It's a new year, but at DOT we're picking up right where 2012 ended--by acting on our commitment to expand transportation choices. Today in California--with help from the Federal Transit Administration's Capital Investment grant program--we did exactly that by signing a full funding grant agreement to extend the Sacramento Regional Transit District's light rail system.
The 4.3 mile Blue Line extension will link downtown Sacramento with the growing South County corridor, offering commuters an alternative to driving and connecting the faculty, staff, and students at Cosumnes River College with the shops, restaurants and other businesses in the heart of the city.
When you build transit, you also open the door to new local economic development. Just as we've seen with new transit projects across America, in addition to improving access to Sacramento's major employers, extending the Blue Line will also encourage economic development near the extension's four new stations. For example, developers are already preparing to build up the area around the Morrison Creek Station.
New stores and services, new employers, and new housing will combine with the light rail extension to create communities where people can live and shop closer to where they work.
And it is the latest in a series of investments DOT has made in the region's transportation future. Last June, for example, we announced a TIGER grant to renovate the landmark Sacramento Valley Rail Station and create a dynamic modern multi-modal transportation hub. We’ve also provided an additional $9.7 million to help the Regional Transit District replace a generation of aging, inefficient buses and maintenance facilities with new, fuel-efficient vehicles that cost less to operate and are more reliable.
And we know these transportation options are needed. The Sacramento light rail system saw a 7.4 percent jump in ridership from 2011 to 2012, and California's state capital region is expected to grow steadily over the next five years--with much of that growth likely to occur along the South County Corridor. This will create even more demand for a convenient way to get downtown without spending so much at the gas pump.
As Sacramento’s economy begins to heat up again, the community's vision of a robust transportation network for the capital region will help residents grow and thrive for years to come. The Obama Administration, DOT, and FTA are happy to be able to help transform that vision into reality.