News

Pre-construction work starts on Caltrain electrification

Work will take place primarily during the day but sometimes overnight

Preparations for the construction work needed to electrify Caltrain along the Peninsula corridor have started and will last until the end of February, officials with the transit agency said Thursday.

Workers will be locating utilities, testing soils and testing cables, primarily during the day but sometimes overnight between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Caltrain officials said residents living nearby should have received a notice about the work.

Passengers should be aware of signs indicating they need to board from a different platform because at time trains may share one track.

The work is part of the overall Peninsula Corridor Electrification Project, which will electrify the Caltrain system from Fourth and King streets in San Francisco south to about the Tamien Caltrain Station in San Jose.

The aim of the project is to reduce carbon emissions, reduce noise and improve regional air quality, according to Caltrain officials.

Construction itself is expected to start in the spring or summer of next year and the project is expected to be complete at the end of 2020 or the beginning of 2021.

The operating speed of the trains will not change but the number of trains in service will increase overall, Caltrain officials said.

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Comments

15 people like this
Posted by Cal
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Nov 22, 2016 at 7:33 pm

Great News. Reducing diesel fumes and increasing train commuter capacity on this corridor is way overdue ! Might even be a traffic mitigator. A little construction noise and auto detours are a small price to pay. Hooray !


11 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 22, 2016 at 7:43 pm

Caltrain needs 4 years to electrify the train system 50 miles through 3 different counties? Palo Alto says it needs the same amount of time to build a bicycle bridge across Highway 101 at Adobe Creek. What is wrong with that picture???


2 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 22, 2016 at 8:42 pm

Will Gilroy be reduced to bus service?


6 people like this
Posted by WilliamR
a resident of another community
on Nov 22, 2016 at 9:11 pm

WilliamR is a registered user.

@musical--

My understanding is that Caltrain will still use diesel trains on the runs that go south of San Jose, so you will still see a few of those per day.


3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 23, 2016 at 12:15 am

Will there be enough space under bridges and underpasses for the electric wires, etc.? Since there will need to be some single tracking, with there be adjustments to schedules or delays to service?

These questions are important to answer.


11 people like this
Posted by Olivia
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Nov 23, 2016 at 5:32 am

Finally! We've been all waiting for it so many years! I really hope they will finish it by the end on 2020. It'd greatly improve traffic in this area. Not to mention positive impact on the environment. I hope everything will go smoothly!

Olivia
Web Link


12 people like this
Posted by Impact on Local Traffic?
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 23, 2016 at 7:20 am

A previous comment says that CalTrain electrification will "greatly improve traffic in this ares." But won't the additional trains at busy times mean that more cars will have to wait at grade crossings? So it will actually worsen road traffic in this area. It will also impact bikes and pedestrians that use grade crossings.

Did CalTrain or the city study these impacts? Each train approaching a grade crossing causes the lights to change, so cars going one way stop and those in another direction start moving -- and then it happens again when the train has passed through the crossing. So the intersection becomes less efficient each time a train g. At Churchill, cars already back up quite far when trains are going by. It sounds like it's going to get worse -- and yet people are being told it will get better.

Oh yes, and we've heard that someday our grade crossings will be eliminated. But will that really happen once people realize homes will have to be torn down to create underpasses?


8 people like this
Posted by Train Neighbor
a resident of Ventura
on Nov 23, 2016 at 9:23 am

Train Neighbor is a registered user.

It will be interesting to see how the project funding is affected by the new Federal administration.

From the CalMod Cost and Schedule web page Web Link

"In February, the Obama Administration allocated $72 million in prior year funding to the project and asked Congress for an additional $125 million in the 2017 Federal Budget through the FTA Core Capacity Grant Program. These funds are part of a larger $647 million request for a Federal full funding grant agreement that is expected to be finalized in 2016. Contracts for the Electrification project will be structured so that full authorization to proceed with construction is issued following the approval of Caltrain’s federal grant agreement funding request."


