News

Ideas abound at high-speed-rail workshop

Residents from Palo Alto neighborhoods brainstorm about California's ambitious -- and controversial -- project

Residents from five Palo Alto neighborhoods, Menlo Park and Atherton, defined their visions for the California high-speed-rail project at a workshop Saturday.

The two-day workshop, sponsored by the Peninsula Cities Consortium, brought together residents, city and Caltrain officials, architects, and experts in transportation, geology, tunneling, historic resources, finance and public art to discuss the visionary futures for the rail corridor.

The consensus was for undergrounded tracks with parks, community gardens, a bicycle boulevard, green spaces, shops and streets to connect neighborhoods now divided by the at-grade and elevated tracks.

The residents' plans were critiqued by experts Sunday. Their findings will be presented at an upcoming public meeting at the Sheraton Palo Alto Hotel, 625 El Camino Real, Palo Alto.

Most groups said tunneling the trains seemed the best alternatve -- but they recognized the complexity and cost. The groups considered boring deep beneath creeks and avoiding damage to El Palo Alto, the city's iconic redwood.

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They looked at changes in elevation for tracks wending through the maze of subterranean obstacles. And they looked at ways to fund the project.

South Palo Alto's vision -- "Rethinking South Palo Alto" -- put all of the trains underground in the area from San Antonio Road to East Charleston Road. A bike and pedestrian path would be added over the top with a landscape buffer between the path and Alma Street, group members said.

Existing adjacent land uses could be extended to the train right-of-way, linking parks, retail and housing to the transit line and the bike-pedestrian corridor.

"The idea is to create spaces where people want to be," said Maryanne Welton, a project manager and the group's table captain. The open space created by under-grounding the trains could also provide space for more soccer fields, a dilemma long under discussion in the city.

Streets now hampered by the train tracks, such as Ventura Avenue, could be connected all the way through, knitting the two sides of Alma Street, the group said.

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The second group, representing California Avenue, envisioned "California Connections." They looked at ways to further incorporate California Avenue's retail center into the transit hub.

"We looked at all elevation scenarios, not just to default to the tunnel," Gary Laymon, the group's leader and a landscape architect, said.

Putting the tracks in a U-trench with periodic crossings could save money, but a tunnel provides opportunities to do something different on the surface, he said.

A continuous bike path and linear park on top could extend all the way from California Avenue to University Avenue, with sculptures, an outdoor café and a small performance arena to enhance California Avenue's concept as the "Avenue of the Arts."

Dense housing and a parking structure could also be incorporated along the corridor.

The group also considered "neighborhood connectivity" a primary goal -- bringing one side of the tracks together with the other and promoting access from Old Palo Alto. The group sketched in safety remedies, such as adding stoplights at Seale Avenue and a drop-off for shuttle users.

Residents from the Palo Alto High School/Southgate/Evergreen Park neighborhoods between Embarcadero Road and south of Churchill Avenue considered "a modified trench with some cantilevered portions."

The partially covered trench would recover some of the lost real estate while providing air vents to the underground. Safe houses for emergency medical supplies and community buildings could be added on the reclaimed land, group members said.

A bike path would lead to the Paly track area and housing for teachers could be built along the recovered land. The group also considered ways to keep Caltrain running during construction, by stacking two tracks above one another.

Downtown Palo Alto's vision is for "Reunification -- reclaiming our land," group members said.

The area has "two very attractive regional commercial centers, but they are not connected," residents said. Stanford Shopping Center and Stanford University would connect to downtown by bringing University Avenue back up to grade rather than under the train track, connecting across Alma, El Camino and onto Palm Drive.

The east and west sides of El Camino Real would be reconnected by creating bike and pedestrian routes, they said. A north-south bikeway would link the area to California Avenue and Menlo Park.

Undergrounding the trains would provide reclaimed land to create an attractive boulevard of shops, an arts or cultural center, and cafes to link the two retail areas. The existing sports field off El Camino Real would remain.

