News


Palo Alto seeks resident input on rail design

More than 100 attend city's first workshop on Caltrain grade separations

As Caltrain prepares to electrify its trains and potentially share space with California's new high-speed rail system, Palo Alto is moving ahead with its own ambitious plans to address the impacts from these regional projects.

For city officials, the complex task comes with a sense of urgency. Last November, Santa Clara County voters approved Measure B, a transportation measure that includes (among many other things) $700 million in funding for grade separation in the northern part of the county. There is also a general recognition that while Palo Alto is dithering on its preferred design, other cities that are eligible for the funding -- namely, Sunnyvale and Mountain View -- are moving ahead.

Mountain View has been evaluating plans for grade separations at Castro Street (which would entail closing the street to traffic near the grade crossing) and Rengsdorff Avenue, while Sunnyvale is doing the same at Bernardo and Mary avenues.

In its bid to catch up, Palo Alto kicked off on Saturday a new community effort to redesign the grade crossings along its 4-mile segment of the corridor. More than 100 people flocked to the Mitchell Park Community Center to learn about the rail projects and to express their own goals and priorities for the rail corridor. The workshop is the first event in what promises to be an extensive community-engagement process known as "context sensitive solutions," that officials hope will ultimately lead to viable resolutions to the city's transportation problems.

Councilman Tom DuBois, who chairs the council's Rail Committee, said in his introductory remarks that the potential solutions will impact everyone who lives and works in the city. He compared it to the city's 1962 debate over the creation of Oregon Expressway, which voters approved by a slim margin.

"You are here on an important day in Palo Alto history," DuBois said. "This has the potential to be the most transformative change in our city -- perhaps ever."

Mayor Greg Scharff said the city is starting the process with "an open mind" when it comes to what types of solutions residents would like to see. The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority has indicated that it will not be doling out the money on a first-come-first-serve basis, he said.

"But frankly I'm concerned that if we take forever, other communities will use up the money and we won't get the opportunity to do so," Scharff said.

This isn't Palo Alto's first community-engagement process focusing on the rail corridor. In 2012, the city adopted a new "vision" document for the corridor that recommends, among other things, creating new grade crossings and grade separations, particularly in south Palo Alto.

The new process promises to be both larger in scope – with more audience participation – and tighter in focus, given the availability of funding for design work.

One thing that became clear at Saturday's workshop is that even if the city does nothing, travelers should expect major changes. Chris Metzger, an engineer with Mott MacDonald, the city's consultant, said that today, there are about eight to 10 trains traveling on the Caltrain corridor in both directions during peak commute times. By 2025, this is projected to go up to 20 trains an hour – which means more waiting time for the roughly 51,000 cars that cross the tracks on a typical day.

For Palo Alto officials, the most promising solution is also the most expensive. Grade separation is expected to cost more than $1 billion, requiring a hefty supplement to the Measure B funds.

During Saturday's workshop, residents broke into groups to discuss their top track priorities. Sally Bemus, summarizing her group's discussion, said her group couched the need to fund grade separation in terms of "a moonshot."

"We should not be just looking at Measure B funds, but thinking outside the box about how we can get the money and dream big," Bemus said.

Other groups reached similar conclusions, with residents favoring big solutions over small, piece-meal ones. One attendee proposed an assessment district to help pay for improvements; another suggested a bond.

Most, however, focused on broader questions: What are the biggest problems you're trying to solve? And what would you like to see?

Martin Sommer, who had worked on the 2012 rail plan, said his table really focused on a "context-sensitive design" that recognizes the particular conditions of each grade crossing.

"A solution for Churchill may not be the same solution you'd use on Meadow or Charleston," Sommer said. "Churchill, which is the entrance to (Palo Alto) High School may be heavier on the pedestrian solution, while Meadow or Charleston may be heavier on the auto solution."

A survey taken at the meeting indicated that the residents' biggest areas of concerns were, "safety" and "bicycle/pedestrian access." Robert Neff, who chairs the Palo Alto Pedestrian and Bicycle Committee (PABAC), said his group's priorities included better management of traffic lanes near the rail and improvements to bike and pedestrian safety. And, like every group, they also heavily supported grade separation at all four existing at-grade crossings.

