News

Special report: Train tunnels in Palo Alto?

Community leaders propose putting Caltrain tracks deep underground. Is the idea visionary — or just plain crazy?

The disruption happens more than 55 times a day along Alma Street: Bells clang, crossing-guard arms lower, and people and cars grind to a halt as hundreds of tons of locomotive steel approach.

The train thunders by, horn wailing, leaving wind and dust in its wake. Then life returns to normal.

One day, all that could be history if an idea being floated by some Palo Alto leaders becomes reality.

Call it visionary or call it far-fetched: They think the railroad could be put underground — in tunnels 50 feet below the surface.

If that were to happen, drivers might experience Alma as a grand boulevard in the European tradition rather than a commute corridor flanked on one side by railroad tracks and bushes.

Where tracks now lie, bicyclists would glide on paths along a greenbelt, while office workers would look out their windows as commuters drive by.

And in the tunnels underground, trains would silently whisk their passengers to destinations along the Peninsula.

No more street-traffic delays due to the rail system. No more train-on-car accidents. No more fatalities.

To some, it may sound like a pipe dream. Even the main proponents — City Councilman John Barton, former Mayor Bern Beecham, architect Tony Carrasco and Interim Deputy City Manager Steve Emslie — joke about whether they are crazy to even suggest such a thing.

But underlying their wisecracks lies a common vision, one they say would have the power to unify — even heal — a city that's been divided by the railroad for more than a century.

Until they're proven wrong, they're willing to explore the idea with anyone who will listen.

And now, they say, is the time to do it, thanks to the rising possibility that a high-speed train route between Los Angeles and San Francisco could be added to the Peninsula corridor. On the November ballot, state Proposition 1A asks voters to approve the sale of bonds worth $9.95 billion to provide initial funding of high-speed rail.

Due to the state-budget impasse, its place on the ballot was not ensured until Aug. 26, when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed AB 3034, giving it the green light.

If the proposition passes, plans for running high-speed rail through the Peninsula would pick up steam, with construction on parts of the line following after about two years of planning, according to Mehdi Morshed, executive director of the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

A fully functional system would enable passengers to travel from San Francisco to Los Angeles in under three hours, operating at speeds of up to 220 mph, the Authority predicts.

***

It could be the opportunity of a lifetime for Palo Alto, the community leaders say. With high-speed rail would come funding, and with funding — the possibility to creatively, and radically, alter Palo Alto's cityscape.

Building two tunnels (under Alma, they say) and placing the rail system there would free up acres of valuable land along the current 4.25-mile right of way.

The area now occupied by the University Avenue train station, for example, could become a dynamic gateway to downtown. The group envisions an oval "village green" surrounded by a hotel, community/arts center, visitors' center, retail, office space and more.

Below ground, the train station and an intermodal transit hub would allow travelers to switch their mode of transportation quickly and easily.

Along the former rail route, lining Alma, the group pictures a 25-foot-wide park with grass, trees and pedestrian and bicycle paths. The strip park would run from Palo Alto's southern border all the way to its northern one, totaling about 8 acres, they estimate.

Adjacent to the greenbelt, the rest of the land could be developed in stretches: as high-density townhomes, apartment buildings, shops and office space, they said.

What excites them the most is the idea of removing what they call the railroad "barrier" between the east and west sides of the city, which now limits cross-town traffic to four intersections — Charleston Road, Meadow Drive, Churchill Avenue and Alma — and four over/underpasses at San Antonio, Oregon Expressway, Embarcadero Road and University. (The city also has two bicycle/pedestrian tunnels, at California and Homer avenues.)

"It will heal Palo Alto and connect so many neighborhoods to other uses," Carrasco said. He co-chaired the 1990s Dream Team Citizens Advisory Committee, which explored the possibility of transforming the University Avenue train station area into a major entryway into the community.

"We talk about 'walkable' and 'bikeable,'" Carrasco said of Palo Alto's long-term goals, which he said the undergrounding plan would advance. "This does so much to be able to get across from business areas to residential areas," he said.

The California Avenue shopping district, for example, could be quickly accessed by cars without them looping around via Oregon Expressway's underpass.

Barton, who is also an architect, said the benefits could be important.

"Imagine if Colorado Avenue could come through. Suddenly the new police station [planned for Park Boulevard is that much closer to a whole section of Palo Alto," he said.

Removing the tracks "would take four quadrants of Palo Alto and make it two," he added.

***

The idea could also raise a lot of money, the group contends. By selling or leasing "air rights" — rights to build on the land, without acquiring the land itself — the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board in theory might garner enough funding to pay for the added cost of undergrounding. The board owns the right of way and manages Caltrain.

"If you go along with our estimates, we get to about a half billion dollars of land value, which hopefully is the marginal difference in cost between what high-speed rail would pay for above-grade [rail and the cost of undergrounding," Carrasco said.

To get those estimates, the men determined what kinds of buildings the community and developers might want on the 44 acres of land — varying from moderate-income apartments to live/work units to offices and retail shops.

All told, they calculated more than 660 homes and 814,000 square feet of office and retail space could be built, placing the land at a value of $464 million.

"The basics of what we know is there's a reasonable value in the land in air rights, and it's going to cost a lot to do tunneling," Beecham said.

"If somebody's going to come out anyway and lay out the tracks [for high-speed rail and put a lot of investment in ... then you can say, 'We've got another, smaller pool of money that might make it worthwhile enough to go underground rather than do this.'

"We don't know if it's going to work. ... But [the estimates are adequate to show there's meat on the bones," Beecham said. "It is feasible."

The idea of burying the railroad and selling air rights may seem unusual, but it's hardly inventing the wheel.

In fact, it was key to the monumental transformation of Grand Central Terminal in New York in the early 1900s.

At that time, city and state officials prohibited steam engines in Manhattan, following a 1902 crash that killed 15 people, according to the PBS documentary, "Grand Central," (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/grandcentral/ ) which Barton cited as one inspiration for the Palo Alto idea.

So New York Central Railroad's chief engineer decided to switch to electrified engines. Not only that, he determined they should run underground and the land above them could be sold to developers.

He called the concept "taking wealth from the air," and it was the first time the notion of "air rights" had been proposed, the documentary states. The idea helped the railroad company successfully finance the project, estimated at $70 million, avoiding the need for public funding.

Today, Grand Central spans 48 acres and contains 103 retail shops, occupying 130,000 square feet.