University Avenue's Caltrain station would be a high-speed-rail station and "an anchor for the whole area," residents said, with commuter parking, and bus, taxi and shuttle connections.

Envisioning a "Green Connection," the Menlo Park-Palo Alto border area group recommended undergrounding the trains below San Francisquito Creek. A new green belt would incorporate the creek and playing fields, to be paid for through a variety of existing federal and state funds.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has funds for creek restoration, while the Federal Highways Administration has funds for safe crossings through its safety program and the National Park Service has funding through its Rivers and Trails program, the group leader said.

A connection to link to Alma and Quarry Road would also link to Stanford and the shopping center, they said.

Some groups suggested the project could be funded by a one-percent sales tax hike, as was done in Berkeley when Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) was built. Others suggested a voter-approved 30-year property-tax fee could cover costs.

Menlo Park and Atherton residents also considered undergrounding the trains, with some proposals to bend Alma closer to downtown Menlo Park and reconfigure El Camino Real. Alluvial soil from the tunnel could be used for South Bay levee restoration, they said.

A series of videos from the meeting will be linked on the Peninsula Cities Consortium website in November at www.peninsularail.com.

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Ideas abound at high-speed-rail workshop

Residents from Palo Alto neighborhoods brainstorm about California's ambitious -- and controversial -- project

by / Palo Alto Online

Uploaded: Sun, Oct 4, 2009, 1:05 pm

Residents from five Palo Alto neighborhoods, Menlo Park and Atherton, defined their visions for the California high-speed-rail project at a workshop Saturday.

The two-day workshop, sponsored by the Peninsula Cities Consortium, brought together residents, city and Caltrain officials, architects, and experts in transportation, geology, tunneling, historic resources, finance and public art to discuss the visionary futures for the rail corridor.

The consensus was for undergrounded tracks with parks, community gardens, a bicycle boulevard, green spaces, shops and streets to connect neighborhoods now divided by the at-grade and elevated tracks.

The residents' plans were critiqued by experts Sunday. Their findings will be presented at an upcoming public meeting at the Sheraton Palo Alto Hotel, 625 El Camino Real, Palo Alto.

Most groups said tunneling the trains seemed the best alternatve -- but they recognized the complexity and cost. The groups considered boring deep beneath creeks and avoiding damage to El Palo Alto, the city's iconic redwood.

They looked at changes in elevation for tracks wending through the maze of subterranean obstacles. And they looked at ways to fund the project.

South Palo Alto's vision -- "Rethinking South Palo Alto" -- put all of the trains underground in the area from San Antonio Road to East Charleston Road. A bike and pedestrian path would be added over the top with a landscape buffer between the path and Alma Street, group members said.

Existing adjacent land uses could be extended to the train right-of-way, linking parks, retail and housing to the transit line and the bike-pedestrian corridor.

"The idea is to create spaces where people want to be," said Maryanne Welton, a project manager and the group's table captain. The open space created by under-grounding the trains could also provide space for more soccer fields, a dilemma long under discussion in the city.

Streets now hampered by the train tracks, such as Ventura Avenue, could be connected all the way through, knitting the two sides of Alma Street, the group said.

The second group, representing California Avenue, envisioned "California Connections." They looked at ways to further incorporate California Avenue's retail center into the transit hub.

"We looked at all elevation scenarios, not just to default to the tunnel," Gary Laymon, the group's leader and a landscape architect, said.

Putting the tracks in a U-trench with periodic crossings could save money, but a tunnel provides opportunities to do something different on the surface, he said.

A continuous bike path and linear park on top could extend all the way from California Avenue to University Avenue, with sculptures, an outdoor café and a small performance arena to enhance California Avenue's concept as the "Avenue of the Arts."

Dense housing and a parking structure could also be incorporated along the corridor.