"We think it will make traffic more efficient along the rail corridor in Palo Alto and we think this will be very effective," Neff said.

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Comments

31 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 20, 2017 at 5:40 pm

Elevate the tracks already! This is a proven design that has already been used in San Mateo County. Then we can use the space under the elevated tracks for more at-grade pedestrian and even car crossings instead of the grossly inadequate situation that we have now.


2 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 20, 2017 at 6:02 pm

The projected funding for HSR has not been provided by the government. At this time we should just address the road crossings - I think there is money for that. Once that is done any changes for electrification should be addressed as a separate issue. We can't chew off the whole situation so should just address the immediate concern of the road crossings. Once that is done many other issues will be resolved.


Like this comment
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on May 20, 2017 at 6:16 pm

[Post removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by Next Step
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 20, 2017 at 7:14 pm

Thank you for seeking community input. Although at this session, we weren't allowed to weigh in on specifics design options -- I hope that happens soon. (We all want safety, better traffic flow, and less noise. Now what?)

I would also like to see an open design contest -- there are many interesting ideas beyond what the initial 2014 study analyzed. How do we collect this input? Maybe some citizen committees?


18 people like this
Posted by Elevation issues
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 20, 2017 at 7:20 pm

Elevating the tracks requires the leveling of 50-75 homes -- where do those families move to? It also broadcasts noise much further and louder. And it has a very industrial feel, dividing our city. And probably requires removing left turns from Northbound Alma -- making traffic worse, not better. Let's try to do this right -- trench the rails, like Berkeley did. Fund it over 30 years.


26 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of Community Center
on May 20, 2017 at 8:02 pm

I like the 'bold' idea recently proposed by Rich Cline, Mayor of MenloPark, Web Link Essentially, tunnel the tracks from Redwood City to Sunnyvale, and recoup some/most of the cost by developing the many many acres of 'new' land above the tracks in a variety of ways. Once the tracks are out of sight, it becomes a permanent solution, period. No other rail corridor option can make that claim.

Frankly, the band-aid solutions put forth at this, and previous meetings about how to incrementally improve each crossing individually are huge time sinks, cost plenty of money, and in the end, provide minimal improvement to what's already not working at those locations.

I would further suggest that scrambling to accommodate electrification as a savior for Caltrain is a fools errand. Electrification is for the benefit of HSR, and HSR has no interest in improving Caltrains' situation. Caltrain leadership was foolish to bind their future with that of the massive fraud known as the HSR Authority. I would suggest that a fully grade separated rail corridor will permanently solve cross track traffic, electrification has $0 for new grade separations. A fully grade separated rail corridor greatly, if not entirely, eliminates the need for train horns and obviously gate crossing bells, electrification increases that noise because more trains will be running along the tracks, which is one of the main goals of electrification. A fully grade separates rail corridor can be secured to prevent persons from accessing the tracks far beyond anything electrification can permit, which is basically no improvement over what's not there now.

Finally, please City of Palo Alto, stop 'studying' this problem to death and start doing something. The 2012 rail corridor study Web Link offered up some viable long term solutions, and the situation hasn't changed much, except 5 years have passed, and nothing has happened. The real problem is funding, focus on that.


2 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 20, 2017 at 8:29 pm

> For Palo Alto officials, the most promising solution is
> also the most expensive. Grade separation is expected
> to cost more than $1 billion, requiring a hefty supplement
> to the Measure B funds.

$1B for Palo Alto alone? This can not possibly be true--for three grade separations.

Can the author of this article review his notes, and/or contact someone at the city and verify this claim?

Thanks.


16 people like this
Posted by Actual Robert
a resident of another community
on May 20, 2017 at 9:23 pm

@Robert

A 10 mile underground tunnel, but no electrification; you may want to think that one through...


8 people like this
Posted by HomeTowner
a resident of Mayfield
on May 20, 2017 at 10:11 pm

The devil is in the details.

