Golden 1 Gridlock? What the City is Doing to Ease Sacramento’s Growing Pains

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SACRAMENTO -- Sacramento’s jewel is rising in the skyline. A new arena is bringing new hopes for a thriving downtown. But with the excitement comes congestion concerns.

Is downtown ready for the onslaught of visitors? What is the city doing to ease the growing pains of a growing city?

The end of the work day often marks the longest part of the day for Jay Dyer.

“I don't really think about it much anymore. We get here. There’s always a lot of traffic,” he says.

For Dyer, it’s picking up the kids from their midtown school and then hitting I-5 for the trek home to Elk Grove. It’s a commute that can take up to an hour.

“Those are a little more stressful. But it hangs together. We make it work,” Dyer said.

Add to that this fall: 17,000 more people downtown.

“Is this going to be Carmageddon? If you think it’s going to be Carmageddon, you’re going to be disappointed,” says Linda Tucker with the City of Sacramento.

On the surface, the downtown facelift is evident: a state-of-the art arena and new life on K Street in the form of restaurants. What you don’t see is the painstaking work of how to manage the masses.

“There’s no dress rehearsal for that first event," Tucker said. “We’re doing all the planning possible. It would be naive to say there won’t be pockets of congestion.”

For months, the city has touted its new approach to parking -- tiered meters giving visitors flexibility to park beyond the limit. That’s already in place near Crocker Art Museum where rates start at $1.75 an hour and increase to $3.75 an hour.

About 4,300 meters surrounding the arena will be installed with sensors. Behind the scenes, 21st century traffic control is happening in the form of the Sac Park app.

On your phone you’ll be able to see which garages have spaces, where street parking is available, and reserve and pay for your spot.

“You will get a text alert say 10 minutes before meter runs out. You can use your credit card, stay where you’re at, increase meter time and you’re good to go,” Tucker said.

License plate recognition will help drivers remember where they’re parked, getting them out of downtown quickly.

The city is also counting on light rail to ease the pressure. To that end, a concerted effort is underway to clean up the trains and their image.

The task of a smooth and safe commute is in the hands of police who are studying the busiest pedestrian intersections and where traffic flow is the heaviest.

Sacramento police Sgt. Bryce Heinlein says they will be getting the word out.

"Vehicle flow is maximized, as well as pedestrian safety,” says Heinlein. “And, making sure people can get in and out of the downtown area to businesses as well as parking garages.”

The City by the Bay and others with similar stadium setups have served as a cautionary tale for Sacramento.

“What most people don’t know is within the footprint of Sleep Train Arena, is four blocks. Within four blocks of arena, there are 15,000 spaces,” says Tucker.

Ultimately, city leaders say getting through the transition will require people to change their approach and be patient. We know nurturing a world-class team and city isn’t always a slam dunk.

Sacramento’s Park App is scheduled to launch in the late summer or early fall.

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