And from the seven member MOU agreement signed in May 2016: "In the event overall program costs reflect a financial commitment that is above the funding plan of $1.980 billion, or if the FTA Core Capacity funds are awarded at less than $647 million, the parties to this Supplement will discuss with all parties to the 2012 Nine-Party MOU how to secure additional funding beyond what is presently identified, and/or discuss project scope adjustments to match to funding availability."


12 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Nov 23, 2016 at 10:11 am

@Impact on Local Traffic?

Of course there may be some impact on east/west traffic, but years ago, knowing this project was coming, Palo Alto decided to keep the current alignment and not plan for grade separations due to fear of BERLIN WALLS.


22 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 23, 2016 at 10:47 am

@Robert is correct. 10 years ago electrification was being planned and money was available to grade-separate the Caltrain tracks through Palo Alto and Menlo Park and that work could have been complete by now. Short-sighted NIMBYs fought hard against this, even filing lawsuits to stall grade separations and increase the construction price. In the end, they won out and we have no new grade separations. Now that option is off the table in Palo Alto. We have to live with what we have now, at least until HSR comes through (if ever). Menlo Park says they are continuing to look into grade separations, but I am dubious about how serious they are and their funding sources are sketchy at best.


1 person likes this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 23, 2016 at 11:36 am

@WilliamR, if I read average weekday ridership south of Tamien correctly, there are fewer than 100 passengers per train. I can't see firing up a one-car consist six times a day when a bus is much cheaper (how much cheaper I don't know). Maybe Caltrain will find some kind of single unit self-propelled railcar. Either way, there will be transfer of riders involved, and maintenance of alternate transport equipment. I guess if HSR ever happens, it won't be along the railroad right-of-way south of Tamien, but rather jog over along 101, sparing Morgan Hill, San Martin, and Gilroy. The Altamont route may even come back into play, and Facebook could have their own stop.


19 people like this
Posted by Relieved Asthmatic
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 23, 2016 at 12:49 pm

This is such good news-- if the pollution from the trains is greatly reduced, maybe I won't need to move!

Now, if we could just reduce the emissions from Alma traffic, my medical bills will go down!


1 person likes this
Posted by WilliamR
a resident of another community
on Nov 24, 2016 at 11:14 am

WilliamR is a registered user.

@musical--


My understanding was that the whole 5-car diesel trains would run from San Francisco to Gilroy on scheduled runs, so they would be intersorted with the electric trains from San Francisco to San Jose. People wouldn't have to change trains from one mode to the other at San Jose.


Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 24, 2016 at 12:24 pm

@WilliamR, that solution is very sensible.


3 people like this
Posted by Ed
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 24, 2016 at 9:18 pm

More trains with no grade separation improvements will result in:

more cross track traffic congestion.

more opportunities for trains colliding with cars and people.


4 people like this
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 27, 2016 at 3:00 am

Palo Alto has had many, many years to implement grade separation; other peninsula cities already have it. Now here come Caltrain electrification and HSR after that, and Palo Alto doesn't have a viable plan for grade separation. Why can't Palo Alto get it together when other peninsula cities already have?

I still like my out-of-the-box idea: ramp Alma street down by several feet on either side as it approaches a given cross street, and build a tunnel under the tracks. You would also have to ramp the cross street down to be on the same level as Alma, but that is doable.


1 person likes this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 27, 2016 at 7:16 am

@Larry, that would be my preference as well, however it's been looked at and the result at each undercrossing is similar to what Oregon Expressway would be if you ramped all lanes of Alma down and up with its current southbound off-ramp and on-ramp and put a major 4-way traffic signal at the bottom. That's the only way to maintain all turning movements and to have sufficient modern-day vehicle clearance under the tracks. It's your idea written large. Any driveways and street access would be compromised for 700 feet in four directions.


12 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 27, 2016 at 12:36 pm

Under-crossings and over-crossings are impractical grade separations for many reasons. Have you ever tried to walk or bicycle Page Mill Road or San Antonio Road at those grade-separations? Our city is cut in half by those poorly designed grade separations.