Closer to home, the San Francisco Transbay Joint Powers Authority is attempting a similar project, which will replace the city's current Transbay Terminal along Mission Street with a new station, extend the Caltrain line underground to the new transit center, and build a new neighborhood of 3,400 homes, 60,000 square feet of shops and 1.2 million square feet of other commercial space.

Sale of that land is expected to bring in more than $200 million, according to the Transbay Joint Powers Authority.

The idea of a city advocating for undergrounding rather than accepting ground-level or above-ground tracks also has precedent, Barton said.

In the early 1960s, BART planned to build a line on elevated tracks through the heart of Berkeley's downtown.

"BART was supposed to run down Shattuck, and folks in Berkeley said, 'Hell, no.' And they won," Barton said.

The city eventually used a sales tax to finance the undergrounding.

From an engineering standpoint, other elements of the Palo Alto idea — tunnels and high-speed rail — also have plenty of predecessors, the group members said.

Civil engineers note that tunneling is constantly improving.

"We have tunnels all over the world that have been around for 150 years," said the Rail Authority's Morshed, a civil engineer who has planned and implemented transportation projects for 34 years and worked on state policies and laws.

"They're not any more dangerous than above-grade or at-grade [tracks. It's a matter of engineering."

Eleven countries already have high-speed rail systems, according to the Rail Authority.

Japan's ultra-fast rail network, the Shinkansen, uses tunnels that stretch for 16 miles or more. The system has run for nearly 45 years and carried some 7 billion passengers. It has survived numerous earthquakes, derailing only once, and hasn't had a single fatality due to rail collisions or natural disasters, engineers note.

The United States also has a high-speed line, Amtrak's Acela Express, which travels between Washington, D.C., and Boston. But it runs more slowly, up to 150 mph, than foreign high-speed trains, which can top 220 mph.

***

There are, naturally, many "ifs" on which the undergrounding idea is based:

• If Proposition 1A, or a succeeding measure, passes;

• If high-speed rail comes to the Peninsula as currently proposed;

• If the tunneling costs pencil out;

• If all the agencies involved — Caltrain, the Rail Authority, Union Pacific (which operates freight trains), other local transit agencies, the City of Palo Alto and potentially neighboring cities — buy into the plan.

But there's no merit in waiting for absolute certainty before floating the undergrounding notion, Beecham said.

"It's a long-term concept, and you're in it for the long term," he said. "There's no value in us starting and stopping in a herky-jerky fashion, saying, 'Oops, this week, bad news in Sacramento.'"

Even given the uncertainty, the group members are galvanized by at least two factors: timing and an alternative they fear could be worse for Palo Alto than ground-level tracks — elevated ones.

They believe they face a short time-span within which to act. Even as Rail Authority planning gathers momentum, with a potential completion date in 2030, Caltrain is proceeding with its proposal to convert its system from diesel engines to electric. Its goal is to finish the electrification of the system by 2014, according to Caltrain.

"We have a short window to jump at this, short meaning five to six years, before Caltrain and the High-Speed Rail Authority start talking to each other on what their plan would look like," Carrasco said.

"Once their plans get too concrete, our chance is gone," Beecham said.

What the group finds even more motivating is the possibility that high-speed rail might run through Palo Alto not at ground level but elevated.

The Rail Authority anticipates it would add two tracks to the Peninsula right of way, which currently has two, Morshed said. It also recommends elevating those tracks.

If the Palo Alto leaders feel current ground-level train tracks are problematic, elevated berms (or "grade separations") would be even worse, they said.

"Berms really don't work in these urban situations. With four tracks, it's not a berm; it's a structure," Carrasco said, calling concrete berms "ugly as sin."

Some cities along the Peninsula, such as San Carlos, already have grade-separated tracks, directing cars under the tracks either at street level or via an underpass. But the ones up north have businesses adjacent, Carrasco said. Palo Alto's right of way abuts numerous homes.

Those homes closest to the tracks might even be in danger of disappearing, according to Barton. If it's determined that a four-track berm could require a wider strip than currently exists on the right of way, the state could use eminent domain to purchase the properties.

"I couldn't imagine a four-track with a berm wouldn't require buying up all the properties on the train-track side of Park Boulevard," Barton said.

For its part, the High-Speed Rail Authority believes that grade separations would be an improvement over ground-level crossings. Elevated crossings would eliminate the noise from train horns and warning bells because the railroad would no longer intersect with traffic, the Authority's May 2008 program environmental study states.

The visual barrier would be no greater than currently exists, according to the document. Rather than being deleterious, grade separations "would have a beneficial effect on community cohesion by improving circulation between neighborhood areas."

***

To be sure, the undergrounding idea, with all of its ramifications, has a long distance to travel before it becomes a reality, if it ever does.

Other agencies will play a key role, the men said. So far, the groups are open to discussing the concept.

From where he sits in Sacramento, Morshed views all ideas as possible — so long as they make sense financially and practically.

"Whatever we do there, life has to go on at that site," Morshed said, referring to the construction phase. "People have to do their business; cars have to cross. We need to be considering all those things."

Tunneling, he said, "might be a very viable solution" — if the numbers support it.

At this stage, the Authority is about to hire an engineering firm to work on project plans. It expects to hold community meetings in the future to gain input on its proposals, Morshed said.

Caltrain's Rail Transportation Director Bob Doty has already met with the Palo Alto group, noting that they mostly wanted to get a reality check on the idea.

He said he pointed out factors they should be considering, including the fact that the railroad will still need to be operating during the construction of any new rail line.

"My business has always been about creating the expectations. You have to be realistic about what it's going to take," he said. "It's not a trivial undertaking."

Besides the need for the railroad to stay operational, tunneling requires a span in which to get underground — possibly a mile on either side of the fully submerged tunnel, Doty said.

But just because there are complexities, "it doesn't mean you should give up," he said. "You want new ideas. ... We offered to talk with them in the future as it starts to focus in."

The Palo Alto leaders acknowledged they could be working on the railroad plan for years, until it either is proven impossible or it comes to pass.

In the meantime, they said, they are undaunted by the complexity. The outcome would be worth it to them.

"This is a dream, of course, but wouldn't it be great to say, 'We got rid of the train. And we got sales tax [from new stores. And we got a better boulevard. And we solved some housing issues'?" Barton asked rhetorically.

"And we made it a better city," Carrasco added.

"It may not happen in my lifetime, but that's OK."

