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Effort underway to better connect Downtown Sacramento to riverfront. Here's how.

Here's how some want to reconnect downtown with Old Sacramento
Here's how some want to reconnect downtown with Old Sacramento 02:01

SACRAMENTO — New steps are underway to better connect Downtown Sacramento with one of the city's greatest assets: the Old Sacramento Waterfront.

A section of Interstate 5 near Capitol Mall has been called the Berlin Wall of Sacramento. That's because the 10-lane freeway cuts off access between the waterfront and the rest of the central city.

"They really don't give Sacramentans the chance to connect with the riverfront," said Scott Ford, the economic development director with the Downtown Sacramento Partnership.

Ford said the problem could be solved by building a two-block-long concrete deck over the freeway.

One of the possible plans leaders are looking at, with the area shaded in green being a concrete deck that would be built over the freeway.

"There's an opportunity here to reclaim over four acres of public space over an interstate highway," he said. "We're really missing a central space that could host amphitheater outdoor events. It would also create a dynamic gathering place for large-scale festivals."

The idea is not new. An engineering study more than 20 years ago found it is technically feasible since that part of I-5 is lower than the city streets.

Now, the idea is taking a big step forward with Congresswoman Doris Matsui requesting $5 million to begin the planning process.

"There's unprecedented federal funding dollars available right now to support green infrastructure," Ford said.

However, total construction costs won't be cheap.

"Similar projects in other parts of the United States are over $100 million," Ford said.

Supporters say it could help reconnect one of the most scenic parts of the city that has been isolated since the freeway was built in the 1960s.

"We have to make sure that we're not letting a concrete jungle dominate the narrative of the city center," Ford said.

The House Appropriations Committee is considering a funding request during the 2025 fiscal budget.

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