Trench the trains if you will, but realize that it will be hideously expensive. Trenching from R.C. all the way to Sunnyvale would cost well over $10 billion and would be funded by taxpayers in two counties.

In Palo Alto alone, complete trenching would require that seven crossings be trenched, not four: Palo Alto Ave., Churchill, Meadow and Charleston. University; Embarcadero and Oregon, which are already grade separated, would have to be completely rebuilt if complete trenching is the goal. Add to that myriad water-table and creek-crossing issues.

"recoup some/most of the cost by developing the many many acres of 'new' land above the tracks"

Don't forget: Caltrain (JPB) owns the right-of-way, not the communities through which it passes. CPA and other cities can't develop that land without leasing or acquiring it from JPB.

"Elevating the tracks requires the leveling of 50-75 homes"

If the typical home in Palo Alto costs $2 million now, that's an additional $100 - $150 million added to the project. There are also seismic considerations if a "graceful viaduct" is contemplated.

"at this session, we weren't allowed to weigh in on specifics design options"

"please City of Palo Alto, stop 'studying' this problem to death and start doing something. The 2012 rail corridor study Web Link offered up some viable long term solutions, and the situation hasn't changed much, except 5 years have passed, and nothing has happened."

Palo Alto is well over 10 years behind the curve on this. It doesn't seem like CPA is serious about grade separation at all; they've been dragging their feet for years. It's as if they've suddenly received this measure B windfall and now they're in a hurry to spend it before the money evaporates.


3 people like this
Posted by Sinking Alma
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 20, 2017 at 10:43 pm

The elevation proposal is to sink Alma by 3 feet. Would like to see a drawing of what thus looks like.

I think it also requires rebuilding the San Antonio overpass -- ouch.

Let's have some Silicon Valley engineers figure out a clean solution, not a hack. j


10 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 20, 2017 at 11:04 pm

I saw how this works in San Mateo County - I think it was San Bruno - need to go up and check. They used steel structures to maintain the existing level of the tracks then dug the tunnel below and reinforced with concrete and steel. The surrounding industrial area was not disturbed. They know how to do this.
Once you see it happening you have to wonder why we are not doing this. Yes the cars will go down then up. Find the people that did this before - it will be cheap and fast.


9 people like this
Posted by Underground
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 20, 2017 at 11:04 pm

In 1863, London trenched their subway (the Tube). 150 years later, is it really that hard?

BTW, how many tracks do we need, 2 or 4 (or 3)?


2 people like this
Posted by Thomas Paine IV
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on May 22, 2017 at 8:04 am

Build an elevated structure using concrete burial crypts as the base. That would raise $100 million per mile to defray the cost.


11 people like this
Posted by Juan
a resident of Mountain View
on May 22, 2017 at 9:55 am

It should be tunnel / trenched. Don't settle for anything less. If they are spending $1XX billion dollars to build HSR, they can surely spend $1-2 billion to trench the train from Sunnyvale to Palo Alto (and beyond). Any other proposal is just a variation of the original Berlin Wall and will involve taking dozens of properties through eminent domain - NO DEAL.


17 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 22, 2017 at 10:54 am

A full-length trench would be a Berlin Wall for our water table.
Will we see ground subsidence on the downstream side?
How many trees will die?
What guarantees will be offered?
The experts I'm sure will tell us nothing can go wrong, go wrong, go wrong...
At least it will be easier to dig basements afterwards.


Like this comment
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 22, 2017 at 12:10 pm

"I saw how this works in San Mateo County - I think it was San Bruno - need to go up and check. They used steel structures to maintain the existing level of the tracks then dug the tunnel below and reinforced with concrete and steel. The surrounding industrial area was not disturbed. They know how to do this."

San Bruno has a much wider right of way and it's industrial. This model won't work in Palo Alto without taking homes.

As for the idea of sinking Alma, so the plan to eminent domain all the houses along the sunken portion of Alma and the streets up to the Alma and the tracks on the other side? They won't have road access after that.


6 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on May 22, 2017 at 12:14 pm

Annette is a registered user.