Related material:

• Tunnel or trench? http://www.paloaltoonline.com/news/show_story.php?id=9435

• Challenges ahead http://www.paloaltoonline.com/news/show_story.php?id=9437

• Editorial: Tunneling the tracks worth exploring http://www.paloaltoonline.com/weekly/story.php?story_id=9547

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by amused
a resident of another community
on Sep 26, 2008 at 9:56 am

IDEA....put all major transportation arteries in Palo Alto underground (University Ave, Hamilton, California Ave, Embarcadero, etc.).

In fact...why not put El Camino underground where it runs through PA?

Kick all commercial use out. Put grassy parks on all remaining surfaces (be sure to restrict park entry to PA residents).

But charge Palo Alto for all costs.

As a retired city planner, I am ALWAYS amused at Palo Alto's ongoing self-centered theater. But, heck, let them have whatever they want to pay for.


Like this comment
Posted by Never happen
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 26, 2008 at 10:05 am

This will never happen. Can you imagine the outcry (all you need is a few very vocal locals) and the city council will not touch this with a 10 foot poll. Dream on.


Like this comment
Posted by Great idea
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 26, 2008 at 10:07 am

Now if we can only get the storm drains fixed...


Like this comment
Posted by Big Dig Boston Transplant
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 26, 2008 at 10:59 am

Beautiful results, but an extremely long, drawn out, expensive, painful process.


Like this comment
Posted by Stretch
a resident of another community
on Sep 26, 2008 at 11:10 am

It's a shame that putting the trains underground wouldn't have much of a calming effect on Palo Alto. The horrendous traffic on Alma would still be there. All this would do is allow the traffic to move even faster, since there wouldn't be waits for trains to pass by. What the Peninsula needs is a system of trains (see Sweden, for example) that gets people out of their cars. Until alternative transportation is plentiful, accessible and USED, nothing will help the mess on the roads in the Bay Area.


Like this comment
Posted by Think Forward
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 26, 2008 at 11:26 am

Actually, I think this is an idea worth exploring. Our major auto arterials have significant delays at RR intersections due to train preemption. Most of these intersections, in time, will require a grade separated crossing of some kind because the city does not have right-of-way to increase auto capacity (ie. storage of cars stopped at intersections) on the arterials. Grade separation would improve arterial congestion significantly. (Although I have to say I really hate the raised berms I've seen in other communities. They create a physical divide that is worse than ugly. They are communally divisive.)Grade separation would also increase the safety of the crossings for other commuters, like bicyclists and pedestrians (especially the thousands of school-bound children on bikes and on foot).

This idea would increase the city's buildable space, providing flexibility to do creative land use planning that may add valuable room for housing uses that the state and county are pressing the city to build, as well as revenue generating, commercial and RETAIL uses. Some of that "new" land could be set aside for development of new SCHOOL sites. We will need new schools if development of this scale moves forward.

This is an idea worth exploring...not just for PA, but for other Peninsula cities, as well.

If we are going to do infill, this is the kind of visionary thinking that should be done in collaboration with decision-makers at the state and county level who, so far, have done nothing except force poorly considered housing quotas (essentially unfunded mandates) on Peninsula cities with no regard and little support for development of the necessary infrastructure (schools, transportation, parks, libraries) to support that growth. This isn't a Palo Alto problem. It's a Peninsula problem.

Think about what our community might be in twenty or thirty years. That is what our predecessors did...and their vision created the extraordinary community we enjoy today. I hope we will approach planning in the same forward-thinking way.


Like this comment
Posted by will never happen
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 26, 2008 at 11:37 am

This would be a wonderful project. It will never happen. The key point being WILL IT PENCIL OUT. It won't. The costs are absolutely prohibitive. If Palo Alto can come up with 10 billion, and if Prop 1A pssses and High Speed Rail can cough up 5 billion, then it might happen. Now just where is Palo Alto going to get $10 billion? Lots of luck.

The article seems to think this is a new approach. Over in Atherton, the idea of a tunnel has been advanced for CalTrain for several years. It isn't going to happen. The money isn't there; in point of fact just money for electrification of the CalTrain line isn't there.

What is really amazing is that Atherton and Menlo Park are concerned about Proposition 1A and the devastation it will bring to their communities, and as far as I can tell, Palo Alto is just completely asleep on the issue. Talk about dividing a community. How does the 15 foot high berm, 100 feet wide and electrical lines above grab you?

Dreams may be nice. They aren't reality. Reality is the 15 foot high wall that is coming your way.


Like this comment
Posted by sally
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 26, 2008 at 11:52 am

Sure, this is an interesting idea. But in the middle of a recession, perhaps the government should be thinking about more practical matters.


Like this comment
Posted by Never happen
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 26, 2008 at 11:57 am

Not our city leaders. Did you see who are the proponents-- City Councilman John Barton, former Mayor Bern Beecham, architect Tony Carrasco and Interim Deputy City Manager Steve Emslie?
representatives from our city counil? Have you ever known our city council to address the major issues facing us? No--it is climate change and these kind of pipe dream projects. Let's remember that the biggest accomplishment of our council in the last few years is the Homer Avenue Bike Tunnel.


Like this comment
Posted by love it
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 26, 2008 at 12:00 pm

this is the best idea so far. I love it. I hope it happens.

This way no more deaths by people jumping in front of it, no more cars running into trains, no more kids accidentally getting killed. it will enhance Palo Alto by leaps and bounds!


Like this comment
Posted by N.PA
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 26, 2008 at 12:01 pm

It's easy to be a nay sayer, but I'm with the positives of the experience of place, the value of our land, the improved quality of life, the re-connecting of our city and the benefits outweigh a pencil. Political will is renewable.

People built this city one decision at a time with negative results...why not make a positive decision that can undo the past and move toward a better future! Looks like a problem, but it can be done-Hold your nay saying and move forward like there's no alternitive and you'll see real positive change!

Also, the air route between LA and SF is the busiest in the world. During 9/11 it was quiet and wonderful!

I'd also support an underground expressway for Alma and Oregon if the State would visit that vs their pull up all our green and push farther onto our walkable narrow streets.


Like this comment
Posted by Pat Markevitch
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 26, 2008 at 12:02 pm

I floated this very idea about 3-4 years ago and people shot it down. Hopefully the citizens will be more receptive to the idea now.


Like this comment
Posted by long time PA resident
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 26, 2008 at 12:05 pm

Would the nay sayers be willing to be quiet for a little while and let people who have a dream, try to find a way to make it work. I am reminded of people who don't think we can change the way we pollute our planet or contribute to global warming. We CAN, if we choose to work at it and dream a little. I think your undergrounding ideas are excellent! I support your going full speed ahead and let's find a way to make it happen!!!


