McKinley Village debate zeroes in on nearly $30 million tunnel

Resident insist on third roadway as developer Phil Angelides calls the passageway a ’nonstarter'

Residents want developer Phil Angelides to build a third vehicle-access point to McKinley Village at Alhambra Boulevard and B Street. They say it will ease the impact of some 3,500 daily car trips through their neighborhood.

Residents want developer Phil Angelides to build a third vehicle-access point to McKinley Village at Alhambra Boulevard and B Street. They say it will ease the impact of some 3,500 daily car trips through their neighborhood.


This month, the debate over whether to build 300-plus single-family homes on a slice of land just north of East Sacramento all comes down to if the developer will—or even can—construct a multimillion-dollar passageway under a Midtown railroad track.

The project, McKinley Village, earned a favorable draft environmental-impact report last year, which stated that traffic impacts would be manageable, and a thumbs-up for the local chamber of commerce this past week. But residents still have submitted hundreds of pages of comments and concerns on the draft EIR, and just about as many upset neighbors showed up at a community meeting last week to speak out against the project.

Now, the neighborhood groups are getting laser-focused. The No. 1 issue now is traffic, and they’re asking developer Phil Angelides to build a third roadway access to the Village: a tunnel at Alhambra Boulevard underneath the Union Pacific Railroad tracks.

Neighbors United for Smart Growth, a coalition of residents, argue that Alhambra Boulevard is a much more logical option for access to McKinley Village instead of East Sacramento’s narrow streets, where children often travel to school and back. But spokesman Rob Finley is frustrated that Angelides hasn’t stepped up to assuage neighbors’ traffic conerns.

“He’s laying a considerable amount of traffic in our backyard, and we’re saying ’Help us fix this Phil,’ and he’s not doing a thing to make it happen,” Finley wrote in an email.

As now planned, there are only two ways people can access the new neighborhood: at 40th and C streets in East Sac, and at 28th and B streets in Midtown. This has existing residents worried that traffic will be too burdensome, what with an estimated 3,500 cars passing through their streets every day, the argue.

Enter a third, two-lane roadway to drive to and from McKinley, on Alhambra Boulevard at B Street.

“It just always seems like there should be three access points, that way, no particular neighborhood takes a huge traffic hit,” is how Julie Murphy, co-chairwoman of Midtown’s Marshall School/New Era Park Neighborhood Association, put it.

The kicker, however, is that building a tunnel underneath the Union Pacific tracks would, according to both city and private estimates, cost at least $28.6 million.

Most of this is because Union Pacific will not stop trains for construction, a fact it confirmed to SN&R. This means a “shoofly” must be built to temporarily reroute all trains.

Angelides said doing this is “completely economically unfeasible”—and, he added, a “nonstarter.”

Union Pacific spokesman Aaron Hunt said that the company is “still working through the design phase of the project” and does not have an estimated cost for building a vehicle tunnel.

Finley with Neighbors for Smart Growth hopes that pressure from city leaders will lead to more vehicle access to McKinley. “If the City Council compelled him to make it happen, we know he could and would make access at Alhambra and Lanatt [Street in East Sacramento] a reality,” Finley wrote.

Councilman Steve Cohn asked city staff to analyze whether a smaller, single-lane road could be built under the tracks without having to do the pricey train bypass.

In the meantime, Angelides is moving forward with a still expensive, state-of-the-art bike and pedestrian tunnel in lieu of vehicle access. He said it will have multicolor LED lights that will enliven what would typically be a shadowy pedestrian tunnel.

Neighbors question if the McKinley Village team will actually follow through with this bike-ped tunnel plan; they cite that, according to the draft EIR, Union Pacific has yet to grant Angelides’ team permission.

The developer insists that he is totally committed to the idea.

“We, on our own, said, ’Let’s see if we can get approval for a bike-ped tunnel.’ We would like to get it built. But it’s not approved until U.P. approves it,” he told SN&R.

And, until it is, the tunnel will remain the most contentious one this side of the Sacramento Delta.