@HomeTowner - good point that the devil is in the details.

Inconvenient detail #1: Palo Alto does not have a $700M windfall. That money is not being held for Palo Alto to spend when and how it chooses. That money is for the "northern part" of the county.

Inconvenient detail #2: considering the scope of work that must be done to improve circulation and safety and reduce noise, etc., $700M will not go far.

I attended on Saturday; heard lots of ideas. It struck me as a little disingenuous that the discussion started at square one w/the consultants having residents identify the challenges b/c those are just so darn obvious and have been for years. Also, the discussion was done w/o benefit of knowing what kind of $ is really available or the status of HSR. Yes, always good to involve the community but we were engaged in ideation that may well prove to be just talk.

I think we should approach the problem from a practical, reality-based position and get a handle on what we must do, what the community and region will support both financially and inconvenience-wise, and what it will cost. If the answer is indeed a "moonshot" let's price that out so we know what we are talking about in real terms.

For sake of discussion, it was clear at my table that eminent domain is a measure to be avoided. If that is, ultimately, a deal breaker, we need to focus on the approaches that don't involve that. And if eminent domain is on the table, people should know that, too.


2 people like this
Posted by John Francisco
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 22, 2017 at 12:25 pm

if you put I a tunnel for 10 miles an a train moving at 100 mph comes of the track or you have a fire down there good luck getting to them. have a lot of body bags you will need them. the razizeed line is the best just go up north an watch the trains go by . there there for less than 1or 2 mins. an there gone. elect. will not make any noise at all. you can not hear bart trails comming by or not a nuff to matter. people up in Portland Oregon get run over all the time talking on phones an not hearing the trains. an they have a lot of them.jdf


Like this comment
Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on May 22, 2017 at 12:38 pm

People seem to be confusing trenching and tunneling.
Trenching will be much cheaper to do but will not create valuable land rights.

The final money for electrification was released by Elaine Chao at fed DOT today. Time to get cracking on the grade separations.

I'm skeptical that true HSR will be built from SJ to SF. I expect that there willl be a transfer in SJ to faster non-stop trains at SJ.


2 people like this
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on May 22, 2017 at 12:45 pm

Two underpasses were built in Palo Alto in the 1930s and 1 in the 1960s.

It says a lot about the priorities in our society that no additional underpasses have been built in the last 50 years.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 22, 2017 at 12:47 pm

I see absolutely no sense in this unless our neighbors in Menlo and Mountain View do the same and the same as their neighbors in RWC and Sunnyvale.

Come to think of it, this has to be done as a Peninsula thing not as a piecemeal thing.

Otherwise we will make a bad situation even worse.


10 people like this
Posted by stew plock
a resident of Triple El
on May 22, 2017 at 12:52 pm

A previous writer said "Trenching will be much cheaper to do (than tunneling) but will not create valuable land rights." Actually, with a covered trench system, you CAN develop the land rights above the trench completely..imagine a park, biking trails, housing and retail business running right up the Peninsula through several cities.,with trains in the covered trench. Now, THAT's quality of life!


2 people like this
Posted by HomeTowner
a resident of Mayfield
on May 22, 2017 at 1:29 pm

Once again, JPB (Caltrain) owns the right-of-way (where the trains go) and in order to build on it you'd have to either acquire or lease the land and that's another expense. The land does not belong to Palo Alto or to any other city through which the trains pass.

I'm surprised people are this uninformed. Here is the study commissioned by CPA. Web Link

Good points, Annette. CPA (city of Palo Alto) has been dragging its feet for years and years on this matter. They developed a "vision" in 2012 and had an engineering report in 2014. Now it is 2017, five years later, and they're just starting to have community meetings. It seems as if they're starting all over again at square one. "What are your priorities?" "Safety, bike and pedestrian access." Well duh, everybody wants those; you don't need a community meeting to figure that out. Now CPA has this windfall of measure B money and they're caught with their pants down, without having decided on a concrete plan -- the price of years and years of stalling and foot-dragging. San Carlos grade separated Holly Street very nicely 10 years ago.

