Stop at the depot

Kay Knepprath, chair, Save Our Rail Depot Coalition

With a clear threat of losing Sacramento’s depot as a train station, we organized the Save Our Rail Depot (SORD) coalition, with 24 organizations concerned with transportation, good government, neighborhoods and preservation. Union Pacific and other rail interests want to abandon our classy 1920’s gem, move the tracks north a couple of blocks and build a new station (fondly called “Amshaks” by those who’ve seen these new ones).

Sacramento is planning for a state-of-the-art intermodal transit hub incorporating Greyhound buses, light rail, Amtrak and commuter trains, and SORD knows we can accomplish this without moving the tracks.

An intermodal transit station for downtown Sacramento will require serious funding from the federal and state governments. Getting it requires a broad community consensus. Mayor Heather Fargo has sent this message clearly.

Consensus, essential as it may be, will be difficult. Union Pacific is seriously committed to the “move the tracks” plan. They own the historic depot and Amtrak leases it. The neglect of the depot and adjacent historic Railway Express Building that has collapsed, is evidence of UP’s strategy of abandonment, including severing the depot from any connection to transportation.

Consensus is difficult but not impossible. There has been progress. The SORD coalition has listened to the needs expressed by transit providers and has drafted a plan that:

” Meets Amtrak requirements.

” Includes an alignment for freight that meets Union Pacific’s need to increase the efficiency of freight movement.

” Provides easier movement of trains for the Railroad Museum and Setzer Forest Products.

” Increases passenger safety by distancing freight from passenger tracks.

The plan has passed muster by engineers and rail professionals. Mindful of the growing number of passengers, SORD’s plan includes adding space to the north side of the depot to accommodate future passenger needs. We have been learning the intricacies of track alignments, switches and platform lengths. We’ve compiled the data and made the drawings.

SORD’s updated plan should be presented to the City Council and the public directly, without it being filtered through consultants and the city’s economic development staff. Now we need serious consideration from the rail interests and City Council.

The two public meetings called by the city have been consultant-dominated with no opportunity for the public to see either SORD’s or UP’s plan. The public has the right to know what all the fuss is about and how their tax dollars will be spent.

Contact SORD at