News

City seeks $1 billion for improved rail crossings from VTA tax

Palo Alto council hopes at least 15 percent of proceeds from 2016 measure would be used for rail project

Calling it a critical project not just for Palo Alto but for commuters throughout the Santa Clara County, city officials on Tuesday night made a fresh pitch for grade separation of the rail corridor throughout the county and argued that at least 15 percent of the proceeds of a proposed countywide transportation-tax measure should be dedicated to this effort.

The council voted 8-0, with Liz Kniss absent, to direct staff to advocate for inclusion of Caltrain grade separation in the package of transportation improvements that would be funded by the November 2016 ballot measure.

The tax measure is expected to generate about $6 billion over a 30-year time frame. While Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) is still in the process of figuring out which projects the money should fund, one project that will almost certain win a good share of the funds is extension of BART to San Jose.

That project has drawn close to 80 percent of the funds from the prior two countywide VTA tax measures, in 2000 and 2008, prompting concerns from Palo Alto and other North County cities about not getting its fair share of improvements for its tax contributions.

The council has advocated for grade separation in the past, though the expected increase in Caltrain service and the prospect of high-speed rail coming to town has elevated the project's urgency.

Councilman Pat Burt noted that these two projects will send about 20 trains through the city every hour, closing the crossings across the corridor every three minutes and creating traffic congestion. Given how much money VTA has put into the BART project, it's time for the city to request similar improvements for Caltrain, a service that is just as critical for commuters, Burt said.

"The dollars spent here on transit predominantly serve workers from throughout the county who work here and have to get here," he said. "It's not principally local residents who will utilize those benefits. It's the workers who will use that system and free up the other roadways between San Jose and elsewhere."

Grade separation (an under- or overpass) of Caltrain is already included in the list that Palo Alto submitted to the VTA as part of the planning process for the tax measure.

According to Palo Alto planning staff, the list of projects that the cities across the county have contributed to the VTA totals about $40 billion. A trench for Caltrain in the southern half of Palo Alto is expected to cost between $500 million and $1 billion, according to a preliminary engineering study the city commissioned last year.

But it's far from clear whether any funds for the projects will actually be included in the tax package. Carl Guardino, CEO of Silicon Valley Leadership Group, told the council last month that in addition to the BART extension, the measure will fund such projects as expressway improvements, transportation options for low-income seniors and improvements to Caltrain.

A Palo Alto staff report noted that in preliminary discussions, the measure will consider Caltrain improvements such as long trains, platform enhancements and an investment in grade separation.

Joshuah Mello, the city's chief transportation official, wrote in the report that given all the other competing projects, "it is unlikely that Palo Alto grade separations could be expected to receive more than $50 million from a VTA sales tax measure."

The council for its part, advocated that grade separation should be considered apart from the other improvements, which should be shared by all three of the counties which Caltrain serves.

Councilman Greg Scharff said the city has to "clearly advocate for grade separation" and request that $1.5 billion from the tax proceeds be devoted to the project. He also recommended that staff returns to the council for more discussion, once it becomes more clear what the VTA measure would look like. The council can then consider whether to support the countywide tax and whether to pursue a local tax measure devoted to local needs.

Councilman Tom DuBois said the council needs to be "hard-nosed and clear" about what the city wants to see and demand that the measure include specific percentages that would be spent on grade separations, street improvements and highway projects. Like Burt, he argued that building a trench for Caltrain is not "just about Palo Alto residents."

"It's about Palo Alto being a major job center for the entire county and a lot of these projects would benefit a lot of people," DuBois said.

Vice Mayor Greg Schmid noted that even if the sales tax moves ahead and allocates some funding for grade separation, the amount the city receives would likely fall far short of what's needed to make the project a reality. The city needs to consider financing "packages," he said.

Other sources could include federal and state grants or a local tax measure. Another idea that Schmid championed Tuesday is seeking contributions from the business community by imposing fees earmarked specifically for transportation improvements. Separating city streets from the Caltrain tracks and improving commute routes would benefit employees in the city more than residents, he said.

"How do we get the business community to participate in the cost of making this effective in the future, either through fees or taxes?" Schmid asked during the Tuesday discussion.

Burt, meanwhile, proposed moving forward with a business license tax that would be based on the number of employees. He specified, however, that these funds should be used for the city's transit services and traffic-reduction measures and not for regional projects like Caltrain.

It's important, he said, for the city to reframe the conversation about Caltrain's importance to the region. He noted that BART has gotten the lion's share of the proceeds in the last two measures and that it will likely get a big share again. He characterized the two rail agencies as "externalizing the impacts of more trains" and acting as if they "have no responsibilities for the related impacts of that action." That, he said, is wrong.

"We've allowed others to frame how we should be talking about this," Burt said. "We've allowed it for years on the BART-to-San Jose question. We're talking about not even being allowed to consider an open trench, and BART-to-San Jose has a tunnel under a lake."

Comments

22 people like this
Posted by yes
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 18, 2015 at 1:17 pm

We've spent billions of tax dollars on highway projects and all it has gotten us is more traffic. Now is the time to improve our public transit infrastructure. This should be a top priority for any new county sales tax measures.


35 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 18, 2015 at 1:49 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

It just doesn't make sense to spend a billion dollars (hey, that's real money) when the tracks could be elevated much more cheaply. If Palo Alto demands a trench, it should be on the hook for the cost difference.


34 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Oct 18, 2015 at 2:12 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

A trench is a half way solution.

Put the trains in a tunnel and repurpose the surface right of way:
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 25, 2015 at 2:36 pm
"One thought is the put the trains underground, use the surface rights above it for housing in the stretches between stations and use the surface above the stations for transit connections and parking. The surface area of the current right of way is very valuable land - particularly in Atherton - and could generate a lot of the needed capital.

Why not take this as an opportunity to design a multi-dimensional, multi-purpose system that uses the existing right-of-way that includes CalTrain, HSR, utility conduits for telephone and internet cables, surface housing with high density housing around each station. And add a pedestrian path and a separate bicycle path on the surface along the entire right of way. And include 3 or 4 12" conduits for the technology of the future.

We should think of this right of way as an integrated multi-modal communications spine for the peninsula."

Do it once and do it right.


18 people like this
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 18, 2015 at 2:18 pm

The trench plan proposed to the city of Palo Alto only trenches the trains as far north as Matadero creek (south of Page Mill Road).

If Palo Alto gets $1 billion for train trenching, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara and San Jose will each want $1 billion as well.


9 people like this
Posted by @Peter
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 18, 2015 at 3:05 pm

Personally, I think yours is a great idea, one that I would really like to see instituted.
The reality, I fear, is that one billion dollars would not cover it, and, it may be worse than extracting teeth to get the tax bond for the appropriate amount of money passed.
People in my he Bay Area are already taxed to death, with little to show for it.
My other fear is that money earmarked for schools may be misdirected for this project...such things have happened before.


11 people like this
Posted by Clem
a resident of another community
on Oct 18, 2015 at 8:10 pm

The most amazing figure in this article is 30. Thirty is the ratio of how much a council member thinks the new county tax should pay for a Palo Alto trench ($1.5 billion), to how much city staff estimates that the new county tax would realistically yield for a Palo Alto trench ($50 million). Thirty!

Thirty is a number that tells you this: Palo Alto would be well advised to start studying more affordable above-ground options, such as split grade separations. If the city refuses to do it, then the rail agencies will do it for the city. You can guess how sensitive these solutions would be to the context, unless the city takes the lead.


6 people like this
Posted by Another Steve
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 18, 2015 at 9:20 pm

@@Peter
Tunneling for Crossrail in UK is $20B for 35 miles. $1B gets you almost 2 miles. They need a much bigger budget to get this even moving forward.


