ELK GROVE, Calif. — Millions of dollars are being invested toward making Elk Grove a little more walkable and a little less congested on the streets.
California state funds are going toward a new rail service, an overcrossing for a trail system near Laguna Boulevard and some improvements to the Elk Grove Boulevard off-ramp.
"I would say that we're trying to improve travel time to get people across town, but at the same time, providing alternatives for paths of travel," said Kristin Parsons, deputy director of Public Works for Elk Grove.
Traffic woes are well known to community members, even if they aren't necessarily unique to Elk Grove. In Elk Grove's case, the city was once unincorporated territory under Sacramento County. For the roughly 22 years since the city was incorporated, Parsons said city staff have been working to improve the landscape they inherited.
"We have to then take what we were given and improve upon that. We weren't starting with a blank slate where the staff that are currently here were planning all of this out. We've been doing (this) for almost 22 years, correcting problems and also planning for the future... and trying to get ahead of things," Parsons said.
One of the bigger improvements on the way is a rail service that'll connect Elk Grove to Sacramento and Stockton. This project has the lion's share of the state funding with $11.1 million dedicated toward it.
If everything goes to plan, construction will begin in 2023 and service will start in 2024. The rail station would be located at Dwight Road and Laguna Boulevard, not far from Franklin Boulevard.
David Lipari, spokesperson for the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission, said station would include a parking lot with dedicated access for public transportation and elevators and stairs that'll take people over to a center-loaded platform.
"We have two services that we're going to leverage to stop in Elk Grove. One of them is called ACE, which is a commuter rail service primarily focused on the business traveler... then we also have Amtrak San Joaquin, which is a leisure service, which runs it off times but longer distances," Lipari said.
Fares for the new rails service won't be determined until the the project is closer to service.
"This expanded rail service is really going to benefit our community and our region by adding new transit stops for Elk Grove residents providing additional transit connections between the city of Elk Grove and other communities that will reduce traffic congestion," Parsons said.
While that project aims to get people out of their car for their commute, roughly $500,000 is giving bicyclists and pedestrians a path through a huge barrier along the city's trail system. The money will fund the construction of a bicycle and pedestrian overcrossing for the Laguna Creek Inter-Regional Trail over Highway 99.
"By getting over State Route 99, it will connect our east side of town to the west side. It will create a grade-separated (and) much safer path of travel for people wanting to travel from one side to the other," Parsons said.
It's an in-demand project that Parsons said the community has been asking for. It would move pedestrians and bicyclists away from high-speed vehicles along roadways like Sheldon Road and Laguna Boulevard.
"Your average user, the majority of users, are not comfortable traveling alongside that many vehicles traveling at those high speeds," Parsons said.
However, all the projects aren't entirely about enticing people out of their car. $1.6 million is going toward improvements surrounding the Elk Grove Boulevard off-ramp and a metering system upgrade from Elk Grove Boulevard to south of Calvine Road.
The improvement includes auxiliary lanes that give people addition space as they get onto the freeway and reduce congestion on the roadway. However, the off-ramp from Highway 99 will see some improvements as well.
"They're extending it. That will provide for greater storage there, and it will allow the city to have more vehicles stored there and create timing changes in our signals in our signal system, which will allow us to improve congestion management throughout the Elk Grove Boulevard corridor," Parsons said.
She said that means people will spend less time sitting in the corridor since drivers aren't sitting through as many signal changes.