The group also considered "neighborhood connectivity" a primary goal -- bringing one side of the tracks together with the other and promoting access from Old Palo Alto. The group sketched in safety remedies, such as adding stoplights at Seale Avenue and a drop-off for shuttle users.

Residents from the Palo Alto High School/Southgate/Evergreen Park neighborhoods between Embarcadero Road and south of Churchill Avenue considered "a modified trench with some cantilevered portions."

The partially covered trench would recover some of the lost real estate while providing air vents to the underground. Safe houses for emergency medical supplies and community buildings could be added on the reclaimed land, group members said.

A bike path would lead to the Paly track area and housing for teachers could be built along the recovered land. The group also considered ways to keep Caltrain running during construction, by stacking two tracks above one another.

Downtown Palo Alto's vision is for "Reunification -- reclaiming our land," group members said.

The area has "two very attractive regional commercial centers, but they are not connected," residents said. Stanford Shopping Center and Stanford University would connect to downtown by bringing University Avenue back up to grade rather than under the train track, connecting across Alma, El Camino and onto Palm Drive.

The east and west sides of El Camino Real would be reconnected by creating bike and pedestrian routes, they said. A north-south bikeway would link the area to California Avenue and Menlo Park.

Undergrounding the trains would provide reclaimed land to create an attractive boulevard of shops, an arts or cultural center, and cafes to link the two retail areas. The existing sports field off El Camino Real would remain.

University Avenue's Caltrain station would be a high-speed-rail station and "an anchor for the whole area," residents said, with commuter parking, and bus, taxi and shuttle connections.

Envisioning a "Green Connection," the Menlo Park-Palo Alto border area group recommended undergrounding the trains below San Francisquito Creek. A new green belt would incorporate the creek and playing fields, to be paid for through a variety of existing federal and state funds.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has funds for creek restoration, while the Federal Highways Administration has funds for safe crossings through its safety program and the National Park Service has funding through its Rivers and Trails program, the group leader said.

A connection to link to Alma and Quarry Road would also link to Stanford and the shopping center, they said.

Some groups suggested the project could be funded by a one-percent sales tax hike, as was done in Berkeley when Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) was built. Others suggested a voter-approved 30-year property-tax fee could cover costs.

Menlo Park and Atherton residents also considered undergrounding the trains, with some proposals to bend Alma closer to downtown Menlo Park and reconfigure El Camino Real. Alluvial soil from the tunnel could be used for South Bay levee restoration, they said.

A series of videos from the meeting will be linked on the Peninsula Cities Consortium website in November at www.peninsularail.com.

Comments

Tristan
Menlo Park
on Oct 4, 2009 at 2:48 pm
Tristan, Menlo Park
on Oct 4, 2009 at 2:48 pm

HSR $108 roundtrip SF to LA, 380 miles each way. Yeah right! Its 410 miles Paris to Marseille and the roundtrip 2nd class ticket is $292 plus $30 for seat reservations (check out the EuroRail site). London to Paris 215 miles, roundtrip 2nd class full fare $582 and discount fares average when available $200 plus $12 premier train fee. Someone needs to redo their math at HSR. It's always nice to fudge/lie about the facts to get your way. Politicians do it when they're running for office all the time and Diridon and Kopp are masters at fudging and half-truths, just old school politicians who want their names in lights. They could care less about the true needs of the state's citizens. The only folks who are going to benefit are the ones who own the land on the rail route and those who build it - friends of D&K? Oh and don't forget the HSR will need security akin to airport security - the Paris London train requires arriving at least 30 min early for security each direction - which increases HSR's LA-SF travel time by 20%.

Better that we spend the $40 billion plus dollars on education pre-school through college. Our education systems is currently one of the worst in the nation. Improving our ed system will go much further in improving the economics and quality of life in California. And that improvement will last much longer than a few thousand short-term rail jobs that only help a small portion of the states present and future businesses and employees. Our health system could use some money also.