14 people like this
Posted by John Smale
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 18, 2015 at 9:33 pm

Pete Carpenter is a genius - his proposal makes perfect sense - can you imagine a bike trail that ran between SF and San Jose? What a great improvement in quality of life for all on the peninsula - thanks to Pete for great vision on this one.


10 people like this
Posted by Professorville Resident
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 18, 2015 at 9:44 pm

All for trenching here.
Our surface (read cars) infrastructure can barely support the traffic we already have. I get to see cars lined up for a quarter to half mile behind lights in stop and go traffic.

Going above-grade is a non-starter given the only way it can be done for a reasonable cost is to build a large berm, basically creating a Berlin-wall like feature down most of the Penninsula.

Frankly the Penninsula deserves as much attention as the eastern branch to San Jose.
The BART extension, which is around $6-billion when done all the way will cost 2.1-billion just to Berryessa, at which point the plan was to build a subway.

Here is the kicker: The density in Palo Alto and MTV along the Caltrain corridor is comparable to most of San Jose, with high car-counts.


12 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 18, 2015 at 11:16 pm

Elevated systems, berms, and trenches are cheaper, but the areas around heavily trafficked, exposed rail transport will inevitably suffer from urban blight. Cities in the northeast, and midwest learned this lesson years ago, and were forced to close or tear down their exposed rail systems, and put them underground.

Yeah, a tunnel is expensive, but what is the cost of urban blight?

I an very disappointed that residentialist council member Tom Dubois has so quickly succumbed to the bean-counters approach to this urban planning problem. If you want to do something exceptional, you must first be able to imagine it.


14 people like this
Posted by Clem
a resident of another community
on Oct 18, 2015 at 11:19 pm

The old (so 2009!) notion of a "Berlin wall like feature down most of the peninsula" is deeply mistaken. A split grade separation at Charleston/Meadow (of the sort the city is reluctant to discuss let alone study) could be far less than a mile long:
Web Link


9 people like this
Posted by Maybe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 19, 2015 at 8:27 am

The train should stay where it is and the cars should be elevated or tunneled like San Antonio or Oregon expressway.


Like this comment
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 19, 2015 at 9:34 am

[Post removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 19, 2015 at 12:13 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@ Maybe - underpasses have been included in the study, but they have a much bigger space impact than elevating or trenching. They are also worse for cyclists and pedestrians. Take a look at the oregon underpass in google maps to see how inefficiently is uses space, and it still ends up being accident and flood prone.

@Ahem - care to point out the urban blight caused by elevation in San Carlos? Running a commuter train on a slightly elevated berm isnt comparable to something like the el train in chicago which runs over the top of streets and businesses. There is no "urban" to blight in south palo alto.


3 people like this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 19, 2015 at 1:22 pm

How did Palo Alto get into this pickle?


10 people like this
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 19, 2015 at 4:27 pm

Raise the tracks and lower the roadway, each by 7 1/2 feet, and you have 15 feet of clearance.

If my math is correct, elevating the tracks by 7 1/2 feet would require 375 feet for a 2% grade. The elevations would begin 375 feet on either side of the center of the crossing, one on each side.

The tracks are not elevated at Oregon expwy. That underpass is pumped 24/7 due to water-table issues.


3 people like this
Posted by Paly Grad
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Oct 19, 2015 at 4:36 pm

Thank you Larry! This sounds like a very sensible solution and one that is worth exploring in detail!


7 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 19, 2015 at 5:19 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Paly Grad - go drive to San Carlos, you can see the "Berlin Berm" in action. It isn`t as bad the trenchers claim. I`d argue it is no worse than the chain link and barbed wire we are stuck with now. And they have unimpeded car, pedestrian, and bicycle traffic.

or just check out this google street view of the Holly underpass.

Web Link


3 people like this
Posted by Clem
a resident of another community
on Oct 19, 2015 at 7:30 pm

@Larry: your math is only correct if the rail bridge is infinitely thin. Real bridges are 3 to 10 feet deep from soffit (ceiling over roadway) to top of rail. 3 feet is hard to achieve but can be done. 10 feet is the lazy HSR way using hollow core concrete box beams.


2 people like this
Posted by Jim
a resident of another community
on Oct 19, 2015 at 8:10 pm

This was taken from the Downtown Precise Plan, a planning document from Redwood City. If this is true, Palo Alto will have to do something, anything, or live with only three east/west through ways. "..he addition of High Speed Rail (HSR) to the Caltrain corridor will require the addition of two tracks, for a total of four through the entire length of the corridor. Also, due to safety and operational needs, it is forbidden for the HSR system to have any at-grade crossings with streets. Streets must either travel under or over the railroad, or else dead end at it." Put Redwood City in line for some money too as they also prefer a covered trench.


2 people like this
Posted by Paly Grad
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Oct 19, 2015 at 8:21 pm

Jim, thank you for the reminder that at-grade crossings are incompatible with High Speed Rail. This is one very good reason to end HSR in San Jose.


Like this comment
Posted by Commentator
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 19, 2015 at 9:50 pm

"go drive to San Carlos, you can see the "Berlin Berm" in action. It isn`t as bad the trenchers claim."

It is bad enough to lead people who care about our community character to advocate for a tunnel.


"I`d argue it is no worse than the chain link and barbed wire we are stuck with now."

Ugly should not beget abomination.


5 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 19, 2015 at 10:21 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@ Commentator - A trench would be great, a tunnel even better, but neither are going to happen, ever. So time to get real, and find a realistic solution, and the only two left are nothing, and elevating, and elevating is much better.


11 people like this
Posted by Teddie
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 19, 2015 at 10:30 pm

The idea that that a berm will create a Berlin wall effect is such a hollow argument when you consider we already have a four lane expressway- Alma, a fence, the tracks themselves, and another fence dividing our neighborhoods. It has been that way long before most of the current neighborhoods even existed.

The potential for re connectivity if the tracks where trenched is certainly intriguing, but in reality is not going to seam the town back together as Alma will continue to exist and all the properties on the West side of the tracks will continue to have their back yard fences still in place. Look at google earth and tell me where else the street grid will be stitched back together. Sure an East to West bike or pedestrian path could be created here and there, but the same could be done with a berm that allows for easy passage, at a fraction of the costs. The belief that a trench somehow will bring Palo Altos suburban fabric back together is not based in any physical reality.

The real challenge it seems for people is the visual prospect of having a berm. If you were to build a berm such as the one in San Carlos, trees and even walls with integrated plantings/landscaping could help to soften the visual impact. When you really look at the argument for a trench the only benefit will be visual...really ask yourself is that worth $1 plus billion dollars?






Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 20, 2015 at 8:44 am

What is the date of the Redwood City Plan noted above? Go to the Sequoia Station in Redwood City. Caltrain is embedded in a super shopping center on one side and a new office building under construction on the other side. Cross the main street and note the newly constructed, and in process apartments next to the tracks. These are buildings in excess of 4 stories.
There is no room for four tracks. How is HSR suppose to fly through this totally developed commercial and residential newly built location? Mot going to happen.

How is Caltrain going to pull up this whole transportation route to install a trench? Not going to happen.

Side note - on Friday nights in the summer there are over 1,000 people there for the music series on the square. This place is totally inundated with people.

The window of opportunity has passed by - no one is waiting for the HSR miracle that is suppose to enrich the lives of the inhabitants. Cities have other requirements imposed by ABAG. It all has to be next to a transportation hub and 101 is not it. 101 is total gridlock.

The transportation route for the peninsula is going through many cities who are moving ahead with their new construction. Notable is the Bay Meadows development in San Mateo which is getting great write-ups. People can live directly next to where they work. So is the whole place going to be in gridlock with trains? HSR as a concept has no meaning here if the train is not stopping to pick people up.

Any planning for the transportation route as to grade levels is a good idea. However if that planning has to include concessions for HSR to go zooming through the place than think again. You cannot tear up homes by eminent domain for a project that is twenty years down the road just to finance lack of funding in the central valley. That is not going to happen.
Spin doctors be aware that a lot of attention by the press is focused on this activity.


Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 20, 2015 at 9:59 am

It is always appreciated when residents of San Mateo County offer up advice to Santa Clara County. The City of Atherton is located next to Menlo Park which has approved the plans for new buildings on El Camino next to the tracks in the old auto row section. Menlo Park is in a major redevelopment with highly attractive buildings and planning. Also a hotel on ECR in the center of town near the existing depot.

Atherton location is getting a new hotel next to Marsh Road and 101.

Redwood City is in a major building era with both residential and commercial buildings directly next to the existing tracks.

Bay Meadows had a development project of massive proportions which includes plans for Caltrain.

Go further north to San Carlos, Belmont - they have upgraded their locations for Caltrain.

There is no eminent domain that will take place here since all of the new development has been approved by the city and county and now is pushing higher tax assessed value for the property.

Mountain View in Santa Clara County has the lite-rail at their main transportation center next to Alma / Central Expressway.

One cannot mention plans for San Mateo County since it is already moving along new development. That is all in motion.

That leaves PA in the middle. Yes we have a legitimate gripe about the problem crossings. That needs to be repaired. But if the repair gets caught up in all of the futuristic thinking that HSR needs to be accommodated then no one else has proceeded on that theory.


2 people like this
Posted by Smith
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 20, 2015 at 11:58 am

A vastly cheaper option is to build pedestrian/bike overpasses at Churchill, Meadow, and Alma - eliminating the auto crossings at these streets. For Charleston build an underpass, requiring lowering of Alma and the surrounding intersection (with perhaps a minimal grade embankment for Caltrain). No Berlin Wall. No financially unattainable trench. Full grade separation at a cost point which we could likely meet with the current financial options available - allowing us to start work immediately to prepare us for the increase in electrified Caltrain traffic.

We really should be considering the impacts of self-driving cars in this equation. If we do the above we will have grade separated crossings at University, Embarcadero, Page Mill/Oregon Expressway, Charleston and San Antonio. So, every few thousand feet there will be a crossing. Given the coming convenience of self-driving cars a slight detour to a grade separated road should be a minuscule price to pay given the cost savings. Plus, there are the added benefits of increased pedestrian/bike access with the inherent safety of dedicated pedestrian/bikeways.


2 people like this
Posted by senor blogger
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 20, 2015 at 11:58 am

This is positively AMAZING. after years of hating the CAHSR, and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to defeat it, Palo Alto now LOVES it ( to the tune of $1billion.)
POSITIVELY AMAZING.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Oct 20, 2015 at 12:03 pm

"How is HSR suppose to fly through this totally developed commercial and residential newly built location? Mot going to happen."

That is one of the unique advantages of tunneling - it doesn't try to go "through" it goes under all of this stuff.

Another unique advantage of tunneling is that it is the only method that will not require temporary tracking (except at each end of the tunnel) to permit uninterrupted service during construction.

Cheap no.

Expensive yes but arguably less expensive that the dozens of separate projects needed to create grade separation and the end result would be much more multipurpose infrastructure than trenching or grade elevation.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Oct 20, 2015 at 12:10 pm

Frank the Web Master - I can post as a non registered user but not as a registered user.


1 person likes this
Posted by Cal Depop
a resident of another community
on Oct 20, 2015 at 12:27 pm

The people problems here can only get worse.

Use the $Bil to buy land and build a city somewhere far away from here and get people to move there.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Oct 20, 2015 at 12:39 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Test posting as requested by web master.


1 person likes this
Posted by Commentator
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 20, 2015 at 12:55 pm

"@ Commentator - A trench would be great, a tunnel even better, but neither are going to happen, ever."

MAKE them happen. This is Silicon Valley, you know. What if Wozniak had told Jobs that a computer named Apple was impossible to build and wouldn't sell anyway?

Other cities do tunnels. There are people here who could pay for the thing out of pocket. Surely we can do it as a group.


1 person likes this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 20, 2015 at 1:05 pm

I don't get the tunneling concept on existing tracks that are bound by buildings on either side. The tunnel / subway in China Town - SF and the Presidio were not open for any traffic until completed and passed the environmental and safety checks. Any tunneling for BART requires a stand alone project which would require environmental and safety checks. No one is going through any tunnel until those requirements are met - a finished project that has been tested for by a number of state agencies. And if you figure the speed the trains are traveling - more than cars then this is an engineering feat that is going to cost more than the stated dollars. I did not see any uninterrupted traffic on any existing tunnels in process of construction - that includes the Devil's slide tunnel.

And Senior Blogger - I do not see a number of people who love HSR. However everyone wants a correction to the road crossing problems. That is a different topic.


1 person likes this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 20, 2015 at 1:08 pm

Commentator - a computer sits on a desk. Most of the parts are made in other countries. It is not subject to a whole set of requirements for transportation products. Don't get the relevance of your comment.


Like this comment
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 20, 2015 at 1:47 pm

If anyone wants to see how this pipedream came about, here is a good link:

Web Link

I would add that global warming alarmism played into it.


1 person likes this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Oct 20, 2015 at 2:39 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

For those who doubt that bored tunnels are feasible here is a real life success story:

" For the $720 million Queens Bored Tunnels East Side Access Project under an existing active railyard, specially-designed and built machines bored through the soil under Queens, N.Y., for two years to link Long Island Railroad with Manhattan’s Grand Central Terminal.

Consisting of four tunnels totalling 10,500 feet in length, reception pits for three tunnels and three shafts for emergency access and ventilation, the tunnels are comparatively shallow and are located beneath Amtrak's Sunnyside Yard and Long Island Railroad's Harold Interlocking."


1 person likes this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Oct 20, 2015 at 2:55 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

More facts on TBM (tunnel boring machine ) built tunnels:

"While the project cost for a bored tunnel may be slightly more than that of a viaduct and substantially more than a surface street option, when whole-life costs are considered the tunnel becomes the most cost-effective solution1."

Web Link

"The largest whole-life benefit of a tunnel is its longer design life. A tunnel lifespan can approach 150 years, against 50 years for an elevated structure. This is evidenced in Seattle by the BNSF tunnels that are over 100 years old compared to the existing Alaskan Way Viaduct and SR-520 which are reaching the end of their lifespan after approximately 50 years. Given the potential for seismic events in the Pacific Northwest, tunnels perform better in earthquakes as evidenced by the damage caused to the Bay Bridge and the Embarcadero highway in San Francisco against the performance of the BART transit tunnels below the bay, which remained largely unaffected by the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989."


1 person likes this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 20, 2015 at 3:31 pm

We don't want to hear about the east coast. Los Angeles has a great subway system. However it is subject to some speculation for earthquake soundness. Note that subway is not on the coast line.

We have people all over PA creating subways - they are called basements. And the amount of water being brought up from the natural ground aquifers is a major error in judgement. We all have noted that and complained to the city about where that water is going - not being put to any good use. And those basements are subject to flooding and have pumps to continually remove the water if required - like in an El Nino.

The Caltrain route is in a major designated flood plain and designated as such for insurance purposes. The amount of money required to protect a tunnel in that specific location with those specific problems is not being calculated into the price tag. The number of things that will go wrong is more than the number that will go right.

Any discussion is not about every where else - it is about this specific location with this specific set of problems. We are in drought but somehow have water moving down the creeks because people are digging away - giant hole on San Antonio and California.

Any thing that has to happen has to qualify where you are, what type of soil you are on. I have the maps from the government that define each segment of change in the soil type and amount of bedrock you are working with in this area.

Caltrain is where it is at. We need to deal with that set of problems. HSR in a tunnel needs to be up near 280 - that area has better composition for a BART or HSR. You have to get the tunneling out of the bayland area.


1 person likes this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 20, 2015 at 3:45 pm

What happens to bored tunnels in an 8.6 earthquake?


