News

Palo Alto residents join train-tunnel debate

More than 100 attend community meeting following release of paper on trenching option

Palo Alto's debate over the future of the rail corridor began to rev up Tuesday night, when a crowd of residents joined city leaders in plotting the best path forward for grade separation.

A standing-room-only crowd of more than 100 residents packed into the Palo Alto Art Center to hear a presentation on a recent study that the city commissioned to gauge the feasibility of constructing a trench or a tunnel for Caltrain along the city's 4-mile corridor. Performed by the consulting firm Mott MacDonald, the study considered three underground options (an open trench, a cut-and-cover trench and bored tunnels), listed the engineering challenges associated with each and estimated the cost.

The white paper concluded that building a trench or a tunnel from one end of the city to another would cost between $2.4 billion and $4 billion, depending on the design chosen. The range prompted staff to declare that these options are "practically unworkable" from both political and financial perspectives.

For staff, the Tuesday meeting was a chance to explain how it arrived at its conclusion, get community feedback and bring more residents onboard for what promises to be a complex multiyear conversation. Assistant City Manager Ed Shikada highlighted the main reason for pursuing grade separations: growing train traffic. By 2025, Caltrain expects to run up to 20 trains during peak hours. By 2030, traffic congestion is projected to double from current levels.

"If nothing is done, and (crossing) gates will continue to be the methods through which trains are given priority at intersections; gates will be down 25 percent of the time," Shikada said. "This could cause a doubling of our traffic congestion in addition to the safety and access concerns and constraints created at those grade crossings."

But the city's preferred remedy -- grade separation, or the separation of roadways from the railroad tracks -- entails significant disruptions. These include closing two lanes of Alma Street to create "shoofly tracks" -- temporary tracks that would allow Caltrain to operate during construction; the need to secure environmental permits and Menlo Park's cooperation; relocation of utilities; and the need to dig under San Francisquito Creek. Because of the creek, the trench would need to be at least 50 feet deep in the northernmost segment.

Another obstacle is the sheer duration of construction. Under the current schedule, which Shikada called "aggressive," construction wouldn't launch until 2023 and the project wouldn't be completed until 2028.

Currently, the city is weighing about 40 different options. In the coming months, it plans to narrow down the list to between four and eight. The City Council has set a goal of picking the preferred alternative by the end of this year.

But for all the challenges the project will entail, the mood at Tuesday's meeting wasn’t entirely downcast. Mark Christoffels, chief engineer and executive at San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments, listed the many obstacles his group has had to overcome since the late 1990s, when it embarked on a similar project. Responding to a huge increase in freight traffic and growing train lengths, 31 cities formed a joint powers authority for grade separations at Alameda Corridor.

Similar to Palo Alto, the project in the Los Angeles area had to overcome a host of obstacles. These included digging a trench that could accommodate three Union Pacific tracks (which included the shoofly track), protecting a historic mission in San Gabriel and figuring out what to do with each of the 52 grade crossings along the corridor (the group chose 19 to work on, based on traffic level, safety aspects and other criteria), Christoffels said.

Construction on the $1.7 billion project launched in 2000 and it is still about five years from completion, he said. Yet many of the crossings have already been either separated from the tracks or equipped with new security measures, including quad gates. In five years, the project is set to reach the finish line, he said.

Christoffels noted that each project comes with its unique challenges, though they all take a long time to resolve.

"A lot of agreements have to be put in place before you put in the first bucket of dirt," Christoffels said.

Much of Tuesday's meeting was devoted to residents discussing grade separations in small groups. They were prompted by questions: What one option should remain on the table? Which should be off the table? Do you agree or disagree that a citywide trench or tunnel is unrealistic?

In many cases, conversations strayed to broader issues. At one table, resident Arthur Keller led a group of residents in calculating how much money an employee tax could generate to fund grade-separation work. At another, Steven Rosenberg and his tablemates questioned Chief Transportation Official Joshuah Mello about the city's decision to abandon the trench -- a decision they deemed premature.

For some residents, the meeting was a chance to offer ideas. A few proposed a formation of a joint-power authority or the creation of a Peninsula-wide plan.

For others, it was a chance to keep the tunnel dream alive. Residents were encouraged to write their answers on the paper tablecloths. "Is this a meeting to steer people away from the trench?" one comment stated.

"Don't be pennywise and pound foolish," wrote another.

---

Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

What is democracy worth to you?
Support local journalism.

Comments

50 people like this
Posted by Arthur Keller
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 7, 2018 at 6:29 am

There are about 100,000 employees within the City of Palo Alto, including the Stanford Medical Center, but excluding the Stanford campus (which is outside the City limits). A $1,000 per-employee tax that applied to, say, 2/3 of the employees would raise $67 million per year. Over 30 years, such a tax could raise $2 billion. That goes a long way to paying for grade separations.


25 people like this
Posted by Juan
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 7, 2018 at 6:32 am

Caltrain and the State of California should pay for the tunneling. If Caltrain wants to double train volume and the state wants to run HSR then they need to build the necessary infrastructure. That means a tunnel through Mountain View and Palo Alto, at minimum.

The state will spend $200 billion+ on HSR, there is enough money to build the tunnel.


26 people like this
Posted by Arthur Keller
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 7, 2018 at 6:44 am

Mark Christoffels said in their experience that depressing the roadway involves closure of the road crossing the tracks (e.g., Charleston) and the road adjacent to the tracks (i.e., Alma) for as much as 3 years. It involves eminent domain to buy the adjacent properties whose driveways now longer could connect with the now-depressed cross-street (e.g., Meadow). It also involve building a temporary bypass road for the adjacent roadway (Alma), but that land for doing that involves eminent domain. For depressing the roadway, Mark Christoffels said that the land acquisition costs were almost as much as construction costs.

While we consider the impacts of the shoofly tracks on Alma of trenching, closing one or two lanes, compare that with the impacts of closing all lanes of Alma and each cross-street to depress them for up to 3 years.


49 people like this
Posted by Arthur Keller
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 7, 2018 at 6:50 am

I agree with Juan that the state should kick in money. I contend that the state, MTC, and the county should pay for the lowest cost grade separations fully costed including any required property acquisitions for the entire Caltrain corridor. Palo Alto should pay for the incremental costs of our preferred solutions.

Why aren’t we banding together with other cities to raise more money?


19 people like this
Posted by Robert Neff
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 7, 2018 at 7:41 am

There are many ways to raise billions if we can get someone else to pay higher taxes, but is this the best way value for spending money on that scale in Palo Alto? For every $Billion of added cost we are investing $30,000 per resident.
Everything else on the city infrastructure backlog would be paid for multiple times with this scale of money. I support grade separation, but I would rather the city spend less of my next $30k in city investment in grade separation, and more on parks, existing street improvements, bikeways (a drop in the bucket), fire stations or even magnificent parking garages.


15 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 7, 2018 at 7:57 am

"For every $Billion of added cost we are investing $30,000 per resident. "

In the time you wrote that line, your house just appreciated by that much.


