives Study) and both the City in its General Plan and the Sacramento Area Council of Governments in its Metropolitan Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy have adopted an automobile crossing of the American River in combination with the RT light rail bridge.
The EIR/EIS will compare the environmental pros and cons of a bridge serving transit, bicycles and pedestrians, and other design options including a wider bridge to accommodate automobiles.
8. How did the Green Line alignment get selected?
RT conducted an extensive Alternatives Analysis and public involvement effort to identify the current light rail alignment. Through the Alternatives Analysis, 27 alignments initially were identified and evaluated and then narrowed to three alignments based on cost, ridership, neighborhood impacts and environmental impacts. Following public input on the initial results, additional alternatives were identified, resulting in nine alternatives being carried for a more in-depth examination. The alternatives ranged from use of I-5, different locations to cross the American River, and SR-160, and included consideration of bus systems as well as light rail. Based on the analysis and public comments, the RT Board approved the alignment that follows 7th Street through the downtown and Railyards, across the American River, and connecting into Truxel Road through south and north Natomas.
The Green Line was adopted by the region into the Metropolitan Transportation Plan and by the City into the General Plan. It is a strategic and necessary project for the region to achieve its air quality and mobility goals.
The adopted Green Line to the Airport extension will help reduce regional automobile travel, alleviate roadway congestion, and provide a safe, convenient, and affordable alternative for traveling between Downtown Sacramento, south and north Natomas, and the Sacramento International Airport. This project will also provide enhanced transit connections to key destinations throughout Sacramento and Natomas, including the region’s major intermodal facility at the Sacramento Valley Station, where bus, light rail and Amtrak commuter rail services provide access to a much larger region.
Based on recent studies, the Sacramento region is showing significant signs of economic recovery, job and housing growth. Forecasts indicate that the population of the Natomas area will increase by 36 percent between 2012 and 2036. Currently the only option for travelers within these communities is Interstate 5. The Green Line to the Airport light rail extension will provide an alternate method of transportation for residents and visitors, reducing traffic congestion and the negative environment impacts caused by increased automobiles.