The only practical way to build a grade separation is to elevate the train tracks so roads can pass underneath at a level grade. This has successfully been done for many miles through San Mateo County. No reason it cannot be done successfully here, except for NIMBYs. No other form of grade separation is realistic in Palo Alto if you want it done in our lifetimes.


Like this comment
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 27, 2016 at 1:17 pm

At Holly street in San Carlos there is some depression of the roadway, resulting in what is called a hybrid grade separation where the tracks are elevated and the roadway depressed, each by about 7 - 8 feet. This option has not even been considered for Palo Alto.

CPA had a study done which is infeasible IMO. Since then, it appears no action has been taken to achieve grade separation, and Caltrain electrification is now barreling down the track with HSR not far behind. The train tracks have been there for 150+ years, lots of time to at least devise a plan in principle if not actually implement it. HSR was approved by voters 8 years ago and there appears to have been very little action by the city in the intervening time.

One idea is to close Churchill at the tracks as was done with California avenue many years ago. That's only a partial solution but has obvious problems.

Lots of luck.


1 person likes this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 27, 2016 at 2:14 pm

"More trains with no grade separation improvements will result in: more cross track traffic congestion. more opportunities for trains colliding with cars and people."

As presently thought up in the approved boxes, yes. Now look outside of those boxes:

Stop every train just short of every grade crossing, and only let it proceed when the crossing gates have cleared the track. Build boarding platforms there to make riding more accessible and convenient for the nearby neighborhoods.

This also creates natural opportunities for building more of that dense housing by transit that so many people advocate (what, you didn't mean in your own neighborhood?!).

Electric trains decelerate and accelerate like banshees, so very little schedule impact. Or am I thinking outside the wrong box here?


1 person likes this
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 27, 2016 at 3:31 pm

"Stop every train just short of every grade crossing"

If a train accidentally overshoots its stop while auto traffic is crossing the intersection, you're going to have carnage.

Electric or diesel, these are big, hulking locomotives pulling multi-car consists. They are not streetcars like in San Francisco.

At some point you'll have to lower the gates and stop auto traffic while the train crosses the intersection.

"Have you ever tried to walk or bicycle Page Mill Road or San Antonio Road at those grade-separations?"

I've walked under the tracks many times at California Avenu and University.


7 people like this
Posted by WilliamR
a resident of another community
on Nov 27, 2016 at 4:03 pm

WilliamR is a registered user.

@ Curmudgeon--

If you want to ride a trolley that stops every block, try the VTA light rail. Those of use who use Caltrain for commuting want to get to our destinations as quickly as possible, and your suggestion of stopping at every crossing is the most ridiculous idea I have seen all month.


2 people like this
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 27, 2016 at 5:37 pm

"Under-crossings and over-crossings are impractical grade separations for many reasons. Have you ever tried to walk or bicycle Page Mill Road or San Antonio Road at those grade-separations?"

That's exactly what you have at University and Embarcadero. Oregon/Page Mill and San Antonio were never intended to handle pedestrian traffic and were not designed for it. At Embarcadero, the pedestrian sidewalks are several feet above the automobile roadway and are perfectly walkable. Pedestrian traffic does not require as much overhead clearance as vehicular traffic.

With depressed roadways it seems like the big obstacle would be driveway access.

"Our city is cut in half by those poorly designed grade separations."

Then in the next paragraph you propose elevating the trains. That would cut the city in half more than the very grade separations of which you complain.


1 person likes this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 27, 2016 at 7:15 pm

The Homer undercrossing is nice. And San Antonio has a good pedestrian/bike underpass about 800 feet south at Mayfield Ave for the Caltrain station. In my view, Alma Raceway is a bigger obstacle than the tracks. But traffic will slow down when we raise the speed limit.


1 person likes this
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 27, 2016 at 7:47 pm

"Alma Raceway is a bigger obstacle than the tracks."

Why?