Like this comment
Posted by Richard Placone
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 26, 2008 at 12:06 pm

This is a good, but probably very expensive idea. Planners should definitely study the railroad system in Japan, which combines the bullet trains with inter- and intra- city trains and the underground system. However, a few points seem to be missing in this report:

1. What's good for Palo Alto is good for every town along the proposed route. If we tunnel here, we can expect, and rightly so, all other towns with similar situations to want tunnels. So way up goes the cost.

2. Do planners think the high speed train is going to roar through the peninsula at 220 mph? Even in Japan the bullets slow down as they approach the cities. With tunnels the trains actually could go faster on the way to SF.

3. The high speed train will not be a local when it gets to the peninsula, so we will continue to have Caltrain. This would require either a very wide tunnel or a double layer tunnel such as exists in SF that accommodates BART and the Muni. This means that the Caltrain system will have to have a series of underground stations that allow people to enter and exit the trains in virtually every place we now have Caltain stations. Up again goes the cost. Has this been thought of?

I personally plan to vote for the high speed train, though at 75 I don't ever expect to live long enough to ride it. But I think the future of our country's transportation system will require a national high speed train system such as exists in Japan and many European countries. All of this could be possible if we weren't spending close to one trillion dollars a year on the defense and military/empire building programs in which our country is engaged. I think that is the reaason other countries are light years ahead of us in developing these systems today (Japan's system is 45 years old)- we have been playing internationl police force, and even creating situations that seem to require such a force, while the rest of the world develops systems that will enable them to meet the eventual loss of cheap fossile fuel. Will we ever get to that position? I am doubtful, but the planners should dream on nonetheless.

Richard C. Placone


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 26, 2008 at 12:11 pm

This idea makes so much sense. Not for the 10 year viewpoint, but for 30 or even 50 years down the road. It can't be done piecemeal though, it needs to be done all along the track with all the cities involved taking part.

However, I think that one thing not mentioned is that this will enable Alma to become a true continuation of Central Expressway right out to Sand Hill Road. And for those who think it will increase traffic or make cars speed, then open your eyes because we have the traffic there now and the reason there is speeding is because the lights aren't sychronized to enable someone driving at the limit to sail through green lights all along the route. If someone speeds, they should only get stopped at the next light which is red. If however, they drive at the limit, they should be able to find green lights all the way.

Yes, this must be explored, not for our sakes but for the sake of our grandkids.


Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 26, 2008 at 12:34 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Total grade separation is essential for any increase in rail usage, Cheapest is vehicle overpasses and fencing, Next would be the trench, as done in Reno and the Alameda Corridor at Long Beach, which see.
Electrification is essential, but make it 25KV overhead rather than the klunky 3rd rail of BART. Keep it standard gauge and allow at least express freight on it at all hours.


Like this comment
Posted by train-track mom
a resident of Southgate
on Sep 26, 2008 at 1:08 pm

so.... I've been thinking about this since I bought my house on the railroad tracks a few years ago. What happens to the houses on the west (PALY) side of the tracks?? I can't believe they would kick us all out - does eminent domain mean they would have to buy our house, or simply declare it city property?


Like this comment
Posted by Punked!
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Sep 26, 2008 at 1:20 pm

You're kidding, right?


Like this comment
Posted by Byron Street
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 26, 2008 at 1:22 pm

Maybe we could put the Library underground too.


Like this comment
Posted by me
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 26, 2008 at 2:18 pm

Why does everyone have to be so negative about every idea that comes around? I personally think the idea of putting the trains underground to be fabulous. WHY NOT!

Having the trains underground may actually be a little more safe...especially for the children that have to cross the railroad tracks to get to school. Not to mention, it won't be quite as easy to jump in front of if it's in a tunnel.

How about if we all start looking at possibilities rather than the negative aspects of life.

LIVE A LITTLE.... and hooray to the people thinking.


Like this comment
Posted by Brian
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 26, 2008 at 3:25 pm

Me

I agree with your post - and most of the other positive ones on this thread. But you have to be realistic. The people who are constantly negative on Town Square need this outlet. This probably gives them all of the pleasure in their lives. Just be glad you're not married to one of them.


Like this comment
Posted by not a local
a resident of another community
on Sep 26, 2008 at 3:34 pm

Sure, big ideas are wonderful. But Palo Alto's "big ideas" only stretch as far as its city limits, and frequently not even that far.


Like this comment
Posted by me
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 26, 2008 at 4:29 pm

The idea is OK but too expensive. If this was done many years ago it may have worked but it won't happen in the next 10-15 years or longer, if at all.

I can't figure out why this even came up, I mean what is the Council doing to take care of basic infrastructure. As someone pointed out what about the storm drains? Can't we focus on important things that are needed now and not these grand pipe dream projects???


Like this comment
Posted by No way
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 26, 2008 at 4:59 pm

Keep it up, boys! If you like the excessive housing in town, the crowded schools, the 76 Million dollar library, the underestimated and underbuilt storm drains, the unresolved creek flooding, potential mega development by Stanford, go for it!!

Barton is a mega developer, he is in favor of every oversized building in town and on University Avenue. Carrasco is trying to get an oversized development through in College Terrace.
Not my choice for leaders for Palo Alto.


Like this comment
Posted by Brian Steen
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Sep 26, 2008 at 5:07 pm

I've long been appalled with the yearly death toll associated with the trains rolling up and down the Peninsula. People just shrug their shoulders and say "that's too bad" as though nothing can be done.

The visionaries proposing undergrounding the tracks have presented us with a way to solve many community problems in addition to the fatalities. They should be commended and supported.

We need to act now and not make this a 20 year discussion.

I'm here to help make this a reality and will work to enlist the help of others who believe in a safer and better Palo Alto.


Like this comment
Posted by Combine it with HS trrain project
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 26, 2008 at 5:19 pm

If we are going to do this, PLEASE, PLEASE, let's coordinate it from day one with the high speed rail project. I can't even begin to imagine what an ordeal it would be to do each project separately.


