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Caltrain to start construction on new underpass

Original post made on Jan 26, 2008

Caltrain construction crews will begin construction Friday night beneath the railroad tracks at the California Avenue Station in Palo Alto to build a new pedestrian underpass.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, January 25, 2008, 9:48 AM

Comments (36)

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Posted by Johan Baeck
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 26, 2008 at 10:50 am

"Nearby residents may be impacted"?

We live half a mile from the construction site and the noise from the pile driving kept us awake half of the night. I feel sorry for anyone living closer.


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Posted by Phil
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jan 26, 2008 at 11:05 am

WE need an underpass at Charleston and at East Meadow. Where are the priorities here???


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Posted by Joseph
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 26, 2008 at 12:53 pm

> WE need an underpass at Charleston and at
> East Meadow. Where are the priorities here???

The priorities in this town have always been "North of Oregon".


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2008 at 2:13 pm

Phil I'm sure if they put the bullet train through there will be grade separation at Charleston to separate the traffic from the trains.


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Posted by hmmmm
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2008 at 3:39 pm

'The priorities in this town have always been "North of Oregon".'

this is not a city project, so dont be so quick to pull the geography card.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2008 at 5:16 pm

I was under the impression that the upgrades at the two Caltrain stations were for the benefit of train passengers. The fact that the underpass at Cal Ave is for everyone, is probably an aside.

I would like Caltrain to improve the tracks all along the route, particularly from the safety point of view. IMO access to the tracks is much too easy. I want to see safety as a much higher priority.


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 26, 2008 at 6:16 pm

Phil and Joseph - last time I checked, there wasn't a Caltrain stop at East Meadow or Charleston, so no reason for an underpass from their standpoint. Since this is Caltrain - its not a north vs south item.


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Posted by Joseph
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 26, 2008 at 7:05 pm

> this is not a city project, so dont be so
> quick to pull the geography card.

Ok, you are correct.

However, the safety issue for pedestrians still stands. CalTrain has a responsibility to insure safety at its crossings, which it has failed to do in any number of ways. This failure has resulted in deaths and near-death accidents at East Meadow and East Charleston.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2008 at 8:24 pm

And, don't forget Churchill.

I think it particularly appalling that there is so little safety right beside a highschool. And I think in MenloPark/Redwood City there is a place where school kids actually illegally cross the tracks to take a short cut to school. They must do more to protect the public, particularly school kids, from getting onto the tracks.


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Posted by Choo-Choo
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 26, 2008 at 9:24 pm

How about putting a camera there, monitored every day, with anyone crossing the tracks on the shortcut receiving a $1000 fine? That should help put s stop to this dangerous practice.


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Posted by sleepless in PA
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 26, 2008 at 11:30 pm

I live about 3 blocks from the Calif. ave. station, and I couldn't believe how loud the noise was last night!!! I hadn't read the item about the construction, and I wondered what the heck that insanely loud engine-sounding noise was-- like we were being strafed by a helicopter w/a giant sewing-machine engine. Just loud enough and just intermittent enough to wake me up all night, between 11PM and 4AM.

Need the new underpass-- absolutely. The old one is really creepy and not good for all the bicycle and pedestrian traffic that goes through there.

But can't they do the construction during the DAY?


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Posted by Citizen
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 27, 2008 at 1:47 pm

If you read the story link it says this is a $35 million project and will be finished late this year.

Is it just me or does $35 million to build an underpass seem like a crazy amount of money. I was shocked by the money PA wasted on the underpass walkway at Homer, but that was only like $5 million.

Its not like these are tunnels for car traffic - just underpasses for people and bikes - how can they cost so much??

The current Ca. Ave underpass isn't great, but is this the best use of $35 million?


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Posted by hmmm
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2008 at 3:00 pm

Citizen,

There is more to that 35 million than the underpass. It includes replacing bridges follow this link to see what the 35 million is being spent on.

Web Link


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Posted by high st resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 27, 2008 at 9:55 pm

I really hope that we will not have noise like this for the next 11 months.

I can understand some of the machinery noise. But doing really noisy work until 4 am is a bit much. Plus - someone over there is using an airhorn at intervals. Is there no alternative?



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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 27, 2008 at 10:20 pm

It would be helpful if we knew when the loudest portions of this project are going to end. For instance, how long will it take to drill the tunnel and hammer in supports?

The noise is VERY disruptive, as it is random and LOUD


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Its a northbound platform
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 28, 2008 at 12:16 am

Based on the responses here, this news story could use some clarification. This is a station underpass, not to be confused with a crossing underpass. It doesn't replace the existing pedestrian underpass to the other side of Alma, either.