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Oct 20, 2015 at 3:46 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" You have to get the tunneling out of the bayland area."

Wow - tell that to the SF Public Utilities Commission which just bored a tunnel all the way from East Palo Alto to Fremont as an earthquake proof replacement for the two existing Hetch Hetchy pipes built in 1925 and 1936, that sit on wooden trestles near the Dumbarton Bridge and briefly dip underwater to avoid the bay’s shipping lane.

No problems with either the soil or even being under lots of water.

Web Link


Opinions are always interesting but much more so when supported by facts.




Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Oct 20, 2015 at 3:49 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"What happens to bored tunnels in an 8.6 earthquake?"

They are a lot more likely to survive than anything else in the area except hospitals built to the new hospital earthquake standards and the MPFPD's new 100 ft antenna at Station 2.

" The water agency considered several options, including construction of another line circumventing the bay as well as one that would rest on the bay floor. Ultimately, though, the underground route was chosen because it was deemed to be seismically strongest "


3 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 20, 2015 at 3:53 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

If you aren`t "bored" with fantasy tunnel suggestions, look at the real details of the east side access project in New York. It is ~4 miles long, it started in 2006 and they are hoping to be done by 2023. and the cost has already ballooned to $8.4 billion dollars. And it serves one of the most densely populated areas of the country. It is delusional to suggest it for suburban California.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Oct 20, 2015 at 3:57 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"The tunnel lies at depths ranging from 75 to 110 feet (23 to 34 m) in sandy and silty clays under high groundwater pressures of up to 3.5 bar and through a short section of highly weathered Franciscan Complex bedrock that can be very hard and abrasive. Because of these ground conditions, a 15-foot-diameter (4.6 m) earth pressure balance tunnel boring machine (TBM) was utilized for excavation between two deep slurry diaphragm wall shafts. The TBM was manufactured by Hitachi Zosen (Hitz) in Osaka, Japan. The tunnel is lined with precast concrete segments followed by steel pipe as final lining, resulting in an internal finished diameter of 108 inches (2,745 mm)."


Like this comment
Posted by WilliamR
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 20, 2015 at 3:59 pm

Will a tunnel be able to handle diesel freight trains?


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Oct 20, 2015 at 4:03 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Will a tunnel be able to handle diesel freight trains?"

No - standard practice is to swap diesel locomotives with electric locomotives for tunnel transit - it is done routinely all over the world every day.


1 person likes this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 20, 2015 at 4:06 pm

If the proposed bored tunnels for trains fail in the Big Quake, it will probably be several years (or more) to fix them. However, if on the surface, relatively quick repairs can be made. Safety and security are also very big issues for HSR...tunnels only make it worse.

The larger question is: Why are we doing this HSR to ourselves? Our City Council unanimously supported it, before they opposed it.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Oct 20, 2015 at 4:15 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Safety and security are also very big issues for HSR...tunnels only make it worse. "

Do you have any facts to back up this assertion?

a Lot of elevated structures failed in the Loma Preita earthquake but not a single tunnel failed.

Note the above citation regarding the new water tunnel:

" The water agency considered several options, including construction of another line circumventing the bay as well as one that would rest on the bay floor. Ultimately, though, the underground route was chosen because it was deemed to be seismically strongest "


2 people like this
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 20, 2015 at 4:33 pm

I looked at the photo of and have driven through the Holly Street crossing in San Carlos and I don't see what's so ugly about it. It's no worse than a freeway overpass or any other elevated roadway. If you gave it a nice brick or masonry facade and planted clinging vines or hid it behind a grove of trees, it would look quite acceptable even by Palo Alto standards. I see pedestrians, crosswalks, uninterrupted stretches of sidewalk and cars which can turn any which way. I don't see any of the "urban blight" which supposedly accompanies such a structure. It's certainly good enough for the people of San Carlos. Maybe the "urban blight" is an urban myth.

I don't know how many times this needs to be repeated. The trenching plan in the study commissioned by CPA only trenches the trains as far north as Matadero creek, just south of Oregon/Page Mill. North of Page Mill it's status quo. Three of those crossings are already grade separated. Anyone with visions of a train trench or tunnel running the entire length of the city is living in fantasyland.

The study commissioned by CPA is seriously flawed. It fails to consider the split-level hybrid separation seen in San Carlos. It makes not even passing reference to the current prospect of Union Pacific freight or the future prospect of HSR. The trench plan does not separate the crossing at Churchill and the study makes no mention whatsoever of the crossing at Palo Alto Ave/Alma.


1 person likes this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 20, 2015 at 4:43 pm

Peter - your example of Hetch Hetchy is for a tunnel filled with water and pumps pushing water through it - no relevance to a tunnel with people and a train - as well as an electrical grid. As to New York they had a flooded subway system this last winter. It took them a long time to recover from that.

Given the topic of this stream it is the money for an improved rail crossing - money from the VTA. The VTA is not funding a tunnel. A raised level - 7 1/2 feet would provide the clearance we need and in the case of flooding some protection for the rails and electrical grid. We need to keep the train protected, the people in the train, and maintain service in the event of a disaster - earthquake or flooding.

The raised level would allow for an underpass at whatever main thorough fares required to get kids to school and back - that is Charleston, East Meadow, Churchill.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Oct 20, 2015 at 4:58 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"your example of Hetch Hetchy is for a tunnel filled with water and pumps pushing water through it -"

There are hundreds of examples of automobile and train tunnels which run beneath bodies of water.

My use of the Hetch Hetchy example was to respond to an uninformed query regarding the feasibility of tunneling in the seismically active Bay area.


Like this comment
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 20, 2015 at 5:24 pm

"It's no worse than a freeway overpass or any other elevated roadway."

That clinches it. Do the tunnel.


"A raised level - 7 1/2 feet would provide the clearance we need... ."

Try running the whole design, including nearby Alma Street, the surrounding built environment (including eminent domain necessities), railroad grade standards, and allowing a 50-ft tractor trailer to safely navigate the thing.


2 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 20, 2015 at 5:33 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@ Curmudgeon - Every time someone says "do the tunnel" they are saying "do nothing" and doing nothing means even more traffic as the at grade crossing back up against increased rail traffic. Palo Alto isn't getting billions for a vanity tunnel project. We might get elevation, which is better than what we have today for cars, bikes, and pedestrians.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Oct 20, 2015 at 5:36 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Here is what a professional analysis states:

"There are two significant points to consider when examining the impacts of a tunnel versus a surface street or a viaduct3: 1) tunnels have the lowest pro-rate cost taking into account the longer design life of tunnels, and 2) when the cost of environmental pollution, loss of property taxes, social divide, and maintenance cost is taken into account, the annual costs of a typical tunnel is half that of the at-grade option and a third that of an elevated structure."

So we can think short term and cheap or long term and expensive but more cost effective.


Like this comment
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 20, 2015 at 5:52 pm

"Try running the whole design, including nearby Alma Street, the surrounding built environment (including eminent domain necessities), railroad grade standards, and allowing a 50-ft tractor trailer to safely navigate the thing."

50-foot tractor trailers are not allowed on the residential streets of Palo Alto: Alma, Charleston, Meadow and Churchill.

[Portion removed.]


1 person likes this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 20, 2015 at 6:13 pm

>"Safety and security are also very big issues for HSR...tunnels only make it worse. "

Do you have any facts to back up this assertion?

The London tube attack in 2005 was a disaster... Fundamentalist Islamists. HSR REQUIRES the security measures that our airlines require. A committed suicide attack in a tunnel is MUCH worse than one on the surface. There has never been a rail bored tunnel to face an 8.6 quake. If you disagree, then provide your data.


3 people like this
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 20, 2015 at 6:32 pm

Peter Carpenter: Do you have a link to the "professional analysis" you quoted or are you asking us to accept those representations on faith? We don't know the source of those representations -- for all we know they could have been made by a manufacturer of tunnel-boring equipment who would have a clear vested interest.