Figure it would cost $2 million for each property taken by eminent domain, so that option is off the table. In addition, there are myriad water-table issues to be taken into consideration, as well as seismic issues if the trains are to be elevated.

"I see absolutely no sense in this unless our neighbors in Menlo and Mountain View do the same and the same as their neighbors in RWC and Sunnyvale.

Come to think of it, this has to be done as a Peninsula thing not as a piecemeal thing.

Otherwise we will make a bad situation even worse."

Do you want to wait yet another 20 years for grade separation? It will take at least that long to get two counties and the cities of Redwood City, Atherton, Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Mountain View and Sunnyvale together on a plan everyone can commit to, as well as funding, voting on various taxes, bonds, whatever, to pay for it all.

The devil is in the details.


2 people like this
Posted by HomeTowner
a resident of Mayfield
on May 22, 2017 at 1:38 pm

The recently-passed measure B money is for Santa Clara county and can't be used for projects in San Mateo county. That puts a crimp in the grandiose vision of burying the trains from RWC to Sunnyvale.


3 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 22, 2017 at 2:59 pm

"Once again, JPB (Caltrain) owns the right-of-way (where the trains go) and in order to build on it you'd have to either acquire or lease the land and that's another expense. The land does not belong to Palo Alto or to any other city through which the trains pass."

We are having the same discussion. Air rights is not a new concept (see: New York City). I'm sure if there's enough money to be made, JPB and Union Pacific will come to the table if we need to get their approval.


10 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on May 22, 2017 at 3:26 pm

Annette is a registered user.

" . . . today, there are about eight to 10 trains traveling on the Caltrain corridor in both directions during peak commute times. By 2025, this is projected to go up to 20 trains an hour . . . "

The above data point was one of the harshest things I heard on Saturday. 20 trains an hour means that every 3 minutes cars will be stopped for train passage. When I close my eyes and imagine all the additional cars that will be on our beleaguered streets and highways b/c of the commercial + residential development that will be added to our built environment during the intervening 8 years, PLUS Stanford's growth plans, I envision gridlock of the sort illustrated in cartoons. Except it's real and not the least funny. PAF and ABAG can urge housing and growth all they want, Staff can support that, and our Council majority can continue to vote like reality isn't what it is, but at some point everything (and each of us) will come to a screeching halt. If the consultant's data is correct, that happens in 2025. Pedestrians, drivers, cyclists, and residents all lose if we persist with our current course of action.


Like this comment
Posted by HomeTowner
a resident of Mayfield
on May 22, 2017 at 3:42 pm

"I'm sure if there's enough money to be made, JPB and Union Pacific will come to the table if we need to get their approval."

U.P. has no say in above-ground development provided their freight trains can run. The question is, how much $$$ will JPB want for this land, or will they agree to this plan at all?

People complain of a "Berlin wall" elevating the trains would cause. You're going to have quite a wall when you build 10-story office and mixed-use buildings on the ROW.

The best solution for Palo Alto takes advantage of the three crossings that are already grade separated and not spend billions rebuilding them for a trench/tunnel.


Like this comment
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on May 22, 2017 at 4:01 pm

@Stew Plock

"Actually, with a covered trench system, you CAN develop the land rights above the trench completely"

This could be a game changer if the land use options you envision can be realized by development over a covered trench. I hope this will be seriously addressed in Town Square comments and later in the council chambers if it's a viable option.


Like this comment
Posted by HomeTowner
a resident of Mayfield
on May 22, 2017 at 4:20 pm

"Actually, with a covered trench system, you CAN develop the land rights above the trench completely"

Not without paying lots of money in the form of a lease or outright acquisition. JPB isn't going to simply give away for free use of land they own.


7 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 22, 2017 at 6:45 pm

Another car hit by Caltrain at Churchill this afternoon. I vote for whatever cross-town grade separation we get get done in 10 years or less. Not something that will take 50 years as tunneling surely will.


Like this comment
Posted by John Francisco
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 22, 2017 at 7:22 pm

this is not a 3rd rail train. its an overhead hot line . how do you maintain it under ground the ditch will have to be 4to6ft deeper for the hot line to clear the top of the cars.