18 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 7, 2018 at 8:39 am

There are some very intelligent and clever, deep thinking and well informed residents of Palo Alto who make extremely useful points and have excellent ideas on this subject. They may be engineers or have experience that could be invaluable to the CC and together they could come up with some innovative proposals that could work well and could help with fundraising ideas also.

It makes sense that these well informed and extremely motivated people should be heard and not ignored. These may not be paid experts, but they probably have more at stake which gives them a passion to look for a sensible solution to the problem.

Please CC listen to those residents who are knowledgeable and willing to help you come to your decision. This is not a political issue, but a quality of life issue. Those who are aware of the pros and cons of living with whatever decision is ultimately made should have more than just their ideas written on a table cloth, or given an evening for input, but should be taken on board as valuable aids.

The problem does not have an easy solution but I have heard many here on various threads come up with many reasoned ideas that should be investigated and thrashed through.

Don't trash the community's input. Just listen. Something innovative could just come from it.


10 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 7, 2018 at 9:06 am

Online Name is a registered user.

The gates would be down 25% of the time? That's about the amount of time many of us on now-clogged roads like Middlefield can't get out of our driveways.

Let's hear it for uber-development.


5 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 7, 2018 at 9:19 am

The gates would be down 25% of the time? The traffic signals to cross Alma are red 50% of the time.


32 people like this
Posted by elevate the tracks
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 7, 2018 at 11:35 am

Elevate the tracks already. The tunnel people have been trying for more than 10 years to find money for that project and still have nothing. Saying that someone else should pay for it is not a solution. Creating grade separations by elevating the tracks can be done using well understood engineering techniques and completed for 1/20 of the cost of a tunnel in probably 1/20 of the time. People who complain that elevated tracks will split the city are ignoring the fact that the lengthy ugliness of Alma Street already splits the city. Elevating the train tracks will not make it any worse. Traffic around town is continuing to get worse and if we want something done in our lifetime, elevating the tracks is the most realistic solution.

Some people are saying we should just close the existing at-grade crossings and force people to use the existing separated crossings (University, Embarcadero, Page Mill, San Antonio). That might make sense for Castro Street in Mountain View since Shoreline is just a couple of blocks away, but Page Mill to San Antonio is really too long a distance. Besides closing the existing crossings will split the city much more than elevating the tracks.


15 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 7, 2018 at 11:51 am

^^^People always forgetting about the noise propagation from elevating the tracks. Electrification doesn't magically make trains silent (just look at how noisy BART is). There hasn't been a sufficient study of noise impact - the only study kicking around predicts HSR noise at grade, not elevated. Yes, even the folks in Midtown like you could be in for a noisy future with elevated tracks.


22 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Mar 7, 2018 at 12:10 pm

Reality: trenching or tunneling will never happen, so the choice is between building the berm now or waiting until rail traffic increases to unbearable point before doing so.


17 people like this
Posted by PA Employer
a resident of Palo Verde School
on Mar 7, 2018 at 12:24 pm

As a long term PA employer struggling to hire qualified staff at a reasonable salary for our market sector, adding the $1,000/year tax would mean $50-$60k out of our bottom line EVERY YEAR!....totally unsustainable. It would force us to move our offices (and JOBS) out of Palo Alto.

Mr. Keller's proposal is a not starter for us.


7 people like this
Posted by Maurice
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 7, 2018 at 1:40 pm

Gennady Sheyner needs to be more careful in the way he writes these stories.

A CITYWIDE, end-to-end tunnel/trench extending from San Antonio to S.F. creek has been dismissed by city staff due to the complexities of crossing S.F. creek which forms the city limit and county line, as well as the depth required to burrow under the creek itself. It is important to distinguish between the two trench/tunnel plans: citywide end-to-end, and partial.

A partial trench extending from San Antonio to Matadero creek is still on the table. It takes advantage of the fact that Oregon expwy., Embarcadero and University are already grade separated. That leaves Churchill which is a problem case no matter what, and Palo Alto Ave. which is close to the creek and doesn't have much space to work with.

One problem with a trench/tunnel is that there is no natural drainage along the ROW. The trech/tunnel would have to be continuously pumped. If the pumps fail during a storm, as recently happened at Embarcadero, it could shut down all of Caltrain, U.P. freight service and potentially CA HSR if the trench/tunnel at Palo Alto is flooded and impassable.


3 people like this
Posted by Maurice
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 7, 2018 at 2:02 pm

Correction: it was Oregon expwy. which recently flooded, not Embarcadero.


7 people like this
Posted by Rosemary
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 7, 2018 at 2:02 pm

Why can't there be a road underpass at Churchill, Meadow and Charleston?


3 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 7, 2018 at 2:43 pm

Posted by Rosemary, a resident of South of Midtown

>> Why can't there be a road underpass at Churchill, Meadow and Charleston?

There can be. The trick is how to do crossings that are also bicycle and pedestrian safe, secure, and friendly.


23 people like this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Mar 7, 2018 at 2:46 pm

Reality Check is a registered user.

@Me 2 writes: People [are] always forgetting about the noise propagation from elevating tracks. Electrification doesn't magically make trains silent (just look at how noisy BART is).

In addition to picking a non-standard track gauge, BART's original designers made an even more uniquely dumb decision to use a cylindrical wheel profile which resulted in BART's notorious ear-splitting "howl" from the resulting rail surface corrugations that plague the entire BART system, even on straight and level tracks. BART is now, finally, after 50 years, slowly going to a standard conical wheel profile with its new "fleet of the future" trains. For technically interested readers, there is an excellent presentation on the subject here: Web Link

Anyway, current diesel, as well as future, electrified Caltrain and HSR trains do not suffer this extreme railhead corrugation problem and ear-splitting "BART howl", because, like all well-designed trains for over the last 100 years or so, they use a conical wheel profile. Caltrain has also been converted to using quieter continuously welded rail (no more clickety-clack track noise) and solid concrete ties (in most areas) since the old SP days. As anyone who has experienced Stadler's quiet high-performance electric double-deck KISS trains in Switzerland or other European countries knows, these are very quiet trains ... that run like, ahem, a Swiss watch :-)

HSR will use similarly state-of-the-art electric trains. (Europeans and Japanese hate train noise much more than Americans ... they don't even buy into the insane horn-blowing safety-theater that US regulators force on our trains at crossings.)

Yes, all things considered equal, elevating any given noise source will help it to propagate further. But with electrification and low sound walls that screen the wheel-rail interface, the absence of horn blowing, train noise should be quite reasonable.

I will end with the following excerpt from a 2003 BKF Engineering study (Web Link) commissioned by the City of Menlo Park for contemplated grade separations in that city:

F. NOISE EFFECTS

The JPB is presently working with the City of San Bruno in evaluating grade separations at three crossings. As a part of that process the JPB retained the engineering firm of Parsons to perform a study of the noise and vibration that could be anticipated from the project. The following are excerpts from that report.