Do you envision a tunnel along the entire 4-mile length of the ROW through Palo Alto? $1 billion is the figure under discussion. What would be the realistic cost of such a tunnel given a realistic "cost overrun" factor of 2? If $1 billion from VTA doesn't cover the cost of your envisaged tunnel, where will the rest of the money come from?

It strikes me as ironic that San Carlos already has this problem licked, yet Palo Alto, with all of its purported brainpower, can't get out of its own way.


2 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 20, 2015 at 6:43 pm

This whole steam is about the County of Santa Clara and what the VTA is willing to provide for the city of PA and the other cities in the County of Santa Clara.

It is not about the County of San Mateo and what the VTA is willing to contribute to the cities in San Mateo.

Since Peter represents the County of San Mateo I think he needs to sell his idea to the San Mateo cities and make a case with that group of cities.
PA is not the water boy for the San Mateo wish list of transportation projects. They don't need us - they are doing better then we are.


2 people like this
Posted by Clem
a resident of another community
on Oct 20, 2015 at 7:48 pm

If you want to keep the discussion focused on Santa Clara County, please explain how the VTA tax revenue will be divvied up between the Palo Alto trenches and tunnels, the Mountain View trenches and tunnels, the Sunnyvale trenches and tunnels, the Santa Clara trenches and tunnels, and the San Jose trenches and tunnels.

According to the article, staff thinks PA can expect about $50 million.


3 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 20, 2015 at 8:23 pm

I am just defining the parameters that the VTA is responsible for. I have not seen any other city talk to the topic of tunnels or trenches. I know that MV has some concerns about one of their main streets - Castro. However - most of MV Caltrain rides under bridges and overpasses. MV has this pretty well figured out. And why is this problem defined in terms of tunnels and trenches? I think that we need to see what the other Santa Clara cities have on their wish list.

As to San Mateo County - Menlo Park is going to redevelop the El Camino section of auto row which is next to the tracks. Has Menlo Park expressed a desire for tunnels or trenches? If so they need to get that on the planning process since they are ready to start building. Has RWC expressed a desire for tunnels and trenches? San Mateo? Don't think so - San Mateo highlights the presence of Caltrain in their presentations for their new Bay Meadows Development. It is on a raised berm.


Like this comment
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 20, 2015 at 10:04 pm

"And why is this problem defined in terms of tunnels and trenches? ... Has Menlo Park expressed a desire for tunnels or trenches? ... Has RWC expressed a desire for tunnels and trenches? San Mateo?"

So what if they have or haven't? We're working to get what is best for Palo Alto, which is a tunnel pair. MP, RWC, and SM are welcome to join us if they have the requisite vision, but we should not be constrained by their lack of it.


Like this comment
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 20, 2015 at 10:57 pm

The houses on either side of the railroad tracks aren't just housing, they are peoples homes.

The continuous earth shaking rumble, whoosh, and squeal of high speed rail traffic will make their lives a living hell. I don't understand why they should have their lives ruined, so a few tech-worker can ride an nineteenth-century transportation system to work. Weren't these people supposed to be able to work from home?

Do it right. Put HSR in a tunnel, or don't do it.


Like this comment
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 20, 2015 at 11:38 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Ahem - "Do it right" and HSR (aka the Merced to Bakersfield express) just don't go together. Best to stop it, which I assume will happen, either through financial necessity or through political exasperation.

Regardless, we need a solution for the at grade crossings in Palo Alto because of increased caltrain use.


Like this comment
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 20, 2015 at 11:52 pm

A tunnel would be feasible IF:

- If the issues relating to the water table and creek crossings can be solved. You'd need to consult a hydrologist who is familiar with the area.

- If there are two tracks for Caltrain/Union Pacific and two tracks for HSR, then HSR should pay half the construction costs of a tunnel. Good luck with that. Don't expect any money from Union Pacific. Tunneling the trains does not benefit them and they would refuse to pay.

- Palo Alto would pay the other half of the tunnel construction costs. Good luck with that, too. CPA is only getting $1 billion from VTA. How much tunnel will that build? You're looking at a tunnel tax and/or a bond measure.

The tracks cross a political boundary at San Francisquito creek. The tracks would have to be back above ground before they reach the creek unless Menlo Park/San Mateo county likewise builds a tunnel, which doesn't seem likely.

HSR may be revoted at some point and may (hopefully) cease to exist. Until that happens, you can't bury your head in the sand and pretend HSR will never come to pass.

The devil is in the details. There's a lot more to it than simply posting "Let's build a tunnel!" on Palo Alto Online.


Like this comment
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 21, 2015 at 12:13 am

Here is something everyone needs to know about HSR:

Web Link

The earliest such a vote would take place is June 7 of next year.


Like this comment
Posted by Joan
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 21, 2015 at 2:36 am

Palo alto will not get a dime from a VTA tax increase - unless some VTA employees or contractors happen to live in Palo Alto.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Oct 21, 2015 at 5:23 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Peter Carpenter: Do you have a link to the "professional analysis" you quote?

Yes:


Web Link

"The tracks cross a political boundary at San Francisquito creek."

I have long proposed that the tunnel be as long as possible and include as many cities as possible. There is no geological barrier for a tunnel at the county lines.


Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 21, 2015 at 6:08 am

The difference in counties is not just political - it is associated with whole city and county government efforts. It is also relative to the tax base that drives each county government. The health system also distinguishes which county you live in - thanks to the affordable (?) care act. And for the difference in policy decisions a big dividing line - note the SFO Roundtable debacle - Santa Clara Not Included.

Has Atherton decided to work with the VTA and drill a tunnel? Has Menlo Park?
That is a yes or no question.

Thank you Joan in Mountain View. It would pay us to work with MV and look to share the costs for a strategy since they have expressed a desire for resolution on two major thorough fares.

As to HSR it will never make it out of the valley. Family farms have a knack of incorporating making them selves less a target.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Oct 21, 2015 at 7:01 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"There has never been a rail bored tunnel to face an 8.6 quake."

This is the ultimate straw man argument. There are NO State or Federal laws that even contemplate structures that would survive an 8.6 earthquake. If you are going to just pick a number out of the air why not 9.0 or 10.0?


The fact is that there have been no tunnels, even old tunnels like the original Caldecott Tunnel, which failed in an earthquake while there are dozens of examples where above ground structures failed.


Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 21, 2015 at 7:38 am

Back to the yes or no question - is Atherton or Menlo Park planning on building a trench or tunnel?


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Oct 21, 2015 at 7:45 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 21, 2015 at 7:46 am

If HSR gets shot down next June then there will be no need to widen the ROW to accomodate four tracks. Tunneling four miles of ROW would then be way too expensive and overkill to grade separate three or four crossings.

If HSR comes to the peninsula despite predictions to the contrary, tunneling would be one way to accomodate four tracks without disrupting property on the surface, IF the technical hurdles can be worked out. It would be an expensive option and HSR should pick up at least half the cost, if not more. Tunneling might actually be cheaper than four miles of emient-domain property taking.

It all hinges on the fate of HSR.

"There is no geological barrier for a tunnel at the county lines."

There are very real political and economic barriers. At the top of the list is the fundamental question of who would pay for such an expensive project. If Menlo Park/San Mateo county doesn't want to pay for a tunnel then it stops at San Francisquito creek.

Peter Carpenter: no wonder your "professional analysis" is so bullish on tunneling. It comes from a trade journal for the tunneling industry, just as I suspected! I'm still waiting for your estimate of the cost of a tunnel along the four-mile ROW through Palo Alto.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Oct 21, 2015 at 7:50 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 21, 2015 at 8:10 am

[Post removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Oct 21, 2015 at 8:26 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The M-30 twin bore tunnels in Madrid in 2008, at a diameter of 50ft each, form part of a ring road around Madrid carrying three traffic lanes in each direction and were completed four months ahead of schedule at a cost of $131 million/mile.