Like this comment
Posted by Train Rider
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 26, 2008 at 7:19 pm

A tunnel would be hugely expensive. (Is that why the 16 mile BART extension is budgeted at $6.1 billion = $381,250,000 per mile?) It would require underground stations. Tunnels also are very costly to maintain. What about elevated tracks? BART uses them in some east bay locations and the bullet train in Japan uses them in urban areas (the tunnels are for going through mountains). With properly designed electrified trains, the noise may not be that much of a problem. Of course, they aren't attractive to look at. But the construction cost may be tolerable and they could be constructed over the existing right of way, with less disruption than trenching.


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Park Neighbor
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 26, 2008 at 8:36 pm

What a great idea! Perhaps they could do different levels and add a true underground system that would have enough stops to actually provide people with usable public transit that takes them in close proximity to where they work or live. And it would be great to have Menlo Park and Atherton tie into this. Bravo for thinking outside of the "boxcar".


Like this comment
Posted by Never Happen
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 26, 2008 at 8:41 pm

The Weekly's article on tunneling or trenching is funny, strange and maybe could happen in 100 years.

All ideas are ok to consider: Flying cars have been talked about for a long time, A ladder to the moon has been talked about, setting up cities on Mars has been talked about. Not going to happen soon.

The 16+ miles of BART to S.J. is proposed to cost 6+billion $$. And much of it isn't underground.
Isn't this about 400,000,000 $$ per mile? The article said it is about 5 miles from Mt.View to Menlo Park. This would calculate out to at least $2,000,000,000? (Two billion dollars just for Palo Alto.)
Isn't it about 40 miles from San Jose to San Francisco?? this would come to about 16,000,000,000 dollars just for this line.

The most obvious reason to go underground is the 100's of millions of dollars the local developers could make from this free to them new land.
I'm sure the people in Redding, Red Bluff, Chico, Sacramento, Fresno, Bakersfield, etc,etc will be happy to help Palo Alto and other cities in this area. We need your money, help us!!!

We don't seem to be able to get the Chaucer St. bridge removed to keep large areas of Palo Alto from being flooded as happened in 1998, only 10 years ago. Or another project talked about for over 30 yeas: Putting in a underpass at Page Mill and El Camino. Or putting in underground power lines, promised about 40 years ago when fees were collected to do this. AMAZING!!!

I wrote the above in response to a later posted article (above),but will add some comments as this above writing remains in the "Add a Comment" space after sending it earlier.

I followed the local light rail construction and Mr Diridon was in charge of it. Even though it ran hundreds of millions of dollars over budget and it was long outdated before being built and it runs very slow and many auto-train crashes occurr all the time, He got this high position to run or help the obselete HSR project.
He was promoted, in my opinion, to get him out of the county and get rid of him for local projects. He has said that when he was a kid that trains were his hobby and the system was designed on this basis.(my recollection of the history). It is considered one of the slowest and worst system in the whole country. Portland and San Diego have highly rated systems for local transit I have read.

I suspect all we will get for HSR if it is built is a Amtrack train running 200 mph.
If Palo Alto got a "station" it would have to build a garage like at the big local airports. Where would that be built? Downtown, The El Camino Park? In N.Palo Alto residental area where there are mostly 60 yr old, obselete houses that don't meet any of the new codes for "Green",earthquake resistance, etc.??

Besides MAG-Lev the trains should be able to drop off cars and pick up cars (cars=sections of the train) without slowing down along the way. High tech, new technology, new designs that probably don't exist now.
Has how to deal with maybe 30,000,000 people getting off and on the trains each year just for the local section of the train. Over 100,000,000 are projected to use the train each year in the future.
How many trains each day will handle these numbers?? Go figure.


Like this comment
Posted by Clem
a resident of another community
on Sep 26, 2008 at 8:56 pm

Whatever happened to simple (i.e. non gold-plated) grade separations? There are only a handful of crossings in Palo Alto, and getting those done with road under/overpasses would be a drop in the bucket compared to this grandiose vision of tunneling.

The main gripe against high speed rail is that the cost may increase far above $40 billion. With ideas like these, that's virtually guaranteed. I can barely swallow the hot dog ($40B for HSR) but please go easy on the ketchup (umpteen billion for a tunnel).

The notion of removing the barrier formed by the tracks is nice in principle, but it's useful to remember that the tracks were there long before Palo Alto filled in around them.

Maybe we could start a collection; I'll throw in a fiver.


Like this comment
Posted by Jan
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 26, 2008 at 9:04 pm

Apparently the location of the water table, and our proximity to the Bay have not been considered.


Like this comment
Posted by Chris
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 26, 2008 at 9:05 pm

I was in Holland/Amsterdam this summer. A similar CalTrain commuter line is set up there. Only no diesel engines. They are electric. Quite. And no horns. Why no horns? Don't trains run on a dedicated path? The Dutch seem to think cross walks signs and blinking red lights provide enough warning and so blaring horns are done without. I tend to agree.

Why aren't we working with CalTrain to deliver a pollution free, electric alternative with less noise? We can use the existing infrastructure and routes without excavating mother earth any further. This seems like a more pragmatic solution. And a less costly one by comparison.


Like this comment
Posted by Cave Dweller
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 26, 2008 at 9:34 pm

"IDEA....put all major transportation arteries in Palo Alto underground (University Ave, Hamilton, California Ave, Embarcadero, etc.).
In fact...why not put El Camino underground where it runs through PA? "

Don't laugh, I'm sure the Greeniacs would love that. If we put EVERYTHING underground then we can return everything above ground to the way it was before modern man messed it all up. Maybe since we'd all basically be living in caves, we should just go back to living like the cave men did, with nothing but a few rocks and sticks instead of iPhones and BMW's. Now that would solve the traffic problems.

If we're going to throw money we don't have at a problem, why don't we try spending a little on education, especially parent education and child development. If we invested a little more in our children and helping their parents be better role models we would have a smarter and more rational city council in the generations to come. And I don't mean making sure they all go to Stanford, I mean creating generations of good, honest people that have enough intelligence and common sense to make rational decisions. Spending millions or billions trying to put diesel trains underground is an irrational, stupid and wasteful idea that at best should be at the bottom of the money spending idea list.


Like this comment
Posted by Clem
a resident of another community
on Sep 26, 2008 at 10:26 pm

> Why aren't we working with CalTrain to deliver a pollution free, electric alternative with less noise?

Caltrain is already headed in that direction. Here's an overview briefing of electrification plans by Bob Doty, Caltrain's chief of operations, presented to the JPB (Caltrain's board of directors) earlier this month.
Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Council goes Beserk
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 26, 2008 at 10:45 pm

Mister, Mister, get the power lines to go undergound first.