My proposal is to depress Alma street by about 14 feet. This would require ramping Alma for only 700 feet on either side of the crossing, a 2% grade which auto traffic can easily handle. Apart from 700 feet of ramp on either side of the crossing, Alma street would be left alone.


1 person likes this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 27, 2016 at 9:31 pm

"If you want to ride a trolley that stops every block, try the VTA light rail. Those of use who use Caltrain ... ."

Last time I looked, the Palo Alto grade crossings were separated by many, many blocks. Are you maybe thinking of someplace else?

IMHO, safety is way more important than pampering passengers. Either take an earlier train, or drive. Not to mention the hour-plus delays whenever the train makes an unplanned contact. How do you like those?

Plentiful plaintive pleading notwithstanding, gradesep by raising or lowering either the roads or the tracks just ain't gonna happen. Period. Think outside your box as best you can.


4 people like this
Posted by Kevin
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 7, 2017 at 2:10 pm

Might want to wait on this electrification deal. CA Republicans want the Trump administration to hold back a major grant, until a full audit of the high speed rail turkey is done. Should have been done this two years ago, but better late than never.

Trump owes nothing to CA, politically speaking. He has a free hand to do his will in this state.


6 people like this
Posted by bannon
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 7, 2017 at 6:32 pm

Trumpers holding citizens hostage for political gain, again


1 person likes this
Posted by YIMBY
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 7, 2017 at 11:41 pm

@Curmudgeon

"Either take an earlier train, or drive."

Way to completely miss the point of mass transit. Tell you what, how about instead of punishing Caltrain commuters across the peninsula because of Palo Alto's inability to build proper elevated grade separation, you take the coming electrification of Caltrain as motivation to finally go and build it.


3 people like this
Posted by Oldster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 8, 2017 at 10:48 am

Waiting for the Union Pacific land to be valuable enough for developers to pay to underground all trains for above ground developments. Elon Musk's Boring Company's first project? Daydreaming of Caltrain, VTA light rail and high speed tubes from San Antonio to Menlo Park.


1 person likes this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 8, 2017 at 12:36 pm

Marie is a registered user.

First: I am in favor of the electrification of Caltrain. However, their communications are not helpful to those of us directly impacted by the work. All I want is notice so I can adjust my errands to avoid the construction, to the extent possible.

The notification to neighbors was really vague and gives no real information as to the impact. Will they be closing lanes on Alma to facilitate the work? If so, when?

What would be helpful if Caltrain could give at least one day's notice of where they will be impacting traffic so those of us living on Alma can adjust our driving routes accordingly.

Here is the website with the most information:

Web Link

Here is what it says for Palo Alto - no detail at all.

"Palo Alto
February 6 to February 10, Caltrain will be doing work during the day to confirm soil conditions and remove project material. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. The field team will work as quietly as possible."


4 people like this
Posted by Kevin
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 8, 2017 at 1:24 pm

If CA had gone 51%-49% in favor of Dems, Trump would have to consider some favors to CA. But CA went overwhelmingly in favor of the Dems. Trump has every political right to do no favors to CA. This is just poly-science 101. The irony is that Trump has the ability to help the Dems in CA, who hate the high speed rail fiasco. CA is truly a messed up state in terms of politics. So is Palo Alto.


6 people like this
Posted by Kelly
a resident of Southgate
on Aug 15, 2017 at 3:02 pm

The tracks are right behind our home and I voted against the HSR. The main reason for my concern is the EMF current that may be cause cancer and should all be concerned about It!

Is it that much faster?
Are the cables going to arc (light and snap) at night and day?


Like this comment
Posted by An Engineer
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 15, 2017 at 6:49 pm

"The main reason for my concern is the EMF current that may be cause cancer and should all be concerned about It!"

You're OK. You've been immersed in EMF all your life. Even the earth makes EMF 24/7. Still alive and cancer-free? Good. Relax.

Arcs will probably happen as trains go by. No sweat for you. If they happen without trains, call the police.