"Results of the analysis revealed an overall operation noise reduction at first row residences along the proposed project corridor. The noise reduction is due to the elimination of the horn and gate bell noise with the grade separation. However, noise from train passby with grade separation at second and third row residences would be 1 to 2 dB higher than the existing levels (not including train horn or gate bell noise). Noise increases of less than 3 dBA are not noticeable in comparison to the substantial noise reduction due to the elimination of the train horn noise. The increase would only happen at the areas where the first row buildings are one-story structures. In areas where the first row buildings are two stories, no increase in train passby noise levels are expected for the future elevated case. Even though there would be a slight increase in single passby noise levels, the average day-night noise level would not be higher than the existing noise levels due to other noise levels, such as airplane flyovers and I-380 traffic, in the project vicinity. The future noise levels with the grade-separation would not exceed FTA noise criteria in the project vicinity and because of the overall reduction in noise would be considered a positive improvement."

As can be seen from the Parsons report, the noise increase would be insignificant in comparison to the reduction in noise due to the elimination of the train horn and gate bell noise. It needs to be emphasized that the Parsons study was based on field measurements made in San Bruno and reflect the conditions that exist in that community. Due to site conditions that exist along the JPB right-of-way in San Bruno, the track was being raised as much as 20 feet at one location. Noise studies will need to be made in Menlo Park to determine the noise effects within the community. The Parson study does, however, give an indication of the effect of raising the tracks for a similar project to what is proposed in Alternate 4 for Menlo Park project.


4 people like this
Posted by Maurice
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 7, 2018 at 4:35 pm

"Why can't there be a road underpass at Churchill, Meadow and Charleston?

"There can be. The trick is how to do crossings that are also bicycle and pedestrian safe, secure, and friendly."

Underpasses require that the cross streets be lowered in order to have a sloped approach to the tracks. By state law there must be 14 feet of clearance between the roadway and the tracks. The fly in the ointment is that lowering the cross streets at the required slope encroaches on driveway access for the properties fronting the lowered street.


7 people like this
Posted by Maurice
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 7, 2018 at 4:56 pm

"The JPB is presently working with the City of San Bruno in evaluating grade separations at three crossings."

Hey wait a minute! To the best of my knowledge, CPA has no collaborative relationship with JPB. If true, if San Bruno has a collaborative relationship with JPB, why doesn't Palo Alto which seems to be approaching grade sep in a vacuum?


16 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 7, 2018 at 5:50 pm

Reality Check wants us all to believe the only noise that comes from a 14' tall by 9' wide blunt object going 50-60mph while dragging an electrical pick-up on a metal wire attached to metal poles comes from the wheels!

Reality Check also neglects to mention the noisy freight trains that pass through Palo Alto in the wee hours will still be diesel powered.


6 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 7, 2018 at 6:17 pm

Reality Check - that's just an excerpt. I want to see the report. The HSR noise report used bogus statistics that averaged sound over an hour, which made it appear less impactful. Gotta wonder if Parsons is using the same nonsense.

But we can't know, because we don't have the report.

Rosemary - please read the other threads on this topic. It's been hashed out why underpasses aren't that easy in Palo Alto.


4 people like this
Posted by Less Traveled Road
a resident of University South
on Mar 7, 2018 at 6:19 pm

Less Traveled Road is a registered user.

""Why can't there be a road underpass at Churchill, Meadow and Charleston?

"There can be. The trick is how to do crossings that are also bicycle and pedestrian safe, secure, and friendly."

Underpasses require that the cross streets be lowered in order to have a sloped approach to the tracks. By state law there must be 14 feet of clearance between the roadway and the tracks. The fly in the ointment is that lowering the cross streets at the required slope encroaches on driveway access for the properties fronting the lowered street."

I was wondering about this, too. It seems acquiring the land by eminent domain would involve, what, maybe 20 properties per undercrossing? So 60 x 4M = $240 million in land costs. a lot of money, but still way less than the billions they're talking for a trench or tunnel. How much would construction of undercrossings be?

Then with that acquired land, maybe some parks? This seems way more practical than tunneling.


13 people like this
Posted by Arthur Keller
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 7, 2018 at 7:06 pm

Arthur Keller is a registered user.

@ PA Employer

In my message, I estimated that the tax would apply to 2/3 of the employees in the City. Of course, the details would remain to be worked out. However, as a preliminary idea, I was thinking it would apply to employers only for employees who make at least $50,000 each annually and have at least 10 such employees in the City. The $50,000 income level is the same one chosen by the Residential Parking Permit ordinance for reduced price parking permits. Perhaps that would soften the blow to your small company.


12 people like this
Posted by Arthur Keller
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 7, 2018 at 7:24 pm

Arthur Keller is a registered user.

Rosemary asked, ""Why can't there be a road underpass at Churchill, Meadow and Charleston?"

I add to the responses of Anon, Maurice and Less Traveled Road.

Alma Street is very close to the railroad tracks at Churchill, Meadow, and Charleston. So either Alma is lowered to meet each cross-street or the cross-street continues under Alma Street to the other side. That adds expense and loss of homes whose driveways are no longer accessible. There are also many utilities under Alma Street.

So lowering Alma Street may involve closure of the street for up to three years.

Mountain View is planning to lower both Central Expressway and Rengstorff Avenue. But there are few homes in the immediate vicinity of that intersection.


11 people like this
Posted by George
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 7, 2018 at 8:24 pm

Is it at all possible that all-electric, autonomous and on-demand vehicles coming soon could solve this problem? Are we correct in this debate that today’s issues are not a soon-to-be outdated separate road and rail paradigm? What if far fewer people owned cars and mini buses with flexible routes, managed by intelligent scheduling that overall improves traffic orchestration, etc. Maybe a future commuter solution isn’t the single back and forth rail line but fleets of smaller autonomous vehicles that criss cross the penninsula like uber, according to demand. The rail cross dilemna is driven by Caltrain obstructing crossing traffic during a long daily schedule and the coming threat of HSR which, if the loads are shifted and a lane reserved could run up 101, no? Smart trains, consisting of smart cars with higher occupancy that one driver cars now, could form and flow along the 280 and remaining 101 corridors with cars leaving and joining according to their destinations. Thus many more streets can become available for long and short distance. Just a thought, thinking forward, before tens if not hundreds if millions go into a raised track or a deep trench.


2 people like this
Posted by Maurice
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 7, 2018 at 8:54 pm

If the noise from the trains is so objectionable, why didn't CPA put up sound barriers decades ago?

The trains have been there for 150+ years.


2 people like this
Posted by DTN Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 7, 2018 at 10:05 pm

DTN Paul is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


12 people like this
Posted by Forest
a resident of Mayfield
on Mar 7, 2018 at 10:12 pm

@Arthur_Keller I was on the construction engineering team that built the Reno ReTRAC trench. We figured out how to build it while keeping all street crossings open throughout the project.

Stanford just spent $1B on nee housing and plans to soon drop another $1B according to the GUP. Is $2B really all that much for a city like PA?


3 people like this
Posted by Maurice
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 8, 2018 at 2:34 am

The more I think about a trench/tunnel for Caltrain through Palo Alto, the less I am convinced that it is a practical solution.