As it's currently designed, the CA Ave station is one of the last stations where pedestrians cross the southbound track to board a northbound train. This new pedestrian underpass will allow 'outside' boarding, much like the main Palo Alto station. But unlike the PA station where underpass users include those wishing to get to/from University Ave, this CA Ave underpass won't lead to anything but the northbound station platform.

In other wrods, this new underpass is being installed as a safety improvement specifically for northbound train passengers. Not for a street crossing. Not for getting street pedestrians to the other side of Alma.


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Posted by Its a northbound platform
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 28, 2008 at 12:31 am

p.s. In addition to it being a safety improvement, 'outside' boarding allows Caltrain more flexibility in its schedule. With center boarding, southbound trains must wait for the tracks to clear of disembarking passengers before approaching. Northbound trains must give even more clearance so northbound passengers awaiting the train don't panic and cross the tracks when they see the approaching light in the distance when a southbound train is passing first. All trains -- including baby bullets and others which don't stop at CA Ave -- are affected by center platforms.

So don't think Caltrain is building an underpass solely out of concern for passenger safety. I agree with earlier posters that Caltrain should do more about improving the safety of street crossings and popular shortcuts across the tracks, but that's a different topic.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 28, 2008 at 8:52 am

Wouldn't building a passenger overpass or bridge have been cheaper and involved less labor? For a passenger to walk over a bridge (suitably built with suicide protection) or under a tunnel must make very little difference.


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Posted by The PA Way
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 28, 2008 at 9:22 am

If this projects cause too much noise or any disruption in even a single PA residents Quality of life, then it should be suspended immediately.
That is the PA way


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Posted by PA Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 28, 2008 at 2:35 pm

A friend of mine lives close to the site of this project, and got zero sleep over the weekend thanks to all the noise. I saw her on Sunday and she was a wreck, so she stayed at my place last night just so she could get some sleep.

This little posting on Palo Alto Online was the only warning I could find that the project was about to start. My pal says that residents impacted by the noise were not notified in advance at all. She would have planned to stay somewhere else over the weekend if she'd had any warning.

Is this going to continue at night? Should she just move in with me for a few weeks?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sleepless in Palo Alto
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 28, 2008 at 3:09 pm

The noise over the weekend was horrendous -- like trying to sleep next to a jackhammer -- and went on ALL night for 3 nights.
When I complained to Caltrain, they said "nothing we can do" and that there will be more overnight weekend work in the future.
People need to complain to a) the city that issued Caltrain a noise exemption permit with no attempt to mitigate the impact on residents
b) mayor/councillors: Tom Klein: 650-857-1717
c) Caltrain: 650-508-7726
Otherwise we are in for a long year.


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Posted by hmmmm
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 28, 2008 at 3:15 pm

Perhaps you should ask when the pile driving will be over, I doubt that will last a year. I bet the project will be quieter after that stops. Good luck.


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 28, 2008 at 4:11 pm

"Tom Klein: 650-857-1717"

That's "Larry Klein", at 650-508-7726

also, call the police department about code enforcement
650-329-2413

this work does need to get done, but there's no good reason why Caltrain can't schedule the noisier parts of this work during weekend DAYS


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Brian
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 28, 2008 at 4:11 pm

I live about 3-4 blocks from the station, and I heard nothing during the day or night. I knew the project was starting up, and saw the equipment, but the noise didn't seem to make it to my house.
I sympathize with residents in the nearby apartments and condos, because they are probably bearing the brunt of it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by sleepless in palo alto
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 29, 2008 at 12:45 pm

Just found out that the construction crew will be back at it this weekend with the pile-driver, including ALL night both Friday and likely Saturday too. They have not yet notified residents officially of the impending misery.
We are being forced out of our home if we want any sleep.
Also discovered that the city did not grant Caltrain a noise exemption, as I was originally told, because Caltrain doesn't need one -- they own the right of way and can do anything they want, even if it impacts Palo Alto residents.
AND Caltrain expects to do overnight weekend work up to 15 more weekends in the upcoming months.
So this is not going away soon.
Call the Palo Alto mayor Larry Klein because only politicians can be of any help on this.
Caltrain refuses to do anything to mitigate.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 29, 2008 at 2:12 pm

This is another example of large industrial machine and tool makers failure to use noise reduction technologies on their equipment.

At this point, given advances in digital noise reduction technologies, it's almost trivial for manufacturers of things like leaf blowers, lawnmowers, large construction machines etc. to deploy noise reduction technologies on machines, or on work sites. Noise cancellation technology is not new technology.

