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June 19, 2012

Sacramento Scores $15 Million Grant to Fix Downtown Train Station

By Tony Bizjak    tbizjak@sacbee.com

Published: Tuesday, Jun. 19, 2012 – 9:56 am

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After several years of trying, Sacramento today secured a critical $15 million federal grant to help it rehabilitate its historic but dilapidated downtown Sacramento Valley Station, Sacramento Congresswoman Doris Matsui announced.

The work, likely to start next summer, will allow the city to make rail service at the 5th and I streets depot more efficient, and create space in the building to lease for offices, retail and restaurants.

Currently, less than one-third of the city-owned depot is usable. City officials said the railroad companies that previously owned the building let much of it fall into disrepair.

Matsui said she is thrilled to have won the grant, essentially after an 11th-hour lobbying effort. The city had been turned down previously for money under the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) in earlier rounds of funding.

Matsui and city officials recently hosted a visit by federal transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to the downtown railyard site, showing him the city’s plans to fix the depot, supplement it with expanded facilities, and redevelopment the railyard around it.

“This grant allows the city to preserve one of our most iconic and historic buildings, results in significant benefits for passengers, and puts us one step closer towards securing Sacramento as a modern transit center for the region,” Matsui said this morning.

The depot is the seventh busiest Amtrak station in the country, with 1.5 million annual users, including passengers on the popular Capitol Corridor inter-city trains. Sacramento Regional Transit officials say they hope someday to connect the depot to Sacramento International Airportvia light rail. The first short leg of that light rail line opened last week, connecting the depot and downtown to Richards Boulevard a mile north.

City officials said the grant allows them to continue moving forward in the slow, years-long process of turning the surrounding railyard into a vibrant downtown community, and preparing Sacramento for more rail travel in the coming decades.

The city currently is conducting a seismic retrofit project on the depot.

City downtown railyard official Fran Halbakken said the federal funds will be matched with $15 million in state and local money to do a variety of essential work at the building, including addingair conditioning and modern heating, as well as fixing stairs and elevators, renovating bathrooms, and creating new spaces for leasable use. The city plans include a restaurant in what is now a large, unused space adjacent to the train depot’s main waiting room.

“We are ecstatic,” Halbakken said. “Without help from the federal and state government, the local funding isn’t enough to deliver this project.”

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