The engineering studies of three trench/tunnel designs performed by Mott MacDonald call for pumping stations to evacuate storm water. There is no natural drainage in any of the trench/tunnel designs under consideration.

Like the underpass at Oregon expwy. which must be pumped 24/7, the pumps would require electrical power. A failure of electrical service was responsible for the recent flooding of the underpass at Oregon as the pumps were unable to operate:

Web Link

The flooding at Oregon expwy. inconvenienced Palo Alto motorists but did not affect Caltrain. By design, the train tracks at this crossing are not vulnerable to flooding. However, in a railroad trench/tunnel, electrical service to the pumps could well be interrupted in a storm as happened at Oregon. If the trench/tunnel were to accumulate sufficient storm water which cannot be evacuated by pumping, it could become impassable. An impassable trench or tunnel in Palo Alto would interrupt all Caltrain service, Union Pacific freight operations and possibly CA HSR.

Does the city of Palo Alto want to take this risk? Will Caltrain or the CA HSRA allow such designs with these risks in mind?

Though it may be popular among Palo Alto residents, I submit that given the flooding risk, a trench or tunnel is far from an optimal solution for achieving grade separation through Palo Alto.


8 people like this
Posted by Potter
a resident of another community
on Mar 8, 2018 at 3:43 am

The least expensive and least disruptive option is elevating the rails.

Some of the $1bn saved can be used to develop an invisibility cloak that hides the berm and train.


9 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 8, 2018 at 5:59 am

See if this link to Google streetview works: Web Link (Milpitas light rail)

Full width of the Alma-Caltrain corridor is about 180 feet, same as the Capitol Ave/ Great Mall Pkwy width pictured. We have space for a viaduct accommodating 3 or 4 tracks, with Alma as a surface street divided one direction on each side, plus sidewalks and bike lanes. Being in the central median, the viaduct would not loom immediately over backyards. Heavy rail needs different engineering than light rail, but I don't see it requiring significantly more width or height.


4 people like this
Posted by Maurice
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 8, 2018 at 6:11 am

That design might be the most practical for Palo Alto given all of the engineering challenges and problems to solve, coupled with the limited amount of space and proximity to residences. It certainly can't flood.

Web Link

Of course, who needs practical? We're Palo Alto and we want a multi-billion-dollar trench lined with gold!


Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2018 at 9:04 am

Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde

>> See if this link to Google streetview works: Web Link (Milpitas light rail)

Heavy rail needs different engineering than light rail, but I don't see it requiring significantly more width or height.


Posted by Maurice, a resident of Midtown

>> That design might be the most practical for Palo Alto given all of the engineering challenges and problems to solve, coupled with the limited amount

Just checking to make sure that we are talking about the same subject.

Your proposal is for a replacement for the existing tracks that carry commuter rail with up to ~1000 passengers/train and busy hour ~8 trains/hr, and heavy freight trains at night (~100? cars with heavy freight)?


4 people like this
Posted by senor blogger
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 8, 2018 at 9:51 am

Isn't this fun. Spending all this time so that pseudo-engineers can plan what to do with CALTRAINS property.
Its' too bad all this effort wasn't put into planning the Ross Road debacle.


Like this comment
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 8, 2018 at 10:12 am

All the while, CHSRA is looming over this whole thing, ready to spring in and request a passing track in Palo Alto. Will be fun with an elevated track that eats Alma.

If CHSRA were smart enough, they would fund undergrounding the track so they can get their passing track and the love from a city on the peninsula.

But they aren't smart and we'll end up with Alma blocked because of a third track.


Like this comment
Posted by bob.smith
a resident of another community
on Mar 8, 2018 at 10:40 am

The ROW is already wide enough for 3 tracks, 4 tracks would be a squeeze.
CHSRA can collude with Union Pacific to upgrade the ROW, No need to 'request' anything from PA.

ROW map: Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2018 at 11:33 am

Posted by bob.smith, a resident of another community

>> The ROW is already wide enough for 3 tracks, 4 tracks would be a squeeze.

How do you figure 4 tracks would be tight? In the map you showed, the ROW is 100 feet, although there is that funny offset at Meadow. According to what I read on the web, ;-). , e.g. Web Link , 80 feet would be generous for 4 tracks. Plus an extra 10 feet of clearance on either side makes 100. I'm probably missing something.


Like this comment
Posted by Maurice
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 8, 2018 at 12:26 pm

I thought it had already been decided that the CA HSR passing track will not be in Palo Alto.

The ROW varies in width through Palo Alto. Where do you people get the idea that 4 tracks are needed? 2 tracks if the passing track is indeed outside of Palo Alto.


Like this comment
Posted by Maurice
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 8, 2018 at 12:51 pm

"If CHSRA were smart enough, they would fund undergrounding the track so they can get their passing track and the love from a city on the peninsula."

Not likely. Then you'll have a dozen or so other peninsula communities wanting CA HSR to fund undergrounding in their cities. At a couple of billion per city it'll add up. The cost estimate of building HSR has already ballooned since prop 1A was voted on and HSR is besieged by lawsuits.

Yeah, I'm sure CAHSRA wants badly to curry favor with Palo Alto.


1 person likes this
Posted by Paly Grad
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 8, 2018 at 2:41 pm

Currently a 119 miles bullet-train line from Madera to Bakersfield is being built. It's quite possible that the HSR line from San Francisco to Los Angeles will never be completed due to a lack of funds. It's also conceivable that if additional funding was found the HSR line would terminate in San Jose and passengers would transfer to Caltrain to travel to San Francisco.

The following article may be of interest to some readers: "Is high-speed rail dying? This could be a crucial year for the troubled project."

Web Link


1 person likes this
Posted by bob.smith
a resident of another community
on Mar 8, 2018 at 3:15 pm

"It's also conceivable that if additional funding was found the HSR line would terminate in San Jose and passengers would transfer to Caltrain to travel to San Francisco"

But the high speed trains are compatible with the new caltrain electric trains, so it would not cost much more to have the high speed trains trundle on down to SF like a baby bullet does now.


Like this comment
Posted by Not quite
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 8, 2018 at 3:22 pm

Not quite is a registered user.

@bob.smith - In south Palo Alto the right of way is over 100 feet wide but near Churchill it is about 75 feet wide Web Link and 60 feet wide near Peers Park: Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by bob.smith
a resident of another community
on Mar 8, 2018 at 4:02 pm

"In south Palo Alto the right of way is over 100 feet wide but near Churchill it is about 75 feet wide and 60 feet wide near Peers Park"

It told you it was a tight squeeze for 4 tracks!
It should not be too difficult to acquire a 20 foot strip of Peers Park through eminent domain one day, if extra capacity is needed.


5 people like this
Posted by Maurice
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 8, 2018 at 4:10 pm

Gubernatorial candidate Antonio Villaraigosa is gung-ho on HSR, saying "it will create jobs". He'd be another Jerry Brown. One wonders if he is getting campaign donations from labor to guarantee that HSR will be built. The promise of "jobs" is the same red herring that was used to get prop 1A passed in the first place.