Like this comment
Posted by common sense
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 27, 2008 at 2:39 am

"Whatever happened to simple (i.e. non gold-plated) grade separations? There are only a handful of crossings in Palo Alto, and getting those done with road under/overpasses would be a drop in the bucket compared to this grandiose vision of tunneling."

Common sense.

How about we get mass transit COORDINATED on the Peninsula. Work on that instead of these idiotic supervisions that will never happen. That includes high speed rail (until it's electric, and quiet).


Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 27, 2008 at 7:19 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Total grade separation and sound walls, then electrification, and private jitney service to all stations. Trains running into Grand Central Station have been dual power, running electric while underground for almost a century. Operate corridor as a public right of way, allowing competing rail services. Use overhead for another transmission line corridor up to Frisco to bring in all that lovely solar and wind power.


Like this comment
Posted by Steve Taffee
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 27, 2008 at 9:21 am

"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." Albert Einstein

The idea of putting tracks underground is exactly the kind of thinking that I wish the leaders of Menlo Park would engage in instead of trying to stop the development of high speed rail. Climate change requires great thinking and creative, some may say even audacious, ideas. Whether this specific idea would work or not is not the point. We need to think outside the box to get out of the corner we've painted ourselves into.


Like this comment
Posted by Michael Fogel
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 27, 2008 at 11:23 am

If Berkeley pulled this off back in the 60's, why can't Palo Alto today?

If we built the Golden Gate in the great depression, why can't we build a world-class high speed rail system today?

This is Palo Alto's _one_ chance to remove the 100' barrier through our community. The 'Palo Alto Wall'. Investment into long-term infrastructure like this will pay dividends back into our community long after you and I are gone. Don't shrink away from a challenge like this... let's make it happen.

As soon as Prop 1A passes, the city needs to (possibly with Menlo Park and Atherton together) commission a study to explore the full range of benefits and costs this idea supplies. Congrads to the Palo Alto city council and community for thinking positively and actively about this opportunity - in contrast to our neighbors to the north.


Like this comment
Posted by Richard
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 27, 2008 at 4:20 pm

The best part of this proposal is that is finally something that Walter and I agree on (except I wouldn't use the word "jitney")!


Like this comment
Posted by common sense
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 27, 2008 at 4:49 pm

"Our economy is in shambles. Energy prices are soaring, as is the national debt. We are spending billions of dollars and thousands of lives searching for non-existent WMDs. Terrorist forces are strengthening because we have neglected the war in Afghanistan. America has lost its reputation as the world's moral and economic super-power."

It's a bad idea, because alternatives like the one Walter suggested make so much more economic sense. Another thing: we're in an earthquake zone! Why would anyone suggest placing something like this underground unless there was no other choice (like transbay BART)?


Like this comment
Posted by common sense
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 27, 2008 at 4:49 pm

"Our economy is in shambles. Energy prices are soaring, as is the national debt. We are spending billions of dollars and thousands of lives searching for non-existent WMDs. Terrorist forces are strengthening because we have neglected the war in Afghanistan. America has lost its reputation as the world's moral and economic super-power."

It's a bad idea, because alternatives like the one Walter suggested make so much more economic sense. Another thing: we're in an earthquake zone! Why would anyone suggest placing something like this underground unless there was no other choice (like transbay BART)?


Like this comment
Posted by bond anyone?
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 27, 2008 at 7:56 pm

This sounds great in principle. But how will we pay for it? Please, no more bonds! They are crushing a lot of people!


Like this comment
Posted by Dave
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 27, 2008 at 9:54 pm

Whoever commented that this is a fifty-year notion is on the mark: it's nowhere near a "soon" thing! But if it's ever going to happen (wouldn't that be nice!) the idea has to be floated early enough to start planning for it. (Or in the case of Atherton and Menlo: start planning to prevent it. Stupid, stupid, stupid.)

I wonder how many of the commenters here are actually paying attention to the current railroad work at the Palo Alto Caltrain stations. California Ave has had the most work ... add a new pedestrian underpass, accessible to wheelchairs and bicycles, and a whole new northbound platform. Pretty much replace the southbound one too. Two trains will be able to use the station at the same time! The downtown station is getting updated too; not as substantial.

It would be foolish to discard all that construction. Wait twenty or thirty years, and get the value out of that current investment!

On the other hand, there's a LOT to be said for simpler grade separation schemes at various other places. For reasons of safety, more than traffic, in my opinion. And in fact I thought that the Prop 1A funds were in part to pay for such improvements...


Like this comment
Posted by reality
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 28, 2008 at 12:28 am

To the Southgate person who wanted to know if their house was going to be torn down, the Caltrain corridor is wide enough to accommodate 4 train tracks without acquiring any new property. Also, this idea is ridiculous. I live less than one block away from the tracks, and the trains don't bother me. Put it above ground so that we can eliminate grade crossings IF Prop 1A passes, don't spend billions of dollars to put it below ground.


Like this comment
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 28, 2008 at 3:52 am

Where are the priorities? Recent crime, hundreds of millions in backlog for infrastructure repair; a city budget that doesn't properly staff maintanence positions (read the library bond measure), housing developments that are overcrowding schools and traffic, and what about some progress on flood control for the creek?

Can this council ever focus on solving some basic issues that doesn't involving asking the residents for more money?


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 28, 2008 at 4:52 am

In regards to trenching and tunneling, groundwater may be a problem. It may be difficult and costly to control, and also contaminated.

Additionally, the soils around railroad tracks are also often contaminated.

This may be costly to remediate.


Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 28, 2008 at 5:24 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

See my enumerated suggestions up the page.


Like this comment
Posted by Only Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 28, 2008 at 6:17 am

I don't see how it is possible to run diesel locomotives through a long underground tunnel. Undergrounding would require electrifying the system and replacing the locomotive fleet for all of CalTrain. So now we're talking how many hundreds of millions for undergrounding, electrification and dealing with the water table? And you've just thrown away the millions spent on new trackage which was put in for the baby bullets and is approximately five years old.

Also, what is the point of undergrounding this long stretch of track which has *no grade crossings* for several miles, from Churchill all the way down to East Meadow? I'm sure the people in Blythe (California) would just love to help pay for a deluxe rail system going through Palo Alto.

Know why there are so many trees in Palo Alto? Because money grows on them.


Like this comment
Posted by Spokker
a resident of another community
on Sep 28, 2008 at 10:39 am

"Undergrounding would require electrifying the system and replacing the locomotive fleet for all of CalTrain."