Pres Obama please refuse the stimulus money for Calif HSR and instead put into our education system where it is really needed and will do the most good for the most people!


expat brit
Old Palo Alto
on Oct 4, 2009 at 9:28 pm
expat brit, Old Palo Alto
on Oct 4, 2009 at 9:28 pm

In practice London<->Paris can be made for less than 80 pounds return. Done that more than once.


Snow job
Crescent Park
on Oct 4, 2009 at 10:53 pm
Snow job, Crescent Park
on Oct 4, 2009 at 10:53 pm

The lofty PR on Sunday was very polished. They were bringing Love and Peace and Togetherness with the HSR. They are going to "heal" the divide between east and west by making it easy to pass over or under the tracks and El Camino. This is a problem? This is a problem that will be solved by High Speed Rail line? Yes, they were serious.
Lots of architects were there to get in on the future big bucks.


Rafael
another community
on Oct 5, 2009 at 6:00 am
Rafael, another community
on Oct 5, 2009 at 6:00 am

A four-track bored tunnel would be stupendously expensive, not least because it would need to reach far beyond Palo Alto city limits. UPRR traffic is limiting gradients to 1%, electric HSR and future Caltrain EMU trains could handle 3.5%. Four tracks would also require tunneling under residential properties, with the risk of subsidence. Massive (and loud!) extraction fans would be required not just to cope with UPRR's diesel exhaust but also to cope with potential tunnel fires.

Was there even a single civil engineer with tunnel construction expertise at this workshop? Or was it all just architects and ladies who lunch?


Anonymous
Downtown North
on Oct 5, 2009 at 4:31 pm
Anonymous, Downtown North
on Oct 5, 2009 at 4:31 pm

Electrify Caltrain as-is, stop High Speed Rail in San Jose, and be done with it!


ndienz
College Terrace
on Oct 5, 2009 at 7:38 pm
ndienz, College Terrace
on Oct 5, 2009 at 7:38 pm

Anon, let me add to your comment:

Electrify AND grade-separate Caltrain as-is, stop High Speed Rail in San Jose, and be done with it!


John
Meadow Park
on Oct 5, 2009 at 9:31 pm
John, Meadow Park
on Oct 5, 2009 at 9:31 pm

Amen to:

Electrify AND grade-separate Caltrain as-is, stop High Speed Rail in San Jose, and be done with it!

To cut the peninsula in two for this boondoggle is ridiculous! And there will not be a tunnel at 1/2 billion per mile in 2009 dollars!


resident
Midtown
on Oct 5, 2009 at 10:24 pm
resident, Midtown
on Oct 5, 2009 at 10:24 pm

HSR should be routed over Altamount pass to relieve commute congestion instead of opening wilderness area to development.


WilliamR
Fairmeadow
on Oct 5, 2009 at 11:13 pm
WilliamR, Fairmeadow
on Oct 5, 2009 at 11:13 pm

When is a grade separation not a grade separation? That is, how would an electrified, grade-separated Caltrain look any different than the HSR proposals? And if the HSR line stopped in San Jose, you would have faster and more-frequent Caltrains to carry the additional passenger load, so I don't see how much net gain there would be to such a plan.

To me, stopping the HSR line in San Jose is a 'back-door' way of killing the entire project.


Anonymous
Downtown North
on Oct 6, 2009 at 10:16 am
Anonymous, Downtown North
on Oct 6, 2009 at 10:16 am

WilliamR, build the central valley HSR components first, prove the system's viability, and then expand the metropolitan systems as needed.


Talk to the people who matter
South of Midtown
on Oct 7, 2009 at 12:22 pm
Talk to the people who matter, South of Midtown
on Oct 7, 2009 at 12:22 pm

Complaining on Palo Alto Online is a waste of time. Send your comments to decision-making bodies in Sacramento and Washington. Do it NOW when it counts. Also, you can get involved in the Environmental Review process. Do work that actually might make a difference. Otherwise, you are WASTING your time and energy blowing steam.