He doesn't get my vote for that and other reasons. I don't think there is a candidate who recognizes HSR for the money sink it is, an albatross around taxpayers' necks for generations to come.

All this money frittered away on a train and none on water management. California is not out of the woods drought-wise and we will have more droughts in the future, guaranteed. Guess what, folks. Water is more important than trains that travel over a route that can just as easily be flown without encumbering taxpayers.


2 people like this
Posted by Maurice
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 8, 2018 at 4:20 pm

"It told you it was a tight squeeze for 4 tracks!
It should not be too difficult to acquire a 20 foot strip of Peers Park through eminent domain one day, if extra capacity is needed."

Why are 4 tracks needed? Last I heard there will be no passing track in Palo Alto. Two tracks plus a passing track outside of Palo Alto make three tracks. Where do you get four?

This is the second time I've challenged your claim of 4 tracks. Please make your case.


2 people like this
Posted by Maurice
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 8, 2018 at 4:42 pm

Maybe, just maybe, a trench could be built which would use Barron creek as a drainage canal to deal with flooding.

From San Antonio Rd, the trench would have a downward slope under Charleston and Meadow Dr. The "valley" would be at Barron creek and the trench would have an upward slope from Barron Creek to Oregon where it return to grade and cross over Oregon.

Pumps have proven to be unreliable. If the Palo Alto trench/tunnel floods it will shut down ALL rail service.


1 person likes this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 8, 2018 at 4:57 pm

Regarding ROW width, looks like a couple residences at the narrowest points have built physical structure right up to their property line with zero set-back (obviously permitted by city code enforcement). Was that an intentional "not-give-an-inch" tactic?

And splitting hairs, the mapped 75-foot JPB right of way on the referenced tillier weblink appears to be more like just 70 feet on the county tax assessor's parcel map (book 124, page 22) if I'm scaling correctly. Of course the full width of Alma Street offers some degree of flexibility.


4 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 8, 2018 at 8:41 pm

Widen Embarcadero and close Churchill. Close Charleston; let San Antonio take some of its load. Put all the resources into crossing Meadow under both Alma and the tracks; no direct access to/from Alma. Both Alma and the RR remain open throughout construction. Cut the ribbons. Make speeches. Done.


Like this comment
Posted by Maurice
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 8, 2018 at 9:42 pm

"Widen Embarcadero"

How wide a swath do you plan to take out of Town & Country Village, Paly High and the surrounding residential area?


4 people like this
Posted by bob.smith
a resident of another community
on Mar 9, 2018 at 12:51 am

"Widen Embarcadero"

Embarcadero underpass can be straightened and widened from 3 lanes to 4 just by replacing the north side sloping earth embankment with a vertical concrete wall. No property takes.

"Why are 4 tracks needed?"

When HSR is wildly popular, future generations might vote to increase frequency by adding more tracks.


Like this comment
Posted by bob.smith
a resident of another community
on Mar 9, 2018 at 5:06 am

"Widen Embarcadero"

And if you widen Embarcadero underpass you also have to increase the clearance by 2 feet 3 inches to comply with modern regulations.
This can be achieved by a combination of raising the height of the rail, making the bridge deck thinner, or digging deeper which might make the ramps longer.

Caltrans Minimum Vertical Clearances: Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 9, 2018 at 8:20 am

"How wide a swath do you plan to take out of Town & Country Village, Paly High and the surrounding residential area?"

Just wide enough.


Like this comment
Posted by EnVy
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 9, 2018 at 9:52 am

Close Churchil, Meadows and Charleston.
Widen San Antonio bridge and Embarcadeo underpass.


1 person likes this
Posted by EnVy
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 9, 2018 at 9:55 am

Dont forget, we are getting electric flying cars in the next 10 years.
Who wants to waste money in trenches and grade separation when we can fly to work...no kiddong


2 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 9, 2018 at 11:22 am

Posted by bob.smith, a resident of another community

>>> "Why are 4 tracks needed?"

>> When HSR is wildly popular, future generations might vote to increase frequency by adding more tracks.

"Exactly." But, in the meantime:

The most efficient use of a right-of-way that we currently have available today is commuter rail. I "foresee" that some form of commuter rail will be the dominant mode of commuter transportation in geographic situations like the San Francisco Peninsula for a long time.

For that reason, when major construction takes place, I would like to see a right-of-way constructed that can easily accommodate more capacity without major disruptive construction. Do it once, do it right. It might be good for 100 years, but, at least it is likely be good for the next 25. It would be unwise to spend $1B on one segment, only to turn around in 5 years and spend another $1.2B on that segment, when $1.2B spent now will last 25 years. Good planning.

That does not mean that the entire right of way needs to be expanded today. Just that we plan ahead just far enough so that we don't have to spend the same money twice, to do it right the second time.


4 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 9, 2018 at 11:34 am

"Yeah, I'm sure CAHSRA wants badly to curry favor with Palo Alto."

That is their arrogant political mistake to push their way through to get what they want. And yes, they have asked behind closed doors for a passing track in Palo Alto. CHSRA is just waiting for the right time to spring it on the pubic.'

I hope you enjoy the extra traffic on Middlefield when Alma will have to be closed from needing the extra width on the elevated ROW.


2 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 9, 2018 at 11:35 am

*public. LOL - sorry about that.


1 person likes this
Posted by Maurice
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 9, 2018 at 1:37 pm

"That is their arrogant political mistake to push their way through to get what they want. And yes, they have asked behind closed doors for a passing track in Palo Alto. CHSRA is just waiting for the right time to spring it on the pubic."

Are we to assume that you have an actual connection to CAHSRA that puts you in the know of information that comes from "behind closed doors" and has not yet been sprung on the public, or are you making things up and spreading baseless rumors (which I suspect)? Or are you channeling Jerry Brown through mental telepathy?

"Why are 4 tracks needed?

"When HSR is wildly popular, future generations might vote to increase frequency by adding more tracks."

[Portion removed.] Adding more tracks is not how you increase frequency.

Do you people do realize that expanding the ROW involves the eminent domain taking of millions of dollars of real estate, including homes, for HSR capacity that may never materialize in the next 100 years?

[Portion removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Clem
a resident of another community
on Mar 9, 2018 at 2:28 pm

This document (if you read it closely) Web Link contains clear evidence that HSR is likely to ask for a third track through Palo Alto.


Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 9, 2018 at 3:07 pm

Posted by Maurice, a resident of Midtown

>> [Portion removed] Adding more tracks is not how you increase frequency.

Actually, it is. Route capacity is limited by the train headway, which is a function of train speed and block length. There are also newer "moving-block" Web Link systems that can decrease train spacing. Whatever system is in effect, adding tracks adds route capacity. So, the bottom line is, I have no idea what you meant to say.

But, in addition to that, Caltrain is already running three different types of service-- local, limited-stop, and baby-bullet. Having multiple tracks allows more flexibility in scheduling different train types. Then, adding HSR in the future.