The A86W East tunnel, at a diameter of 34 ft, cost $242 million per mile.

The twin bore Tom Lantos Tunnels at Devil's Slide, each of the twin 4,200-foot-long tunnels is about 45 feet tall and just under 30 feet wide, cost $439 million..

[Portion removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Oct 21, 2015 at 8:48 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"The Seikan Tunnel (青函トンネル Seikan Tonneru or 青函隧道 Seikan Zuidō) is a 53.85 km (33.46 mi) railway tunnel in Japan, with a 23.3 km (14.5 mi) long portion under the seabed. The track level is about 100 metres (330 ft) below the seabed and 240 m (790 ft) below sea level. The tunnel was opened on 13 March 1988, having cost a total of ¥538.4 billion (US$3.6 billion) to construct."

Web Link

And this tunnel both underwater and in one of the most earthquake prone areas of the world.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Oct 21, 2015 at 8:57 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

For those with serious interest in the issue here is an excellent source:

Web Link

[Portion removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by PAmoderate
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 21, 2015 at 9:19 am

PAmoderate is a registered user.

HSR will already cost $80B, so what's another billion or so? A billion here, a billon there - soon you will be talking about real money.

Imagine all the local transit improvements you can have with $80B that's being wasted on a choo-choo train to nowhere.


Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 21, 2015 at 9:29 am

I think we know enough about tunnels at other places under different circumstances, paid for by local government agencies. If unions are involved then that affects the prices. Other countries may not have unions so their pricing may not translate into US dollars. Or in the case of the Bay Bridge incompetence by the agencies involved will continue to bleed us.
We could always call up El Chapo - he is very good at tunnels.

We should probably wait until some decision is made by the Santa Clara County heads - don't think they will go for a tunnel.

I think that their outlook is focused on a raised berm that allows passage of cars under a under hang road that allows kids on bikes to get to their respective schools. When all is said and done the kids have to have passage to school is the safest manner possible.


Like this comment
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 21, 2015 at 10:23 am

>This is the ultimate straw man argument. There are NO State or Federal laws that even contemplate structures that would survive an 8.6 earthquake. If you are going to just pick a number out of the air why not 9.0 or 10.0?

I didn't pull a number out of thin air...I used Caltech as a source for the 8.6 magnitude potential quake:

Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Oct 21, 2015 at 10:34 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

From Craig's own citation: "But 8.6? Be prepared to kiss your ass goodbye."

After an 8.6 in the Bay Area nothing except portions of a few hospitals and the new MPFPD 100 ft antenna in East Palo Alto will still be standing.


1 person likes this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 21, 2015 at 10:59 am

>After an 8.6 in the Bay Area nothing except portions of a few hospitals and the new MPFPD 100 ft antenna in East Palo Alto will still be standing.

Re-establishing rail travel is much quicker on the surface compared to rebuilding the tunnel.

This entire tunnel pipe dream is never going to happen in PA. I am a big believer in technology to improve the human condition, but I am also practical. We need old fashioned grade separations, even if HSR does not pass through here (which it should not). Time to get serious. I prefer underpasses, personally.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Oct 21, 2015 at 11:00 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Another superb data source on the cost of tunneling:

Web Link

Of course it was done by people with actual knowledge and expertise so the nay sayers will say it is worthless.


Tunneling is NOT the cheapest solution but I believe that it is the best long term solution. And the longer the tunnel the lower will be the per mile costs.


3 people like this
Posted by Steve Ly
a resident of Los Altos
on Oct 21, 2015 at 11:58 am

This proposed tax stinks out loud. Over the last several elections, voters in Santa Clara County have passed multiple tax and fee increases including VTA’s 2000 Measure A ½-cent and 2008 measure B ¼-cent sales taxes, Santa Clara County’s Measure A 1/8 cent sales tax, the state prop 30 ¼ cent sales tax and the 2010 Measure B Vehicle Registration Fee of $10. Additionally, we’re on the hook to pay back numerous state bond issues including high speed rail, last year’s Proposition 1 water bond and the infrastructure bonds of 2006.

All of this nickel and diming has contributed into making the Bay Area a horribly expensive place to live; especially for people of modest means, who must pay the greatest percentage of their income in these regressive taxes and fees. Each increase by itself does not amount to much, say a quarter cent, but the cumulative effect is to add to the unaffordability of the region.

Before increasing taxes YET AGAIN, waste needs to be removed from transportation projects. For example, VTA needs to eliminate waste and “gold plating” of the BART extension’s cost by reducing the scope to eliminate duplicate facilities. Specifically, a revised “build alternative” needs to be added to the study that eliminates the duplicative and wasteful section between the San Jose and Santa Clara Caltrain stations. The BART segment from the San Jose to Santa Clara Caltrain stations would duplicate both the existing Caltrain line and VTA’s 22 and 522 buses to a station that has only 900 riders. This is extremely wasteful and sends the wrong message to voters who will be asked to approve more sales tax increases in 2016. This is extremely insulting considering recent voter approval of all the taxes/fees listed above.


2 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 21, 2015 at 12:26 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

A couple notes on Peter Carpenter's allegedly superb source. It includes Chinese tunnels which artificially lower the real world US construction price. It shows the Seattle tunnel at $2.8 billion because the report predates the actual construction. Guess what happened, the cost has already increased to $4.2 billion, the borer is broken, and stuck. They are now building a new tunnel to repair the borer which will take over a year to complete.

So in summary, the Seattle tunnel is 1.7 miles long, was budgeted at $1.7billion, approved in 2009 and was supposed to be done in 2015. Reality is, budget now $4.2 billion, the tunnel is only 10% excavated, and the new target for completion is 2018-9. Tunneling is a non starter, let's move on to real solutions.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Oct 21, 2015 at 12:31 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Great cherry picking - there are 20 tunnels in the report and you pick out two and ignore the others.

There seems to be very little interest in facts. This is a strange way to have a thoughtful discussion.


2 people like this
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 21, 2015 at 1:41 pm

"the Seattle tunnel is 1.7 miles long, was budgeted at $1.7 billion"

They budgeted a billion dollars per mile. In Palo Alto that would come to $4 billion to get from San Antonio Road to S.F. creek. Factor in at least 2x "cost overruns" and you're looking at $8 billion to tunnel under the 4-mile length of the Palo Alto ROW, and hope the boring machine doesn't get stuck.

All that to grade separate three or four crossings.

"HSR will already cost $80B, so what's another billion or so? A billion here, a billon there - soon you will be talking about real money."

Wait until they start adding in the "cost overruns". One need look no further than the bay bridge to see how that goes.

It bears repeating: San Carlos has had this problem solved for several years, while Palo Alto spins its wheels.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Oct 21, 2015 at 1:59 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

It is neither good science or good public policy to select outriders to try tp prove your point.

"The highlighted projects suggest a typical cost range per mile of a twin-bore project of approximately $200 million to $700 million. Projects at the lower end of the cost scale are often in Asian countries where labor and material costs are significantly lower. Higher costs per mile are reported in western European countries and in the US. "

"The largest whole-life benefit of a tunnel is its longer design life. A tunnel lifespan can approach 150 years, against 50 years for an elevated structure. This is evidenced in Seattle by the BNSF tunnels that are over 100 years old compared to the existing Alaskan Way Viaduct and SR-520 which are reaching the end of their lifespan after approximately 50 years. Given the potential for seismic events in the Pacific Northwest, tunnels perform better in earthquakes as evidenced by the damage caused to the Bay Bridge and the Embarcadero highway in San Francisco against the performance of the BART transit tunnels below the bay, which remained largely unaffected by the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989."