2 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 22, 2017 at 8:58 pm

Regarding land value over a trench -- that dog won't hunt. Matadero, Barron and Adobe Creeks are in trenches. These narrow linear creek features are similar to the railway line, with a similar amount of total suburban acreage. Tell my why a railroad trench would unlock any value as parkland, trails, or housing, while the creek acreage has remained undeveloped and totally inaccessible. It's all dictated by local government agencies, right?


Like this comment
Posted by HomeTowner
a resident of Mayfield
on May 22, 2017 at 9:02 pm

The first thing the Palo Alto city council needs to do, and they could do it right now, is to pass a resolution stating that no property will be taken by eminent domain for Caltrain, High-Speed Rail or grade separation. That would be a positive first step and would advance the cause of grade separation just a little further.

It would also eliminate a few of the proposals contained in the Hatch, Mott, McDonald report.

Are you listening, Tom DuBois?


4 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 22, 2017 at 9:07 pm

@HomeTowner, the State could take the whole city of Palo Alto by eminent domain. We really don't have much say.


Like this comment
Posted by HomeTowner
a resident of Mayfield
on May 22, 2017 at 9:18 pm

musical: According to the H.M.M. report, the 2% trench would go under Adobe & Barron creeks and would come up to grade just south of Matadero creek, then over Oregon expwy which is already grade separated.

Trenching the RR all the way through Palo Alto would require completely rebuilding Oregon, Embarcadero and University, and would push the project well into the multi billions, rather than taking advantage of Palo Alto's three crossings which are already grade separated.


Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 22, 2017 at 9:25 pm

Adobe Creek is now filling up with duck families and has birds zooming all around. There is enough roughage that allows some vegetation to grow and by mid-summer it is interesting to watch all of the activity that goes on. I don't think you can cover it as it is a habitat. As to a train tunnel if anything liked BART it is very noisy when the train is in a tunnel and I am thinking that is not such a good idea. And the building of the tunnel would include escalators going down and coming up - much too elaborate for the amount of space available. And the station would have to be far more elaborate. The goal is to reduce the impact on the surrounding area.


Like this comment
Posted by HomeTowner
a resident of Mayfield
on May 22, 2017 at 10:12 pm

Again, "the 2% trench would go under Adobe & Barron creeks and would come up to grade just south of Matadero creek, then over Oregon expwy which is already grade separated."

The trains would be at grade by the time they gets to Calif. Avenue. No need to disrupt the station or build escalators because the train would go over the existing at-grade tracks. Granted, there would have to be some means of emergency access.

Every idea you can think of has many gotchas: the water table is too high or you'd have to cross a creek or a political boundary or take a very large number of homes by eminent domain, etc.


3 people like this
Posted by Juan
a resident of Mountain View
on May 22, 2017 at 10:15 pm

All parties involved should take time and spend the money to come up with the best solution - and the best solution is clearly a trench / tunnel, while developing the land (with a long bike / pedestrian path) on top. "Some other party owns the land", or "it requires collaboration between multiple cities / counties" is not a good excuse. We'll be stuck with whatever gets built for the next 100+ years, which is why we need the right solution, not the quick / easy / cheap solution. Cost is irrelevant, we're already spending $100+ billion on HSR.


5 people like this
Posted by Realist
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 22, 2017 at 11:00 pm

The issue of separating the railroad tracks from streets is neither a new or unique problem, yet from reading the comments here it seems Palo Altans don't realize the wheel has already been invented.

Interested in a trench? Look at what El Paso, Texas did. Their trench, the Bataan Memorial Trainway, opened in 1950.

Want something closer to home? Check out the railroad trench in Alhambra, Calif., or the 25-mile Alameda Corridor trench linking downtown Los Angeles with the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Want a recent example? The City of San Gabriel just built a trench, which connects with the Alhambra Trench.

A partially-covered trench? Downtown Reno has one, complete with a couple of buildings that straddle the trench.