A high-capacity system example would the Long-Island Railroad, which serves a lot of local Long-Island traffic, as well as moving many people per day into Manhattan. One segment of LIRR has 6 tracks if I'm not mistaken. LIRR ridership is about 5X-6X Caltrain.

Or, are you saying that you don't -want- a high-capacity system like LIRR? Web Link


3 people like this
Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 9, 2018 at 3:21 pm

Samuel L. is a registered user.

How did the LA area manage to work on 19 crossings with 3 tracks for $1.7B, but Palo Alto's 7 separations will cost at least $2.4B?

Also it is taking around 23 YEARS to finish that project


3 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 9, 2018 at 4:38 pm

Anon - Caltrain is demand-limited not capacity-limited. It’s too hard to get to-and-from a Caltrain station for most commuters on the peninsula. Build it and they will come is how many projects die a terrible death.

Anyone got a spare billion... or 77?

Web Link


1 person likes this
Posted by Maurice
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 9, 2018 at 5:29 pm

Clem: How about if you summarize what you want us to know about a 3rd or 4th track instead of posting a link to a pdf file from 2016 which takes a long time to load and making us carefully read its 96-page contents?

Widening the ROW through Palo Alto would be daunting enough; there is too much development built close to the tracks. Widening the entire ROW along the entire Caltrain corridor would be ridiculously expensive and would encounter the same problem of too much development adjacent to the ROW.


Like this comment
Posted by Clem
a resident of another community
on Mar 9, 2018 at 7:10 pm

PDF page 7, figure 2 (summary results). Option LM3T (long middle 3 track overtake) with triple track through Palo Alto performs far better than all the other options in the study, with faster trip times and fewer delays for HSR and Caltrain. This result is not lost on them.


4 people like this
Posted by Clem
a resident of another community
on Mar 9, 2018 at 7:16 pm

Also, you might not be aware of how wide the right of way actually is. A century ago SP was already planning for four tracks. Look up underneath the 1940s University Ave rail overpass and you will see FOUR (count ‘em!) steel bridge decks.

Here is an overview of ROW width
Web Link


5 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 9, 2018 at 8:03 pm

The track study appears to only consider the Caltrain weekend schedule. Seems like an odd choice to make a track decision based 2/7 of the schedule (and the least used from a Caltrain ridership perspective). Also as for ROW width, note that a lot of Palo Alto also falls below the baseline required ROW width. Don’t just cherry pick University Avenue.


Like this comment
Posted by Maurice
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 9, 2018 at 10:43 pm

Clem, the document you linked to is 9 years old. Since then they have adopted the "blended approach" which will use the two Caltrain tracks plus some added passing tracks. At the moment no passing tracks are planned for Palo Alto but are planned for San Mateo/Redwood City.

"you might not be aware of how wide the right of way actually is. A century ago SP was already planning for four tracks. Look up underneath the 1940s University Ave rail overpass and you will see FOUR (count ‘em!) steel bridge decks."

At University Ave., yes, but how about the entire corridor? Caltrain does not begin and end in Palo Alto. It doesn't seem realistic to think that 4 tracks can be accomodated from S.F. all the way to Gilroy or even San Jose.

If HSR turns out to be a flop, or is not even built, four tracks buy you nothing.


Like this comment
Posted by Clem
a resident of another community
on Mar 9, 2018 at 11:32 pm

Maurice, the document I linked, showing promising results for 3 tracks through most of Palo Alto, dates from late 2016.

The other link I provided is to a blog post that I wrote 9 years ago that describes ROW width. Available width has not changed in the last 9 years, nor do I expect it to change it in the next 9 years.

The HSR people don’t plan to build much of anything in the Bay Area, certainly not any passing tracks, as confirmed today in the draft 2018 business plan.


Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 10, 2018 at 7:53 am

Posted by Maurice, a resident of Midtown

>> If HSR turns out to be a flop, or is not even built, four tracks buy you nothing.

If you assume that nobody wants to ride the train, then, that is true. Since whenever I ride Caltrain at rush hour, it is SRO, I have to question that.


4 people like this
Posted by Tom DuBois
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2018 at 8:06 am

Tom DuBois is a registered user.

Very interesting project in Sweden. 6 lane , 11 mile long tunnel under bodies of water for $4.1B. We should be able to be more cost effective.

An inside look at how Sweden is building the world’s second-longest tunnel - Ars Technica
Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 10, 2018 at 8:15 am

“Since whenever I ride Caltrain at rush hour, it is SRO, I have to question that. ”

Move to the back of the train. There’s plenty of room there.


Like this comment
Posted by bob.smith
a resident of another community
on Mar 10, 2018 at 9:22 am

>> An inside look at how Sweden is building the world’s second-longest tunnel.

I recon it is more like the world's 140th longest tunnel: Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 10, 2018 at 9:40 am

Posted by Tom DuBois, a resident of Midtown

>> Very interesting project in Sweden. 6 lane , 11 mile long tunnel under bodies of water for $4.1B. We should be able to be more cost effective.

>> An inside look at how Sweden is building the world’s second-longest tunnel --

Posted by bob.smith, a resident of another community

>> I recon it is more like the world's 140th longest tunnel: Web Link

LOL. I believe the the article meant the second longest -road- tunnel. But, Tom DuBois' point is well-taken. Using "standard drill-and-blast", the construction does appear to be much more cost-effective than what we have heard for Palo Alto. Unfortunately, AFAIK, soils are very different here, with little or no of the contiguous hard rock that facilitates the Swedish project. Still, cost datapoints are always useful.





Like this comment
Posted by bob.smith
a resident of another community
on Mar 10, 2018 at 10:40 am

>> 11 mile long tunnel under bodies of water for $4.1B

Some tunneling costs are fixed (tunnel boring machine, the "portals" to enter and exit the tunnel, construction yard support equipment, etc.) so a short tunnel will be more expensive on a per-mile basis.

In Palo Alto's soft waterlogged soil, drill and blast tunneling is not an option, a tunnel boring machine that installs a thick concrete lining as it goes it would probably be required.

Breakdown of the costs of tunneling: Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by easong
a resident of another community
on Mar 10, 2018 at 11:58 am

At up to $4B to trench or conventionally tunnel the length of PA, wouldn't Elon's tunnel borer be a cheaper option?
Bore all the way from San Antonio to Redwood City, way below the obstructionist wealthy communities.


Like this comment
Posted by Maurice
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2018 at 11:59 am

"If you assume that nobody wants to ride the train, then, that is true. Since whenever I ride Caltrain at rush hour, it is SRO, I have to question that."

We were talking about HSR, not Caltrain. The latter can add cars to deal with SRO.

What is the plan for moving trains when the tunnel floods during a storm due to pump failure?


6 people like this
Posted by Maurice
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2018 at 12:27 pm

The price tag for HSR has jumped another $9 billion and they still haven't identified funding sources.

At the same time, they are spending $0 on water management for California's next drought. There WILL be more droughts.

"High speed, high cost: Bullet train price tag reaches $77.3 billion, four years behind schedule"

Web Link

Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 10, 2018 at 12:47 pm

I'm all for elevating as long as all the rest of you PIIYBYsare willing to pay me $500,000 - $1,000,000 for what you will be doing to my residence and quality of life.