Caltrain is planning on doing this with or without HSR. However, passing prop 1 would kill two birds with one stone.


Like this comment
Posted by a bit of knowledge
a resident of another community
on Sep 28, 2008 at 10:40 am

It would be nice if writers who put out what are supposedly facts really knew what they were talking about:

Reality write:

To the Southgate person who wanted to know if their house was going to be torn down, the Caltrain corridor is wide enough to accommodate 4 train tracks without acquiring any new property.

WRONG WRONG WRONG. The corridor is not wide enough for 4 tracks everywhere. In Menlo Park, thee are some 60 wide sections. With a underground passage you need over 100 feet for four tracks. There will be land takings in some spots.

Only me:

The system will run on electricity for the passenger trains. The problem with freight trains from UPRR, which will no doubt try to continue to use diesel, I don't know how that will be solved.

This whole thread is based on the wrong premise. The High Speed Rail Authority has no intention of going underground -- Morshed has already said that. They don't have nearly enough funds to even consider this kind of an option. The tunnel planned to enter the station at SF, is to be paid for by other funds, not from the Authority.

Now if Palo Alto and Menlo Park think they can raise 6 to 10 billion of their own funds, together with say the 2 billion that the Authority will contribute, you might have a start to something useful.

Any rail person will tell you tunneling is expensive. Tunneling for 4 tracks is just plain out of sight. What about going under the Creek? Now your talking really BIG dollars.

It is disappointing that the PA council has yet to have a serious discussion on just what Proposition 1A will bring to Palo Alto. Menlo Park and Atherton have studied the problem reached the conclusion, No on Prop 1A.

I think under grounding the tracks is truly a wonderful proposition. You are not going to get that with Prop 1A. In fact with the kind of transportation funds that must be poured into this project, there would never be any chance for under grounding the tracks; they will be raised for this project, PERIOD.


Like this comment
Posted by Spokker
a resident of another community
on Sep 28, 2008 at 10:40 am

"Another thing: we're in an earthquake zone! Why would anyone suggest placing something like this underground unless there was no other choice"

A subway is one of the safest places to be during an earthquake. Tokyo is prime territory for earthquakes and they have a labyrinth subway network. During the Northride earthquake, while freeways were collapsing in Los Angeles, the subway did not sustain any damage.


Like this comment
Posted by Stanford is behind them
a resident of Southgate
on Sep 28, 2008 at 1:21 pm

These 3 men all have close ties to Stanford. They have always been in favor of large developments. Barton was even given a job by the university recently.
You can't discuss the project without taking Stanford development interests - not Palo Alto's - into account.


Like this comment
Posted by Rajiv
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 28, 2008 at 9:03 pm

I love this idea. High speed rail is very attractive, but the notion of 4 lanes of trains buzzing by an elevated track would turn Palo Alto noisier and uglier. So many cities get cut apart by these elevations reducing sunlight to nearby homes. We would go from a dense but suburban feel to a completely urban one.

Tunneling sounds more expensive than trenching or building elevated tracks, but if you can keep operations running at the same time, it could be worth it. Talking about it now is much better than later. Trying to rope in reluctant but wealthy communities like Atherton and Menlo Park can turn this from a trade-off into a trade-on.

Having HSR would be a huge boon for California. It's super green, would reduce CO2 emitting plane and auto travel. It would reduce planned infrastructure expense. The convenience for SF and Peninsula residents would be tremendous. Undergrounding the tracks would be an amazing benefit to the city.

There are lots of skeptics, but this idea is worth exploring. We live in an amazing region that has been an engine of innovation for the world. We live in Palo Alto because of the high quality of life.

Compliments to Barton, Beecham, Carrasco and Emslie for thinking out of the box on this!

Thanks to Clem for the video link to the Caltrain planning presentation - very helpful.


Like this comment
Posted by Tom West
a resident of another community
on Sep 29, 2008 at 6:26 am

Why does no-one ever suggest putting a BRIDGE over the railway tracks? Much cheaper than a tunnel.


Like this comment
Posted by Tom West
a resident of another community
on Sep 29, 2008 at 6:27 am

Why does no-one ever suggest putting a BRIDGE over the railway tracks? Much cheaper than a tunnel.


Like this comment
Posted by Only Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 29, 2008 at 7:41 am

With HSR, the only way CO2 and greenhouse gases will be reduced is if the airlines cut flights and people stop driving and take the train instead. OK, let's fantasize for a moment and say this happens, and the train attracts 50% of all current air and auto travelers between SoCal and SJ/SF. If that were to happen, how many hundreds of passengers per day would HSR dump off at dinky Cahill station which has no long-term parking and no rental car facilities? It was built in 1935 and was never intended to be a transportation hub on the scale of a major airport. The same applies to the depot at 4th and Townsend in SF. Now if HSR connected with SJO it would be a different story, but this is illustrative of how abjectly ill-conceived the HSR plan is.

It'll be great if CalTrain is electrified, but I can't fathom the peninsula having not one but two redundant multi-hundred-million-dollar passenger train services. IMO HSR should connect with San Jose airport and go directly to Oakland airport, bypassing the peninsula altogether. If you want to go to the city, take a baby bullet.


Like this comment
Posted by Civitas
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 29, 2008 at 10:44 am

Who pays?


Like this comment
Posted by Good question
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 29, 2008 at 4:26 pm

I'd be in favor of tunneling as I hate the sight of trains on overpasses. I agree now would be the time to look into tunnels.

RE: HSR. Only Me raises a good question about why it wouldn't end in SJ rather than SF. How long would people have to wait anyway if they transfer to baby bullet from there? Surely Caltrain is planning on running more bullets throughout the day, tho' now they only run during commutes. I can't imagine the wait would be more than a half hour.


Like this comment
Posted by Clem
a resident of another community
on Sep 29, 2008 at 5:05 pm

> there would never be any chance for under grounding the tracks; they will be raised for this project, PERIOD.

PERIOD? Why? It is much simpler and less intrusive to leave them at grade, just the way they are today. What few grade crossings there are in Palo Alto (I can count them on one hand!) can be eliminated by raising / lowering the roads.

The notion that the tracks MUST either be raised or lowered (one of the basic premises of this story) is absurd.

> If you want to go to the city, take a baby bullet.

Don't be fooled by 'bullet' terminology. That would require changing trains, and a 40 minute longer ride. The HSR will make SJ - SF in a bit over 20 minutes, at a leisurely 125 mph.