A raised concrete viaduct would both separate tracks from streets, and create a sense of openness because there is no berm. The Trinity Railway Express commuter line built just such a structure in Arlington, Texas, complete with green space and a bike path underneath. It's quite nice.

Look no further than San Carlos, Belmont, or San Bruno to see a berm. There are multiple examples of overpasses spanning the tracks, too.

All of the above projects function quite well. The only difference is, those places have leadership that was able to make a decision and get it done.

Meantime, Palo Alto is reinventing the wheel with more community scoping sessions. What an embarrassment.

It's quaint that people don't want to see any homes demolished, or property taken. But it's not very realistic.

This is a project for the next 100 years, and it may be necessary to purchase homes or other properties to make it work. Take a big-picture view, it's for the greater good.

A tunnel would be fabulous. But you're living in Fantasyland if you think Palo Alto is going to get any money to bore a tunnel before downtown San Jose's BART tunnel is done.

Palo Altans would be best served by calling on city council members to stop talking and start deciding.

Otherwise, the 2017 study is destined to collect dust on a shelf with all the studies, resolutions, and plans that came before.

Besides, the quicker Palo Alto decides of grade separations, the sooner folks can start complaining about the ugly wires Caltrain is going to string for electrification.


7 people like this
Posted by HomeTowner
a resident of Mayfield
on May 22, 2017 at 11:17 pm

Ignore the practical, political and economic considerations and you will have a trench/tunnel in 100+ years.


2 people like this
Posted by HomeTowner
a resident of Mayfield
on May 22, 2017 at 11:27 pm

"It's quaint that people don't want to see any homes demolished, or property taken. But it's not very realistic."

I suggest you read the H.M.M. report and direct your attention to the trench proposals that require NO property taking.


3 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on May 23, 2017 at 6:46 am

Community outreach is required and that probably explains the Sat. meeting b/c it clearly wasn't designed to progress the decision making. I also suspect that what's really going on here is a maneuvering so that one way or another further densification by way of high-rise development along the corridor will be presented as the best or, since being audacious is working, the only feasible option. An architect at the table I was at on Saturday suggested that additional funding for the rail solution could be achieved by charging developers more $/sf for high rises.

Follow the money. Architects and developers benefit immediately from that approach. But they aren't the gatekeepers. The City Manager and certain politicians who feed at that trough are and I think that should concern everyone who is interested in the livability of this city. Yes we have to progress and evolve and come up with solutions that will work long term, but do we really have to sell out the city by erecting a massive wall of high rises along the transit corridor to get there?


2 people like this
Posted by Yimbytastic
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 23, 2017 at 8:21 am

"I suggest you read the H.M.M. report and direct your attention to the trench proposals that require NO property taking."

Sometimes the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Since the worries seems​ to be over noise, how many people would be impacted? Only a vocal fee, as is the case with as airplane noise, or would it be enough people to justify the expense and potential property loss?

"Actually, with a covered trench system, you CAN develop the land rights above the trench completely"

What an outstanding idea! Bravo! That would provide a great deal of real estate for sorely needed housing and office space, all with very easy access to public transit. Any expense incurred would almost certainly be well worth it.


6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 23, 2017 at 8:28 am

We are now on a time crunch with this. Electrification is happening now and if there are any delays in getting this started we will have an even bigger problem.


11 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 23, 2017 at 8:52 am

"Sometimes the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few."

Great. So, are you offering to give up your home to one of those losing theirs? After all, we should all be adhering to lines from a science fiction movie as a society.


6 people like this
Posted by HomeTowner
a resident of Mayfield
on May 23, 2017 at 9:18 am

"What an outstanding idea! Bravo! That would provide a great deal of real estate for sorely needed housing and office space"

There's your "Berlin wall". 10-story office buildings along the railroad right-of-way.

You must be a developer.