Like this comment
Posted by Maurice
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2018 at 2:01 pm

"I'm all for elevating as long as all the rest of you PIIYBYsare willing to pay me $500,000 - $1,000,000 for what you will be doing to my residence and quality of life."

The way the cost of HSR keeps ratcheting ever upward, that might not be such an unrealistic demand.


Like this comment
Posted by bob.smith
a resident of another community
on Mar 10, 2018 at 2:02 pm

>> wouldn't Elon's tunnel borer be a cheaper option?

Elon does not have a tunnel borer. Elon "wishes" he knew how to dig a tunnel for 10% of the current price, but that is as far as is goes.
He deliberately misleads by falsely claiming that there has been no research in tunnel boring for 50 years when in fact modern tunnel boring machines are state-of-the-art technology Web Link









.


Like this comment
Posted by Maurice
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2018 at 2:19 pm

"At up to $4B to trench or conventionally tunnel the length of PA, wouldn't Elon's tunnel borer be a cheaper option?"

Get with it. A city-length tunnel has been ruled out by CPA due to the complexity of crossing S.F. creek, which also forms the city limit and the county line. Too many bureaucratic hurdles involved in extending a tunnel/trench into Menlo Park and San Mateo county. And it would have to be very, very deep to go under the creek.

Elon Musk can't solve all of Palo Alto's transporation problems.



The furthest north a tunnel might go is to around Matadero creek.


Like this comment
Posted by Ralph Eckland
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 10, 2018 at 2:45 pm

Improve what you have.
Add more road lanes crossing the tracks.
Widen Alma street near the intersections.
Take out a few houses at the intersections and add some right turn lanes.
Restore the California avenue crossing.
The Embarcadero road underpass should be 2 lanes in each direction.


2 people like this
Posted by Maurice
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2018 at 2:55 pm

"Add more road lanes crossing the tracks.
Widen Alma street near the intersections.
Take out a few houses at the intersections and add some right turn lanes.
Restore the California avenue crossing.
The Embarcadero road underpass should be 2 lanes in each direction."

How does this solve the fundamental problem of contention between auto and train traffic?


Like this comment
Posted by Maurice
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2018 at 3:06 pm

If you're going to build a trench or tunnel, put the train tracks up on 4- to 6-foot risers rather than on the floor of the trench/tunnel. The space below the tracks would form a sort of drainage canal.

The Mott MacDonald study does not take storm-water drainage into account but instead relies on failure-prone pumps.


4 people like this
Posted by Vasche LaMou
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 10, 2018 at 6:06 pm

"Get with it. A city-length tunnel has been ruled out by CPA due to the complexity of crossing S.F. creek ... it would have to be very, very deep to go under the creek."

With roughly a gazillion road and rail tunnels under rivers and bays and channels in successful use throughout the world for over a century, can't Silicon Valley put one under a creek that's even dry half the year?


1 person likes this
Posted by Maurice
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2018 at 6:14 pm

"can't Silicon Valley put one under a creek that's even dry half the year?"

They can, but they would have to go very deep.

The hangup is that on the opposite side of the creek they're in Menlo Park/San Mateo county, a different city and county.


4 people like this
Posted by Vasche LaMou
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 10, 2018 at 6:33 pm

Hangups, hangups, hangups. Always hangups.

Silicon Valley wasn't built on hangups. It built itself on why nots and here's hows.

But that was another generation.


1 person likes this
Posted by Maurice
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2018 at 7:06 pm

"Hangups, hangups, hangups. Always hangups.

Silicon Valley wasn't built on hangups. It built itself on why nots and here's hows."

Be our guest and persuade Palo Alto city officials to negotiate with Menlo Park/S.M. county to allow construction of the Palo Alto rail tunnel on their side of the creek.

[Portion removed.]


7 people like this
Posted by Vasche LaMou
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 10, 2018 at 8:07 pm

[Portion removed.]

There's a dreary defeatism on these threads. Everyone vies to demolish everyone else's ideas. Indeed, deconstructionism appears to be the prime focus. Nothing ever happens via deconstructionism, and nothing is exactly what is happening on this matter. [Portion removed.]


4 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 12, 2018 at 10:54 am

" city-length tunnel has been ruled out by CPA due to the complexity of crossing S.F. creek, which also forms the city limit and the county line."

Actually what's interesting is that a tunnel is the least disruptive option during construction. Based on the studies, it's cheaper than cut-and-cover because of that.


1 person likes this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2018 at 11:16 am

Posted by Vasche LaMou, a resident of Green Acres

>> There's a dreary defeatism on these threads.

Here is a positive for you:

I would be willing to pay more in taxes for a project that:

- implements grade separation, is safer, and less disruptive to rush-hour cars
- is bicycle and pedestrian safe, secure, and friendly
- is quieter and friendlier to right-of-way neighbors than currently
- doesn't waste money on work to be redone to implement later goals
- preserves and improves the right-of-way such that commuter rail capacity can eventually be greatly increased
- eventually implements electrification, reduces pollution and CO2 emissions
- eventually integrates with a statewide HSR system linking population centers


3 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 12, 2018 at 12:00 pm

"There's a dreary defeatism on these threads. "

It's not defeatism - it's a discussion among a divided community. One part of the community, along the rail line, will be disproportionally impacted whatever decision will be made (including the potential for people to lose their homes through eminent domain), and another group who live far enough away from the track to not really care about those impacts and is simply looking for the cheapest solution as long as their own neighborhood doesn't ostensibly get impacted.

Of course, all neighborhoods will be materially impacted in Palo Alto, but it's enough to pretend that they're far enough away to just put up some cheap solution and let the people next to the train suck it up.

That's what we have.


2 people like this
Posted by bob.smith
a resident of another community
on Mar 12, 2018 at 3:20 pm

>> Actually what's interesting is that a tunnel is the least disruptive option during construction.

Less disruptive for Palo Alto because all of the disruption would be moved to the tunnel portals in neighboring cities, long sloping trenches leading down to the tunnel requiring shoofly tracks etc during construction.
A tunneling project often requires working space the size of a city block to assemble the boring machine, process to evacuated soil and stockpile the tunnel lining rings. Where is that going to be located?

With a tunnel, Palo Alto Caltrain station could be closed for several years while a giant hole is dug to move the station platform 70 feet underground.

Seattle tunnel launch pit and ramp: Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 12, 2018 at 3:41 pm

"A tunneling project often requires working space the size of a city block to assemble the boring machine, process to evacuated soil and stockpile the tunnel lining rings. Where is that going to be located? "

Your point being?

These are planning and engineering issues. You're also making an assumption that the descent starts in Mountain View and/or Menlo Park, which has not been decided.

You make it sound like we're trying to tunnel through the Pacheco Pass.