Like this comment
Posted by Tom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 29, 2008 at 7:41 pm

"Remember the Alamo", "Remember the Maine", "Remember Pearl Harbor" and
-------"Remember Boston's Big Dig"...$$$$$$$$". Any questions?


Like this comment
Posted by Only Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 30, 2008 at 5:53 am

If you're in such a dang hurry to get from LA to SF or SJ, fly. Charter a jet if you have to. Last year I seriously considered taking the train between LA and SF in December because I didn't want to drive I5 in the tule fog. Between train fare and car rental it was much cheaper to drive (and gas prices were on the way up at the time). I told some people about it and they said Amtrak generally runs several hours behind schedule. If Amtrak can't make the trains run on time how will Cal HSR be able to? If the trains consistently run behind schedule it defeats the whole purpose of having HSR; your 3-hour trip turns into 6. If you want to improve rail transit in CA, start by making Amtrak run on time.

Running HSR up the peninsula duplicates the service of CalTrain at great cost, and once in SF the train has nowhere to go. If it bypassed the peninsula and went up to Oakland, it could continue on to Sacramento.

BTW I grew up between High and Emerson so don't talk to me about the noise. After a while you tune it out.


Like this comment
Posted by Mike-Crescent Park
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 30, 2008 at 12:19 pm

Here is an equally practical possibility:
Let's put a few hundred million into research on making things invisible. Then we can take railroads, cars or any other unsightly things in our community and have them disappear from our lives.

And at less (projected) cost than tunnels.


Like this comment
Posted by Anonymous with knowledge
a resident of another community
on Oct 2, 2008 at 11:06 pm

"If Amtrak can't make the trains run on time how will Cal HSR be able to?"

Amtrak has to sit behind freight trains. HSR will have its own tracks. You seriously didn't you know that already? The main problem with Amtrak is that it gets stuck behind freight trains, since the freight trains own the track. Where there are no freight trains, or where the freight trains are tenants and Amtrak owns the tracks, Amtrak runs on time.


"Surely Caltrain is planning on running more bullets throughout the day, tho' now they only run during commutes. I can't imagine the wait would be more than a half hour"

No. Caltrain can't run bullets throughout the day, because pretty much every bullet they run prevents a train from running in the "reverse" direction, because there are only two tracks.

Running HSR up the peninsula does not "duplicate Caltrain". It allows Caltrain to expand. Caltrain is getting mighty cramped with only two tracks and lots of grade crossings. You know how hard it is to run both "bullets" (expresses) and reverse-peak trains when you only have two tracks?....

A third track would allow them to run more local service in both directions all day long, AND run more expresses. And the third track could also be used by the super-express High Speed Rail. A fourth track would provide enough capacity for BART-frequency local service, baby bullets, bullets, and HSR.

*That* is the Caltrain/HSR plan. It's sad to see such inaccurate information about it.

I dunno if tunnelling is worth it. Tunnels per se aren't really that expensive any more, but underground stations cost a fortune. Palo Alto may find that it can get its tunnel only by losing its station, which would be a really bad deal.

Or perhaps the express tracks could run through a tunnel, skipping the station, and the existing tracks could stay where they are, stopping at the existing station. That would make a lot of sense, but wouldn't please the developers.

Either way, the *best* reason for a tunnel would be if it involved bypassing a major hill or mountain by running straight. Palo Alto doesn't meet that standard; on the Caltrain route, only San Bruno Mt. State Park would be beneficial to tunnel under for purposes of speed and directness.


Like this comment
Posted by infowolf1
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 5, 2008 at 2:19 pm

infowolf1 is a registered user.

This is nonsensical, and even worse than Measure N, which is not
unlike the Measure D that voters rejected in 2002.

The idea of experiencing Alma as a grand boulevard is absurd.
It doesn't have the capability of this, without widening and
major work along it anyway.

More expenditures.

WHO GAINS?

Follow the money trail. I haven't yet, but I know from word of
mouth, that the construction people sometimes, ah, party with
political leaders in San Mateo County, and the latter are part
of a socio philosophical casual network that incl. Beecham and
a few others here.

That suggests to me, that although this whole thing is round
robin style done, keeping the people and agencies involved at
enough removed from each other to be legal, it is in fact at
base a means of picking the public pocked and scratching each
other's backs.

The gain may not be close enough to prosecute as conflict of
interest, ever. But when you have understandings, shall we say,
and most people involved or potentially involved are part of
the same thing, you have as good a kickback and profiteering
situation as when it is obvious by being too immediately close
and therefore within the legal definition of conflict of interest
and unethical gain.

Someone should look into this a lot closer. I think the public
would be surprised at what relationships with relationships with
relationships who all gain somehow or another, shake out of the
woodwork, so to speak.


Like this comment
Posted by Mar
a resident of another community
on Feb 12, 2009 at 7:17 am

How about us along the corridor in Sunnyvale?
We own our home a block away from the tracks?


Like this comment
Posted by go Mar!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 12, 2009 at 8:20 am

Mar, what's your city council doing about it? Ours didn't start acting until the neighbors woke up and realized that the HSR is going past their backyards and a 15 foot wall will run through most of town. The residents in turn prodded the council into action. Our council is still more excited about the prospect of a station than what it'll do to the residents.

This is going to have a MAJOR IMPACT on the entire Bay Area. Without community concern, your council isn't going to do much. Push them! The deadline for getting your comments (and your council's official comments) accepted is March 6. If you don't raise issues, they'll think you're okay with the plan 'as is'.

If you'd rather have the tracks underground (and who wouldn't?) you've got to gather support now.


Like this comment
Posted by Mar
a resident of another community
on Feb 12, 2009 at 3:55 pm

I'm calling City Hall here today.


Like this comment
Posted by No thanks
a resident of Southgate
on Feb 13, 2009 at 4:32 pm

The tunnel is very expensive but John Barton has the solution already in a picture.
High density housing built on top of the tunnel. If HIGH DENSITY housing is the price for the tunnel, I say NO WAY.
Good try, Mr. Developer Barton. But no thanks. You want to make money off of us no matter what happens. No, thanks.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Rolled ice cream coming to Mountain View
By Elena Kadvany | 5 comments | 2,700 views

We’ve Been Married About a Year . . .
By Chandrama Anderson | 5 comments | 1,203 views

Italy By The Bay
By Laura Stec | 5 comments | 1,194 views

Joining in
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 654 views