Cost benefits of large-diameter bored tunnels Apr 2015
Arup North America Ltd, Washington, US


3 people like this
Posted by Old Steve
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Oct 21, 2015 at 2:00 pm

Mr. Carpenter, I'm afraid I can only agree to disagree again. What agency could acquire the Caltrain Right of Way, build the tunnels, donate the electricity for the fire fans (likely required due to station spacing) and resell the surface rights while maintaining the Greeway. I think that would have to be the City of Palo Alto. The same City which could not build the Mitchell Park Library correctly, or a new Police Station at all. I suppose Palo Alto could hire the VTA, but since they can't figure out how to tunnel BART under downtown San Jose, why would they be able to tunnel Caltrain under Palo Alto. Either trench or multiple grade separations would come at a cost well under half of the tunneling cost. This is an important consideration, even when it is somebody else's money.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Oct 21, 2015 at 2:06 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I suggest that Atherton, Menlo Park, Palo Alto and Mt. View form a Joint Powers Agreement and invite the cities to the north and south to join with them.

The longer the tunnel the lower the cost per mile.

Doing this would take guts, vision, courage and money..

Or do it on the cheap and see our communities severed right down the middle - that only takes money.


2 people like this
Posted by Old Steve
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Oct 21, 2015 at 2:19 pm

Too many agencies, not enough money, nowhere near enough guts and courage, and amongst the leaders of the Cities you mention, absolutely no vision at all. A Grand Solution with no one available to implement it is really no better than no solution at all. Blended HSR in a trench, or with multiple grade separations is at least half a solution. Also it is one I could live to see. Since my grown children can't afford to live here anyway, why worry about somebody else's posterity?


2 people like this
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 21, 2015 at 2:53 pm

"The highlighted projects suggest a typical cost range per mile of a twin-bore project of approximately $200 million to $700 million."

Thank you for those figures. If those are per-mile figures, figure $2.8 billion for a 4-mile twin-bore tunnel through Palo Alto for both Caltrain/Union Pacific and HSR, then multiply that by at least 2 to factor in the inevitable "cost overruns" and you're pushing $6 billion. That's about $1.5 billion per crossing. Again, Palo Alto should not be picking up the tab for construction of the HSR right of way.

"...the City of Palo Alto. The same City which could not build the Mitchell Park Library correctly, or a new Police Station at all."

Point well taken. The grade-separation study commissioned by CPA does not even consider the split-level separations seen in San Carlos, and makes no mention of the existence of the cossing at Palo Alto Avenue. More incompetence from CPA. In fact, I'm not sure Palo Alto evenhas a city engineer per se. It has a director of public works.


Like this comment
Posted by No Tax/Bond Money for VTA
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 21, 2015 at 3:06 pm

Any vote to give VTA any more money is pure folly. Until they drop the INSANE idea of BRT and designated bus only lanes on ECR, they should not get a single 1/4 penny of our money.

It would be like someone coming to your house, ripping it apart until it was unusable by you, they making you pay them for it.
NO VTA new tax money!!


Like this comment
Posted by Old Steve
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Oct 21, 2015 at 3:10 pm

For my money it is not the Public Works staff that could not build or manage what we need. City Council was for HSR before they turned against it. What other misadventures would they assign staff blessed with a trench/tunnel fund? HSR knows grade separations are required to meet the original ballot performance measures. Even at a conservative $50Million per location (including some for eminent domain settlements), if the VTA is paying, grade separations is what we will get. If Palo Alto, or Mr. Carpenter's ideal JPA really believe in trenching or tunneling, we need to find a way to put local money where the mouths of local NIMBY's already are.


Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 21, 2015 at 3:35 pm

This looks like an adventure in which Palo Alto is suppose to foot the bill for Menlo Park and Atherton for a TUNNEL. I have seen no news reporting in which either Menlo Park or Atherton is looking for a tunnel. At least someone in a position of authority - an elected official should be approaching the elected officials of Palo Alto concerning this matter.

And how successful is the Joint Powers Authority on the creek issue? ZERO - a political quagmire in which a small number of people get to be paid for stalling a project until they reach retirement age. We have been dealing with a joint powers authority for how many years on the creek project. A bunch of people porking at the public trough. Please do not say joint powers authority again - it has no meaning at all.

It would take no time at all to create the BERM for the train so the underpass can be completed. It is called "finished project". What a novel idea. I am aghast at the amount of time and energy that has been spent canoodling every tunnel on earth. It all has nothing to do with what we are trying to do here. We are trying to solve a problem at three intersections and have a proven method to do that.

As to the searth for the berm we have a giant berm in the baylands - I keep thinking they are building that mountain for some reason - they can truck part of it down for a great berm.

Can we just get on with this? We are spending way to much valuable time waiting for the geeat HSR - not going to happen.


Like this comment
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 21, 2015 at 3:44 pm

Here is an even better idea.

Grade separate 3 or 4 crossings above ground (Charleston, Meadow, Churchill and maybe Palo Alto Avenue) using the San Carlos approach. This would take place with or without HSR, all above ground, and could be done at a much more realistic cost than a tunnel.

Others have suggested running HSR down the median of Bayshore freeway. That now looks like a pretty good idea. It would allow Palo Alto to grade separate the crossings and keep HSR away from the existing right of way. There would be no eminent-domain property takings through developed Palo Alto.

The existing ROW is too narrow for four tracks. You'd either have to take big chunks out of property along the ROW and pay for the eminent-domain takings, or widen it into Alma street. The first option would involve demolishing classroom buildings on the Paly campus and rebuilding them (at whose expense?) and demolishing a lot of residential and commercial property. The second option would turn Alma street into a bottleneck.

Here is a picture of the Berlin Wall. Really, I don't see the similarity between it and the Holly Street berms in San Carlos. Any such comparison is frankly ludicrous.

Web Link


1 person likes this
Posted by Old Steve
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Oct 21, 2015 at 3:57 pm

In case you have not been on 101 lately, the double HOV lane means there is no more median. You could build a monorail type gizmo, but it would have to go above all the streets that cross the freeway. Stations would have to be acquired by eminent domain. We'd need shuttles to Caltrain to complete trips, so how is it better than grade separating Caltrain at the locations and planning for (but not building) additional HSR tracks where needed?


1 person likes this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Oct 21, 2015 at 3:57 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Others have suggested running HSR down the median of Bayshore freeway. That now looks like a pretty good idea"

Two problems -1 - Bayshore/101 no longer has a median; the old median has all been converted to lanes.
2 - Such a route would require it to go over the existing overpasses which would mean a total height of 50-70 feet.


Like this comment
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 21, 2015 at 4:02 pm

"This looks like an adventure in which Palo Alto is suppose to foot the bill for Menlo Park and Atherton for a TUNNEL."

I don't see how you arrive at that conclusion. Palo Alto funding a public-works project in another jurisdiction isn't going to happen.

Instead of pissing away billions on a four-mile, double-bore, gold-plated train tunnel through town, the city should be thinking about building a small desalination plant near the existing sewage treatment plant. The city should have been thinking about one 40 years ago. This won't be California's last drought, guaranteed.


1 person likes this
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 21, 2015 at 4:21 pm

"Two problems -1 - Bayshore/101 no longer has a median; the old median has all been converted to lanes.
2 - Such a route would require it to go over the existing overpasses which would mean a total height of 50-70 feet."

Yet another reason HSR shouldn't be on the peninsula at all. Let them take a Caltrain baby bullet to the city.

In that case, keep Caltrain/Union Pacific above ground, do the grade separations, and put HSR (if it ever happens) in a single-bore tunnel all by itself, paid for solely by CA HSR with no Palo Alto or VTA money. If HSR gets shot down in June, the tunnel doesn't get built. The idea is to give HSR its own ROW, well separated from Caltrain, rather than try to shoehorn HSR into the existing ROW.


2 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 21, 2015 at 8:59 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Peter Carpenter - It is dishonest to you use numbers from the report you posted. That report was an advocacy piece for the Seattle tunnel that is now already billions over budget and only 11% complete and 4 years behind schedule.