Municipalities and regulatory agencies should demand that these technologies be implemented.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by hope
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 29, 2008 at 2:22 pm

"Just found out that the construction crew will be back at it this weekend with the pile-driver, including ALL night both Friday and likely Saturday too."

"AND Caltrain expects to do overnight weekend work up to 15 more weekends in the upcoming months"

So this is not done yet!

Where did you find this information?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by John
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 29, 2008 at 2:56 pm

"it's almost trivial for manufacturers of things like leaf blowers, lawnmowers, large construction machines etc. to deploy noise reduction technologies on machines"

Mike,

That is an interesting statement. I hope you are correct. Can you provide examples as to how pile drivers can cancel noise with digital means?


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 29, 2008 at 7:21 pm

John,

The problem with noise cancellation is that one needs to produce an exactly out-of-phase (opposite amplitude) signal at the ear.

There are two ways to do this - at the *source* and to cancel the noise at the *ear*.

Sound has a wavelength in the critical range (about 10 feet for 100 Hz, 1 foot for 1000 Hz, and 1 inch for 10,000 Hz)l thus the possibilities for noise cancellation are affected very strongly by frequency.

For phase cancellation, you cannot just delay the signal, since that simply cancels or reinforces, depending on the frequency. Thus, phase reversal has to be set up so that distances between the point where you measure the sound (e.g. - a microphone) to either the source or the ear is small compared to the wavelength you are trying to cancel.

For construction sites like the one at California Ave. one could measure the sound close to the SOURCE (the pile drivers) and put speakers **surrounding the pile drivers***. The speakers would generate a cancelling signal which reduces the amplitude of the sound waves, at great distances. This will works *only* if the frequencies of sound you need to attenuate are small enough that your microphone and speaker spacing as small compared to the wavelength. For pile drivers and many other construction sounds, the low frequencies are the biggest irritant, so source-cancellation works.

For airplanes, rock concerts, home offices, autos, etc. the source is all around, so source-cancellationi does not work. For these environments, you place speakers and microphones both close (as compared to the wavelength) to your ear. Thus, the problems for these environments are theoretically more difficult than large construction sites.

I suggest a read here
Web Link

and here
Web Link

and here
Web Link

as starters for our city to consider (the state should be looking, as well)

Phase cancellation of noise is now a trivial application. I know this from wide experience.

I have recently suggested this technology be used by a very well known, worldwide technology company. What surprised me was that their engineers had never considered it before, but on review they have become very excited about its prospects, and are going to use it in a certain key portion of their products.




 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 30, 2008 at 3:09 pm

I ask again, wouldn't a passenger bridge have been simpler?


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 30, 2008 at 4:59 pm

Resident, probably not. I suspect that we may even see track added in the future, to accommodate high-speed trains. Also, placing a pedestrian overpass there increases potential future grading constraints, due to the footprint of a bridge.

Last, can you imagine the furor over bridge design that would have ensued. This is Palo Alto! :))


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 30, 2008 at 5:03 pm

But, Mike, Caltrain owns the land and as a poster above has pointed out, they can do what they like without going the PA way. Aren't they lucky.


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Posted by Anna
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 30, 2008 at 5:12 pm

Resident, There is a big difference between a bookmobile (gasp!) and a nice, warm, cozy branch. I wonder how many story times they'll hold in the bookmobile.

btw, since when, assuming the Mt. View branch reopens soon, will they be able to hold 4 simultaneous story times in their library, as we can in our branches?

What percentage of the Mt. View population can easily walk to to their library, compared to Palo Alto.

How many Mt. View school kids can walk to a branch after school, compared to Palo Alto kid?

and on, and on...

No advantages to branches? Time for a personal reappraisal of your view on that matter.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anna
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 30, 2008 at 5:12 pm

oops! wrong thread - sorry~


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Posted by Richard
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 30, 2008 at 7:54 pm

Underpasses are generally considered cheaper and easier than overpasses. You don't need to go as far down as you do up to get adequate clearance. The larger the height differential the larger the space required for the ramps. The requirements of disabled accessibility limits the slope of the ramps, so they get very long or fold back many times if you need to go up or down very far. Elevators require non-powered backup, so are not really worth it. Also, the train operators don't really like people to be crossing overhead where they could accidentally (or on purpose) drop things onto trains.

Attempts to combine this project with a rebuild of the existing California Ave. underpass to make it wider and ADA compliant were not successful, in large part because Caltrain had no motivation to cooperate.


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Posted by undrgrndgirl
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 9, 2008 at 2:43 am

i live right across the street...good thing i'm not sleeping anyway (lol).


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