Making Life More Walkable in South Sacramento

 WALKSacramento has just completed a three-year project in a disadvantaged area in South Sacramento, helping to make some tangible improvements for pedestrians there.  Supporting walkable communities often calls for a multidisciplinary approach, and in this effort, WALKSacramento worked with many partners in the Kaiser-funded South Sacramento Healthy Eating and Active Living (HEAL) Zone, coordinated by the Health Education Council, whose mission is to provide access, education, advocacy and training to empower individuals toward a healthy life.  The HEAL Zone Initiative is a multi-sector collaboration that works to increase the overall health of residents in the Valley Hi community through fitness offerings, healthy lifestyle training and education, access to healthy foods and infrastructure changes that support healthy living.

The area is near Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento, west of highway 99 and just north of the city of Elk Grove. It is one of the densest areas of the City of Sacramento due to very large apartment communities near the major intersections.  WALKSacramento’s mission in the HEAL Zone was to help improve the builtenvironment in the Valley Hi community to support and encourage safer walking. The community enjoys the presence of many stores and services, but many are on wide, fast streets such as Mack Road, Center Parkway and Valley Hi Drive that fail to provide adequate crossings and encourage high vehicle speeds.

WALKSacramento organized a number of community walk audits to engage residents in addressing these changes.  Parent-led walks took place at Herman Leimbach, Prairieand Union House elementary schools, in partnership with the Elk Grove USD’s Safe Routes to School program.  These led to recommendations to the Sacramento City Department of Public Works and Elk Grove Unified School District to improve neighborhood connections to the schools. Parents and staff at Prairie and Union House schools also committed to student valet and parent crossing escorts to encourage safer walking.

The Valley Hi community’s suburban-style roads also received attention.  Earlier work by HEAL Zone partner People Reaching Out and Valley Hi resident James Shabazz had put a petition with many signatures on the City’s desk calling for safe pedestrian travel across fast, four-lane Center Parkway at Arroyo Viejo to busy Valley Hi Community Park. WALKSacramento had also noted the traffic concerns in a walk audit through the park conducted in January 2010. The crossing called for more than additional paint on a crosswalk.  With supporting funding from the HEAL Zone, the City installed a pedestrian-activated traffic signal, which offers safer crossing at much lower cost than a full traffic signal.  It was a big win for the collective power of the HEAL Zone partnership.
In May 2012, WALKSacramento partnered with the South Sacramento Christian Center to conduct a community walk along Mack Road to review conditions for walking and bicycling along the corridor.  Mack Road is home to many stores and very high density apartment communities with walk-dependent residents.  One of the key recommendations out of this walk is to add a traffic signal at Summersdale Drive and Mack Road.  The City unsuccessfully sought grant funding for a traffic signal at the intersection several years ago. The challenge was unfortunately highlighted almost a year ago as a young woman was fatally struck by a car while walking across the street between two large apartment communities. The City has moved the intersection back to the top of its traffic signal list and is aggressively seeking funding. A full traffic signal, which Mack Road’s speed and volume make necessary, with improvements would cost around a half million dollars.  To provide further safety along Mack Road, WALKSacramento worked with HEAL Zone partner Mack Road Partnership to refresh bicycle lanes and crosswalks, and add pedestrian countdown signals, along Mack Road from La Mancha to Franklin Blvd.

These are the bigger issues we’ve addressed.  A full list of our HEAL Zone project improvements includes:

  1. HAWK Pedestrian Traffic Signal installed at Valley Hi community park
  2. Restriping of Mack Road from Franklin to La Mancha, with pedestrian coundowns
  3. Restriping of Valley Hi bike lanes
  4. Possible traffic signal and intersection improvements at Summersdale Drive and Mack Road
  5. City review of potential intersection improvements at Bamford and Center Parkway near new HEAL-supported community center
  6. Incoming intersection improvements at Mack Road and La Mancha

We thank the funder, Kaiser Permanente, the project coordinator, Health Education Council, and all the friends and partners we worked with on this project.  The work has made a critical difference in the life of the Valley Hi community.