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Fire Takes Out Sacramento Amtrak and Major Bike Path

Sacramento was delivered a harsh blow to multi-modal transportation options tonight.

A portion of the Union Pacific Railroad caught fire and sent huge plumes of black smoke into the air. Parts of the elevated railway collapsed, essentially taking out major Amtrak service indefinitely. This particular Amtrak line runs from Chicago to the Bay Area, and the section from Sacramento to San Jose has the second highest number of riders behind the East Coast’s Acela service. This section of track is also a heavy freight corridor. The economic impacts from this will be huge.

Not only did we lose our wonderful rail service, we also have lost another important resource: The American River Bike Trail. The trail travels right under the rail trestle, and from the looks of the damage, it’s probably severe enough to temporarily shut off access for risk of the track collapsing. Hopefully, an alternative or quick temporary solution can be found. It’s an important connection for bicycle commuters.

This was the largest plume of smoke I’ve ever seen from a fire (with my own eyes). It was very impressive, although I knew (without actually knowing what happened) that the damage was severe. You could see it clearly from my Downtown home and office, or even from hundreds of miles away.

I strongly hope that the track and bridge structures can be quickly replaced. This is an unfortunate illustration of just how fragile our transportation system is – especially for non-vehicular modes. The bus service to replace the Amtrak line just won’t be the same for the riders. Freight service will likely be shorthanded for quite some time. Maybe this will help spark some debate on the importance of additional transit, bike, and pedestrian travel alternatives!!

My apologies on the quality of the photos—my mobility is still limited because of my broken ankle, and with a very sensitive camera, so are my photography skills when shooting on one good leg!

{ 2 comments… add one }

  • CentralCIty March 16, 2007, 8:42 am

    Your right and hopefully this will be a wake up call of sorts . The real shock is the absolute ease at which this fire was started . Conditions couldnt have been better once that tinder box got started .

    We should all be very thankful that there wasnt a delta breeze or we’d all be short of breathe !

  • Eric Fredericks March 25, 2007, 9:52 pm

    It’s looking as though the tracks are going to be finished in a week or so!! That’s really amazing. They have people monitoring the environmental impacts from construction around the clock. It’s really quite impressive!

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