Andrew
Mountain View
on Oct 7, 2009 at 8:42 pm
Andrew, Mountain View
on Oct 7, 2009 at 8:42 pm

Tristan,

Never book tickets on EuroRail.com/Eurail.com!! Looking on SNCF, you can get a one way Paris to Marseille ticket for 62 euro one way (no seat reservation fee required). Sure, this is more than USD $108, but if our dollar wasn't so darn weak it'd be more comparable.


Sharon
Midtown
on Oct 7, 2009 at 9:09 pm
Sharon, Midtown
on Oct 7, 2009 at 9:09 pm

HSR was envisioned before the development of broadband, read HP and Cisco projections of the decline of the need for business travel.

China is an industrial economy, brawn, we are a knowledge economy, brain. China needs to move human meat around, we do not.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


The Real Sharon
Midtown
on Oct 8, 2009 at 8:37 am
The Real Sharon, Midtown
on Oct 8, 2009 at 8:37 am

"China needs to move human meat around"

What a rude, derogatory comment.

"I have led many multimillion projects in which most members never met face to face"

give us a list please of projects you led. You were also at the WTC on 9/11 and you went to school with Daniel Pearl

"Take the Blue Train in LA some time to see what these socialist dreams look like, no security,high crime, nobody buys tickets"

Some supporting documents to back up your above claims

You are also Perspective, Sharon
(Web Link




How can this work?
South of Midtown
on Oct 8, 2009 at 11:40 am
How can this work?, South of Midtown
on Oct 8, 2009 at 11:40 am

So...if the the land over the tunneled HSR tracks gets developed, who gets those revenues?...the city or the railroads? Who pays for mitigating the impacts of the additional cartrips and school children and other service needs generated by those developments? If the railraods get the money, are they REQUIRED to spend all the money they make by developing their Palo Alto property in Palo Alto or can they spend it anywhere they want?

A lot of assumptions are being made here that probably should be investigated. CPA canot afford hundreds of millions in mitigation costs. An elevated train would be devastating. How can this work?

Why are our local papers not doing extensive investigative reporting on issues around this enormous project? Reporting has been very superficial.


R.Gordon
another community
on Oct 9, 2009 at 1:57 pm
R.Gordon, another community
on Oct 9, 2009 at 1:57 pm

Thanks to "the real Sharon" for calling that other one on her rude, crude and derogatory comments.
Why is it that nobody spoke up when the government gave the TESLA grant for a half billion dollars to be housed in P.A.?
How many of you already are driving this two seater electric car that sells for $107,000 and change if you want it today?
It WILL be available for the mass market in 5 years with an optional Honda Civic body for around $57000 "as is".
China has pegged us for the greedy fools we are and will likely be the ones who fix out bridges, repave our highways and fix our bridges since the money saving electric car needs a place and WE are all screaming building "underground" because otherwise, it just isn't pretty, and it is so loud!
For those of you above who actually believe what you are saying, I suggest you spend a few days googling and twittering to get the scoop on the condition of America.


James Hoosac
Green Acres
on Oct 9, 2009 at 3:33 pm
James Hoosac, Green Acres
on Oct 9, 2009 at 3:33 pm

I was a HSR opponent. But after my recent trip to China I think California needs HSR.

In China my cell phone had full-bar signal strength while in a subway train underground. Try this on BART. You will be disappointed.

In China I saw this giant 6-lane railway bridge across the Yangtse river, with massive spans, built in just a couple of years. And yet our Bay Bridge is still progressing at a snail pace.

What has this to do with CA HSR? Well, I think we need some serious engineering projects to connect our economy. In a networked world, economic activities grow exponentially vs. the number of connections in the network. My impressions of this past trip and another trip several years ago convinced me that HSR-type connection is important.

HSR is a way to connect large economic centers. Initially HSR probably will lose money. But I think as it expands with more and more connections years down the road, HSR will become a profitable business.


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