Ready for Recovery:
A Call for Short-Term Strategic Investments in Infrastructure in the Greater Sacramento Region
At the same time as Congress has proposed a $1.5 trillion infrastructure investment bill to stimulate recovery in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, cities and counties within the six-county Sacramento region have been collaborating to identify a broad range of projects that could be quickly implemented. As the attached table shows, a consortium of more than 50 public and private sector organizations throughout the greater Sacramento region identified projects and programs totaling more than $11 billion across a diverse set of infrastructure categories. While not comprehensive, this list of projects represents examples of the types and magnitude of investments the Sacramento region is prepared to make if Congress moves forward with an infrastructure-focused stimulus package.
Our region is committed to an infrastructure investment strategy that would provide a critical economic boost for California’s capital region and would help both preserve and create thousands of jobs. But just as importantly, our investment strategy would support critical goals of the region’s recently released inclusive economic prosperity and recovery strategy that help develop a more equitable and resilient region that is better prepared to meet the challenges of climate change, future health emergencies, air pollution, and natural disasters.
The projects represent an illustrative list of ready-to-go investments. They are grouped in categories representing key strategic goals to advance economic recovery, prosperity and resilience:
Regional Transportation Connectivity
The greater Sacramento region is one of the fastest growing regions in California with numerous cities and counties that are consistently in the state’s top 10 in terms of population growth. Investments in both highway and public transit connectivity are essential for the region’s economy and include projects like upgrading the I-80/Highway 65 interchange in Placer County, new ‘managed lanes’ on I-5 between Elk Grove and the Sacramento International Airport, and expanding and modernizing Regional Transit’s light rail network.
Water Reliability & Storage
Much of the Sacramento region’s water infrastructure was built long ago and now needs critical repairs and upgrades. While our six-county region has historically enjoyed plentiful water resources, climate change is expected to further strain water systems as warming temperatures and decreased snowpack causes more intense flood events and droughts. This makes new investment in more resilient water infrastructure across the Sacramento region imperative and urgent. A good example is a water recycling project that will deliver up to 50,000 acre-ft per year of recycled water to the southern portion of Sacramento County to irrigate about 16,000 acres of agricultural farming. It will recover treated wastewater that is typically discharged to the Sacramento River and put it to good use irrigating crops for local farmers. It will ease the reliance on groundwater currently used by most farmers, resulting in improved groundwater stores and a multitude of ecosystem benefits in the region.
Emergency Preparedness & Climate Resilience
The Sacramento region is less prone than the rest of California to events like earthquakes and sea level rise but more prone to events like floods and wildfires. This category of investments includes major projects that will address flood control and levees, in addition to projects that enable hospital expansion so the region improves its ability to handle the current coronavirus pandemic and future health emergencies.
Infill Development & Affordable Housing
Our region is one of the fastest growing in the state, meaning we must be smart and strategic about how we grow. Since the adoption of the Sacramento region Blueprint in 2004, our cities and counties have taken a proactive approach to managing growth. Part of the answer to our growth challenge is to reduce the barriers to infill development and affordable housing. Our region has tremendous infill development opportunities, not just in our city centers, but in our suburbs, our small-town main streets and along aging commercial corridors. Our proposed infrastructure investment strategy supports the Sacramento region’s “Green Means Go” program that identifies important upgrades – like water, sewer and utilities – in existing communities that are essential to make infill development proposals from both the private sector and non-profit housing providers financially feasible. Our proposal also calls for modifications to federal tax credits that could significantly increase the production of affordable housing developments.
A large part of the Sacramento region’s future economic expansion – as defined in the recently released economic prosperity strategy – is making us a testbed and manufacturing hub for the next generation of vehicles and technologies. This category includes investments that allow for deployment of electric vehicle charging stations throughout the region, purchase of electric and zero emission buses, and testing of electric car share programs for low-income communities. It also provides funding for the construction of the California Mobility Center, which will serve as a center of excellence in future clean mobility and a regional hub, where industry innovators, educational institutions, and regulators will work together to create the next wave of smart mobility solutions.
Interregional and International Gateways
The Sacramento region is increasingly connected to and reliant upon our regional neighbors like the San Francisco Bay Area, San Joaquin County, the San Joaquin Valley, and even the Reno, Nevada metropolitan area. This infrastructure investment strategy includes a suite of projects that are critical to improving transportation connections throughout the northern California megaregion, both along Interstate highways as well as passenger rail corridors such as the Capitol Corridor, the San Joaquins, and the ACE rail service with its planned expansion into the San Joaquin valley and downtown Sacramento. It also includes critical investments in the region’s rapidly expanding national and international gateway: Sacramento International Airport (SMF). Investment in SMF would provide for much needed rehabilitation and modernization of aging assets, allow strategic expansions, and improve the safety and reliability of the airport for residents and visitors alike.
Trails, Recreation & Tourism
The majority of land in the six-county Sacramento region is open space where agriculture, working lands, and the wild spaces of the foothills and Sierra Nevada offer tremendous opportunities for recreation and tourism. Because of those unique opportunities, agritourism and outdoor recreation are hallmarks of the region that connect residents and tourists to the rich history found in the numerous small towns to be explored. Expanding existing trail networks to form a comprehensive regional trail network will enhance the ability of people to connect with outdoor recreation and agritourism opportunities and further the economic well-being of small towns and businesses located throughout the region.
High Speed Communications & Broadband
Broadband connectivity is a key lever for driving economic prosperity, especially in the three key industry clusters identified in the Economic Prosperity Strategy as opportunities for the Sacramento region to achieve global leadership: Food, Ag, and Health Innovation; Life Science; and Future Mobility. No county in the region has reached the level of 98 percent household connectivity, as mandated by AB 1655, and the gaps are most significant in more rural counties such as El Dorado at 79.6 percent and Yuba County at 76.6 percent. The major costs come in the “last mile” connectivity in remote and rugged rural terrain. To lower the cost of broadband connectivity, agencies have identified 31 transportation projects where broadband infrastructure can be installed along 330 miles at the same time, for “dig once” efficiencies.
Preserving and better maintaining the transportation system in a state of good repair is a cornerstone of the Economic Prosperity Strategy. Often called a ‘fix-it-first’ approach, the idea is that we must prioritize investing in our existing transit, road, highway, and bridge infrastructure early or accept much more expensive repairs later. Modern transit vehicles and well-maintained roads and bicycle and pedestrian facilities form an essential part of a well-functioning regional economy that works for all the region’s residents. Despite hundreds of millions in investments annually, the backlog of critical investments to repair or replace aging infrastructure continues to grow. These investments will both create near term jobs and improve the efficiency, reliability, and safety of our backbone transportation infrastructure for residents and business throughout the region.
Local Transportation Connections
Local transit, bicycle, pedestrian, and road infrastructure connect communities and are essential for creating vibrant and prosperous neighborhoods. These investments are comprised of local connections that help create a sense of place and offer mobility options for people moving around within their communities. These connections are essential for safely accessing daily activities such as school, grocery shopping, entertainment, and social venues.
The greater Sacramento region stands ready to work in collaboration with Congress and our federal and state partner agencies in order to secure and deploy any infrastructure stimulus funding in order to accelerate our short-term economic recovery and to support our region’s long-term prosperity plan to build a more inclusive economy and a more resilient region. The attached project tables are not meant in any way to be an all-encompassing list of projects, rather they are illustrative of the comprehensive planning and coordination that our region has undertaken to prepare for investment. Our hope is that this effort and the example projects in the attached table will help our region’s Congressional delegation in their efforts to make the case for new federal infrastructure investment.