You are touting the report's cost estimates even though we now know are completely wrong. I didn't cherry pick the Seattle tunnel numbers, I posted the REAL numbers to show how inaccurate the report was. And the reason I pointed to the inclusion of tunnel in China is that it is instructive of how deceptive people who advocate big public works project can be. A lot of people get rich when there are multi billion dollar cost overruns, which there often seem to be on these tunnels.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Oct 22, 2015 at 7:28 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

There are lots of tunnels in the cited report in addition to the Seattle tunnel and the China tunnels - why do you refuse to acknowledge those actual costs? That IS simply cherry picking - throw out the ones you don't like and ignore the rest. [Portion removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 22, 2015 at 9:10 am

I don't know about the rest of you but the topic of tunnels has been thoroughly discussed and arguments concerning said tunnels has nothing to do with the topic of this stream - VTA funding. Why someone from san Mateo County keeps on this topic for a Santa Clara funded effort is questionable. No city in San Mateo County has expressed an interest in tunnels. All SMC cities have proceeded with their transportation goals with good results.

Good article in the SJM today 10/22/15 "Will High-Speed Rail steal Caltrain Customers". John Hogan Column. This article points out that HSR on the peninsula is a duplicative service competing with Caltrain and BART in the north section. He points out that if the HSR rails are run on the Caltrain right of way then people at the designated stops will get on the HSR. This will result in a shortfall of riders on the existing systems which will require more taxpayer funds to keep supported. This will result in a convoluted financial payback - I am sure that many people will be employed in this activity and milk it for all it is worth.

Does a three rail system serve anyone's purposes? Sorry - don't think so.
If we are electrifying Caltrain and spending a huge amount of money to do that then why are we setting up a competitive system at another huge amount of money?

HSR can be routed through the Altamont Pass and use the Amtrak right-of-way to SF. But wait - that means it will have to compete with the coal train and the oil train - each of which have 100 cars. But hey - they will have to work that out in the east bay. See - what happens in the east bay on the tracks is duplicative of what is happening on the peninsula - competing interest for limited infrastructure.

Take the money and run - put BART up by Foothill / 280 to service the large companies, SU, etc. that are on the western side of the peninsula. That would complete the BART circle for everyone concerned. I know that the folks in the small towns - like Woodside, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills are horrified that another transportation system would alight in their midst. I am sure they will chirp in on this topic.


1 person likes this
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 22, 2015 at 1:01 pm

People have been wondering for years why HSR should come up the peninsula at all. Some say it should go no further than San Jose and let passengers transfer to Caltrain for the rest of the ride to S.F. Given the expense and disruption of extending HSR up the peninsula, it's a good idea.

Caltrain electrification is intended to lay the groundwork for the electrified ROW that will eventually be required by HSR. It is a ruse intended to get reluctant peninsulans behind the HSR project.

I expect there to be only one HSR station on the peninsula, and it won't be Palo Alto. It may be Redwood City. With one peninsula station it won't be in direct competition with the service provided by Caltrain.


1 person likes this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 22, 2015 at 1:34 pm

Contradiction in the article - there will be three + stops on the peninsula. If three stops + then it is not a HSR - it is a Caltrain Bullet.

They have to keep the carrot out there to confuse the situation. They keep saying Palo Alto because they want us to be the water carrier for this effort.

When HSR first started Bay Meadows was not yet in development and RWC was stalled on growth. MV did not have Google and LinkedIn. The problem they are running into is that the growth 10 years ago has no relation to the growth that is happening today. The surrounding cities are going through huge growth. There is also the Millbrae / SFO stop and other stops going up to SF. If the meeting was in Burlingame then think that Burlingame may have a stop. The train has to go to SF in some fashion to the transit center.

They will put out any carrots needed to keep the story going.


Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 23, 2015 at 9:08 am

It is so interesting to read the Letters to the Editor in the SJM and Chronicle. People against HSR throw out factual, historical information that you do not get anywhere else. People for HSR are a rooting section telling Palo Alto to take up the charge with no mention as to how that would occur. It some how just appears in our midst with no mention of the beginning and end of the project.

I do not see comments from the San Jose people because they are working on BART and reengineering the roadways for the new North San Jose construction and the Apple complex. My feeling is that San Jose has no interest in this project since they are not taking a leadership role.

Most people are now in the anti-HSR / Caltrain side of the argument. It is not going to go well when this hits the ballot box.

Suggest the next best move on Governor Brown's part: HSR is arriving from the central valley. Possible to take it over the Dumbarton Bridge area - reinforce the existing rail bridge - and then go up to SF on the bay side of the 101 highway. This would be a good way for all the cities to move ahead with their projects at lowest cost and HSR could hit the high spots - the SFO airport on its way to the SF transit center. The only competition to Caltrain would be at the airport.

The Caltrain Bullitt train will perform all of the actions planned for HSR in this section of the tracks so not really needed - it is overkill.


Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 24, 2015 at 1:01 pm

If you are following the discussion on this topic on the other stream you will note that there is a plan to tear apart the RWC station and shopping center. It does not mention tearing apart the PA station but reality is you all keep talking about the roadway impacts. Get to the next part of the topic in which you cannot fit four tracks in a station where people need to get on and off the trains. There is no consideration for the people in the stations.

If an HSR is going north at mach speed at the same tome a Caltrain is going south and people need to wait for the train - people getting off and on the train. You are now consuming a huge amount of space. People have to be able to get to the inner tracks which requires a huge amount of space. That same dilemma will happen at all of the stations. No one is talking about the people that are standing there, waiting for the train, and getting on or off the train. That is a lot of people.


Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 24, 2015 at 7:23 pm

I visited the Atherton Caltrain station today to check it out. It is marginal and almost non-existent. It looks like people could get hurt there - safety issues pop out all over. No wonder Peter wants a tunnel. You all are not serious about train stations in Atherton. If HSR went through there it would blow the place apart. You all are not serious about trains or safety. You are more serious about quaintness.

Check out the Belmont Station - top of the line.


Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 25, 2015 at 10:37 am

So where is the big money in the peninsula that would benefit from this venture/ any transportation venture?

Atherton - go look at their Caltrain station - it is the original Southern Pacific station with no safety features. I am talking the turn of the century - the other century. So big money wants a tunnel to avoid all of the nasty aspects of a train. How does HSR zoom through there otherwise - people and animals would be killed.

Woodside, Los Altos Hills, Los Altos - any mention of BART on that side of the peninsula - the 280 route results in negative responses. They want no part of BART. Yet the 280 freeway is screaming for an alternative. SU would benefit since they do not want to devote land for garages. They need to move staff through their hospitals, as well teaching staff so that should be a no-brainer for them.

San Francisco Metro system with electrical wires overhead - that got a really hot response from what must be the "electrical" lobby. Same people in Woodside?

So that is what we are dealing with here. A bunch of people who have an investment in the transportation efforts but do not have notable transportation systems in their location. Duly noted for further use.

Also note that Fresno does not have a notable transportation system except Amtrak.


2 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 26, 2015 at 6:44 am

In the SJM 10/26/15 front page article "Tummel digging may stall finish of bullet train". This article discusses the financial problems and engineering problems associated with the HSR project. The REAL EXPERTS tell it like it is. We are short on REAL EXPERTS on the HSR project - they are all politicians.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Global Warming Diet
By Laura Stec | 5 comments | 1,180 views

He said – she said – who is lying? Justice Brett Kavanaugh or PA resident Christine Ford
By Diana Diamond | 25 comments | 1,166 views

Couples: "Taming Your Gremlin" by Richard Carson
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,027 views

Preparing for kindergarten
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 559 views

 

Pre-registration ends tomorrow!

​On Friday, September 21, join us at the Palo Alto Baylands for a 5K walk, 5K run, 10K run, or—for the first time—half marathon! All proceeds benefit local nonprofits serving children and families.

Learn More