8 people like this
Posted by Joe Meyers
a resident of Downtown North
on May 23, 2017 at 11:40 am

I haven't read all comments to date, so this may be a repetition of something already suggested. We should "think big" and consider combining the Alma Street right of way and the RR right of way into one wide transportation corridor for as much of the length of Palo Alto as feasible. With that combined width we could have a cut-and-cover or partially sunken train right of way and a raised roadway with plenty of room for grade-separated crossings for vehicles, pedestrians and bicycles. With so much growth business and residential density (to date and into the future), why not have infrastructure that truly meets our needs?


Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 23, 2017 at 11:50 am

We cannot afford to maintain our current infrastructure.
The more we have, the more affordable it becomes? I don't think so.


4 people like this
Posted by Juan
a resident of Mountain View
on May 23, 2017 at 12:22 pm

There is absolutely not a crunch time on this - there should be no rush at all to implement a BAD band-aid underpass / overpass (AKA Berlin Wall) solution that we will be stuck with for 100 years. Even if Caltrain suddenly runs 20 trains an hour starting tomorrow, drivers will learn after about one day and take a different route to cross the tracks. That might add a whole five minutes to some people's commutes, the horror!

Do it right with a trench / tunnel, or don't do it at all.


4 people like this
Posted by HomeTowner
a resident of Mayfield
on May 23, 2017 at 12:44 pm

"There is absolutely not a crunch time on this"

What makes you think the electrification project will wait for Palo Alto to get it together? They want to finish the project and move on.


Like this comment
Posted by Yimbytastic
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 23, 2017 at 1:04 pm

"There's your "Berlin wall". 10-story office buildings along the railroad right-of-way."

Berlin Wall? Some architectural critics might like that, but I think Modernist buildings are more fitting for the birthplace of Silicon Valley.

I was thinking more ten story apartments and condos than office buildings, but we need both. The commercial rents are so high that many longtime businesses are being forced out. That will not change unless more commercial space is made available. Maybe it is just me, but I would hope downtown Palo Alto is something more than just a collection of high-tech businesses. We need our bookstores, affordable restaurants, drugstores, etc., as well. Then again, those things might not be terribly important to Palo Altans who live outside of the downtown area.

Affordable housing is desperately needed, and not only in Palo Alto. Accordingly, the state legislature introduced a slew of new bills to streamline the approval process. The implications are clear: Either we add affordable housing our way or the state will do it for us. I think our way is likely to be better.


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Posted by CrankyMan
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on May 23, 2017 at 1:43 pm

@Thomas Paine IV;

"Build an elevated structure using concrete burial crypts as the base."

At first I laughed loudly. Then I thought, "Gosh darned good idea!"

But a trench is the right answer. Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!


Like this comment
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on May 23, 2017 at 3:20 pm

Yimbytastic,

Do you realized that retail is overstored and is shrinks ng?

The last thing Alo Alto needs is more unprofitable retail.

Residential is where the need and economic returns are greatest. Residential values are now so high that the old reasons why housing was considered detrimental to public finance no longer apply.


Like this comment
Posted by Yimbytastic
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 23, 2017 at 3:55 pm

"Do you realized that retail is overstored and is shrinks ng?

The last thing Alo Alto needs is more unprofitable retail."

One of the reasons retail is so unprofitable in Palo Alto is that rents are sky high. There are other reasons for the decline of brick-and-mortar retail, but the high rents only make things that much worse.

"Residential is where the need and economic returns are greatest. Residential values are now so high that the old reasons why housing was considered detrimental to public finance no longer apply."

I agree with you completely there. Antiquated anti-growth attitudes have proven quite counterproductive so far. Not to mention that all current housing in our city was once part of urban growth. If more people who work in Palo Alto could afford to live here, there would be much less traffic.


1 person likes this
Posted by seeing is believing
a resident of Barron Park
on May 23, 2017 at 4:17 pm

Forget the money, $650 Million will only cover the consultants fees.
Show the world what it will look like. Put "witness" poles up for a 1/4 mile.

U G L Y !
-
Check out the new diesel engines. HSR is a Jerry Brown boondoggle, and will never happen.


Like this comment
Posted by lurker
a resident of Midtown
on May 24, 2017 at 8:51 am

to Realist: thanks for sane comments
to Joe M: I've not seen that suggestion, but I like the idea.


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

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