Like this comment
Posted by Old Steve
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Mar 12, 2018 at 4:15 pm

I can't tell if the Pacheco reference is sarc/snark or not. Pacheco actually would be easier tunneling in some respects. Tunnel portals in the mountains are typically "at grade" of the railroad, as opposed to at the deep end of a long sloping trench (think Caldecott). In order to make "tunnel depth" by Charleston, the San Antonio Station probably has to be lowered (including the existing Ped Underpass). In this scenario, the "shoofly" temp railroad tracks likely don't fit under the existing San Antonio Avenue Bridge. Not sure then how a Palo Alto tunnel is less disruptive in Mountain View. Talk about encouraging regional cooperation between adjacent jurisdictions, YIKES!!!!


3 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 12, 2018 at 4:35 pm

" In order to make "tunnel depth" by Charleston, the San Antonio Station probably has to be lowered (including the existing Ped Underpass)."

No. All proposals on the table do not impact any stations outside of Palo Alto. That's actually what makes the per mile costs higher, ironically. If Mountain View and Menlo Park were to cooperate to underground Caltrain in their cities too, the fixed costs can be spread over more distance.


1 person likes this
Posted by Old Steve
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Mar 12, 2018 at 4:56 pm

Right, I get the per mile thing. Mountain View has already adopted solutions that work for Mountain View, well under the local cost contribution for a tunnel. Given the need for shoofly tracks, I don't really understand the idea that a trench is more disruptive during construction than a tunnel.


3 people like this
Posted by Old Palo Alto
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 12, 2018 at 7:15 pm

Why not run the HSR and freight trains on a new track down 280 or 101? Then have light rail spurs for each city?


Like this comment
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 12, 2018 at 8:01 pm

" I don't really understand the idea that a trench is more disruptive during construction than a tunnel."

<speculation>
Less time and distance with shoofly tracks. I'm no general contractor (and I've never stayed at a Holiday Inn Express), but entrance/exit of a tunnel during construction could be next to the tracks while in operation. The shoofly tracks would be needed qhwn digging the ramps and connecting the tunnel to the main tracks.

Given how little space there is on the ROW, I'm guessing either Alma (or maybe Park) would have to be taken over for both tunnel entrances.
</speculation>


Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 12, 2018 at 9:54 pm

@Old PA, grades on 280 are way too steep. Say close to 10% just north of Arastradero.


Like this comment
Posted by Maurice
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 12, 2018 at 11:30 pm

"Why not run the HSR and freight trains on a new track down 280 or 101? Then have light rail spurs for each city?"

HSR is not the challenge. The challenge is grade sep in Palo Alto and other cities. HSR settled on the "blended approach" years ago using the Caltrain tracks which are about to be electrified to run HSR trains. That ship sailed long ago.

"If Mountain View and Menlo Park were to cooperate to underground Caltrain in their cities too, the fixed costs can be spread over more distance."

You still have the variable costs which are figured per mile.

Can you blame Mountain View and Menlo Park for not wanting to collaborate on a tunnel given that Palo Alto has been at it for 10+ years and has accomplished basically nothing?


3 people like this
Posted by Stephen Rosenblum
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 13, 2018 at 2:04 pm

The issue of grade separation of the Caltrain right of way from the streets of Palo Alto is a critical issue that will be decided this year. The consequences of the decision will affect the appearance and livability of our community for centuries. The time to speak up is now, not when the construction activities are keeping you awake in 5 years.

Would you like to see a future city where the train is in a tunnel and you can cross Palo Alto from east to west anywhere you wish-with transit oriented housing built above and a walking path/bikeway above the tunnel?

Or would you prefer to continue to have the tracks exist as a barrier to the connectivity of our community, with the train remaining at or above grade level? This arrangement is cheaper, but would require many more housing lots being taken if the automobile roadway is depressed below grade level in comparison to a bored tunnel, which would require almost no housing lots being lost.

A 50 foot deep bored tunnel under the existing depressed roadways at Oregon Expressway, Embarcadero, and University Avenue as well as the surface level crossings at Meadow and Charleston would likely allow Caltrain to continue normal operations on its existing tracks. In contrast, any trenched or near surface level grade separation would require a detour (shoo fly) track to be constructed along two lanes of Alma so that Caltrain could continue operating during construction. Each auto road crossing would need to be closed off in turn during construction as well.

According to the recent White Paper presented to the city by our consultants, Hatch Mott McDonald, all options are technically feasible but differ widely in cost. Web Link
Please consider attending Rail Committee meetings on Wednesday mornings, or writing to, or addressing, the City Council with your opinions. If you agree that a bored tunnel is our best option you need to urge Council to refine the estimate of its cost and begin to identify all sources of funding to pay for it, including multi-county statewide bond issues and taxes, not just Palo Alto sources. Palo Alto should act as a leader for our South Bay and Peninsula neighbors in organizing to share the costs of acquiring a tunnel-boring machine to create a tunnel along the entire Caltrain right of way.


Like this comment
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 13, 2018 at 4:29 pm

"In contrast, any trenched or near surface level grade separation would require a detour (shoo fly) track to be constructed along two lanes of Alma so that Caltrain could continue operating during construction. "

Not only just near-surface, but also a simple track elevation would take out Alma in parallel during construction - from San Antonio to potentially Churchill until it comes down to the University Ave station.

I'm sure South PA, Midtown, Professorville, Community Center, and potentially Crescent Park folks would enjoy the extra traffic on Middlefield during the 5+ years of construction. That street furniture on Middlefield between Menlo Park and Oregon Expressway looks like an even better idea, doesn't it?


Like this comment
Posted by bob.smith
a resident of another community
on Mar 13, 2018 at 5:52 pm

^^^

Maybe not if the ROW is wide enough. For San Mateo Ave 25 rail elevation:

"The project is located within a segment of the corridor where sufficient right of way exists to accommodate construction of the rail alignment and does not require a shoo fly".

Track elevation is much quicker and simpler than trenching. Estimated duration 24 months for Ave 25 project (3 grade separations plus one station elevation).


1 person likes this
Posted by Clem
a resident of another community
on Mar 13, 2018 at 6:01 pm

“organizing to share the costs of acquiring a tunnel-boring machine“

The acquisition cost of TBMs (tens of millions) is a rounding error in the overall cost of bored tunnels (billions). Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Maurice
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 14, 2018 at 5:55 am

"Palo Alto should act as a leader for our South Bay and Peninsula neighbors in organizing to share the costs of acquiring a tunnel-boring machine to create a tunnel along the entire Caltrain right of way."

Which peninsula neighbors are considering tunnels? Menlo Park, Atherton and Mountain View are not as far as I know.

Why own a tunnel-boring machine? Once the project is completed we'd have no use for it.


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

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Chick-fil-A quietly starts delivering out of DoorDash kitchen in Redwood City
By Elena Kadvany | 48 comments | 8,702 views

NICU Love
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 2,545 views

Palo Altans and their Virtue Signaling
By Sherry Listgarten | 19 comments | 2,022 views

Differentiating Grief from Clinical Depression
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,924 views

Anonymous Sources: Facebook and YouTube suppressing important questions and discussion
By Douglas Moran | 23 comments | 1,208 views