6 people like this
Posted by Mike Morris
a resident of another community
on Aug 19, 2017 at 5:10 pm

Caltrain ridership is down. Why? It is expensive to commute and park, just like Bart. More people are using uber,taxis ride share and driving etc .I don't understand Why Trump approved the $675 million. Keep the train the way it is. The officials said we want to modernize Caltrain and make it electric.BS . The train does not put out large amount of fumes. The train has been diesel for fifty years, how about the dirty dust and air construction will put in the air, and the ugly overhead wires and poles? The new modern Smart train in Marin and Sonoma county, is diesel. Quiet nice . The tax payers are getting ripped off, by the electied democrats in the area. Also the new Caltrian might not have restrooms on board ,or allow drinking on board.


4 people like this
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 19, 2017 at 6:21 pm

I left the Democratic party because I became disgusted with Jerry Brown and his high-speed-rail boondoggle. I am now Independent.


6 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 20, 2017 at 1:08 am

@Kelly,

The electrical pick-up will spark and pop as it drags on the high voltage lines, and you might smell ozone (a powerful greenhouse gas) which is generated in the sparks. The electrical pick-up will also create a lot of noise as it drags on the overhead wires at 50-55 mph.

The freight trains that run late at night will still be pulled by diesel locomotives.


6 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 20, 2017 at 1:28 am

@Larry,

The main reason we have these boondoggles like Cal-HSR and Caltrain electrification is they are a great way for local democrats to funnel federal funds through construction companies and into their campaign coffers.

Caltrain could have been electrified for a fraction of the cost with modern battery powered rail-cars.


2 people like this
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 20, 2017 at 1:43 am

"The electrical pick-up will spark and pop as it drags on the high voltage lines, and you might smell ozone (a powerful greenhouse gas) which is generated in the sparks. The electrical pick-up will also create a lot of noise as it drags on the overhead wires at 50-55 mph."

More lies, exaggeration and fear mongering.

Overhead electrical feeds have been used for mass transit for decades the world over without the problems as you describe them. Go to San Francisco. There are many electrified bus and streetcar routes and none of the problems you have described in your exaggerated fashion. I used to live on 18th street on the 33 line and there was no noise to speak of and I never once smelled ozone.

Please stop your continued lying and exaggerating.


Like this comment
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 20, 2017 at 1:56 am

Still and all, I agree that electrification is totally unnecessary for Caltrain. The reason it is being done now is to prepare the ROW for Governor Browndoggle's high-speed vanity project.

Electrification won't be the panacea for Caltrain that the masses have been led to believe, and freight will continue to use diesel as well as Caltrain service to Gilroy.


7 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 20, 2017 at 2:27 am

@Larry,

The electrified buses and streetcars in SF don't go 50-55mph. Frictional energy (and sound) produced by the high-voltage pick-up is proportional to the velocity squared.

If people think these trains are going to be quiet, there is going to be a lot of buyers remorse.


6 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 20, 2017 at 9:50 am

@Larry,

I've spent a lot of time crawling around SF at night. SF's electrified trolleys and buses do produce "sparks" (coronal discharges). The coronal discharges tend to happen when the pick-up passes over a joint in the high voltage lines and are much more visible at night. If you lived in SF and never saw this, or caught a whiff of ozone, you just weren't paying attention (or you are lying).


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 20, 2017 at 10:34 am

I have used electric trains at all speeds in various places around the world, from commuter rail to long distance rail including the Eurostar/Chunnel. They are quiet and smooth and I have never even heard of sparking or problems with a smell. From the perspective of being beside the tracks when a train goes by, there is a swoosh more than a loud noise and there is definitely a need to make sure that people are standing as far back on a platform if a train goes by without stopping, the same if you are walking along a path beside a track.


6 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 20, 2017 at 3:03 pm

Video: "Electric arc spark between power cable and train" Web Link

Video: "Amtrak Acela's Pantograph Sparks in Halethorpe" Web Link

Video: "Electrostatic Discharge Spark by Fastest Loco of India" Web Link


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