News

Palo Alto drops plans for rail realignment at Churchill

City Council agrees not to move ahead with alternatives that require eminent domain

Responding to a surge of concern in the Old Palo Alto and Southgate neighborhoods about potential property seizures, the Palo Alto City Council officially pulled the plug Tuesday on controversial proposals to raise or lower the railroad tracks at the Churchill Avenue crossing.

By a 5-1 vote, with Councilman Greg Tanaka dissenting and Mayor Liz Kniss and Vice Mayor Eric Filseth recusing, the council agreed during a special meeting to narrow down its list of options for separating the city's tracks from local streets from 10 designs to eight. The vote all but ensures that eminent domain will not be used to take private properties as part of a redesign of the Churchill Avenue rail crossing.

The council's vote spells relief for the more than 400 residents in the two neighborhoods near Churchill who signed a petition opposing the use of eminent domain and the dozens who attended Tuesday's meeting. One after another, residents appealed to the council to remove designs that could threaten their homes.

Jason Matlof, one of the leaders of the petition drive, said these options would be "devastating" to the neighborhood. Churchill resident Monica Tan Brown said she lives with an "existential threat" over her head.

"There are people here who talk about slowing down the process who have no skin in the game," Tan Brown said shortly before the vote. "I have skin in the game. I would lose my house, which would have a huge detrimental impact on my family."

The arguments proved convincing. Following the recommendation of its Finance Committee, the council scrapped from consideration the "hybrid" option, which calls for partially elevating the train tracks and partially lowering the road. A recent analysis commissioned by the city confirmed that the hybrid option on Churchill would have a "significant impact" on 14 properties and require eight driveway modifications.

The council also agreed Tuesday to nix the "reverse hybrid" option at Churchill, which called for elevating the road over a partially lowered rail track. That option would have significantly impacted 43 residential properties, with modifications required for an additional three residential driveways.

The council's vote Tuesday effectively killed what up to now have been the most ambitious and expensive alternatives for one of the city's two northernmost grade crossings. It also makes it increasingly likely that the city's preferred solution for Churchill Avenue will be to simply close it to traffic, either fully on a part-time basis, in conjunction with other traffic improvements.

The council has yet to determine what exactly those traffic improvements will look like, but members signaled Tuesday that widening Embarcadero Road will likely not be one of them. With residents around Embarcadero voicing concerns about this idea and preparing their own petition on the matter, the council agreed not to consider this option as part of the grade-separation debate. Instead, members only committed to "study options" for addressing the expected increase in Embarcadero traffic once Churchill is closed.

Barbara Hazlett, who lives on Emerson Street near Embarcadero, said a neighborhood petition opposing a widened Embarcadero has already garnered about 100 signatures. She asked the council to be explicit in eliminating this option from consideration.

The city is now left with eight options for its four rail crossings, which include four designs for the two southernmost crossings at Meadow Drive and Charleston Road. The city is considering hybrid and reverse hybrid options for these two crossings, as well as a tunnel and a viaduct.

On Churchill, the only option still on the table is the closure to traffic, though the council has yet to decide whether to close it to traffic fully or partially. At the Palo Alto Avenue crossing, staff is also considering street closure (in conjunction with traffic improvements elsewhere), as well as an elevated rail alternative (either a hybrid or a viaduct).

Also on the menu is the citywide tunnel, an idea that has been consistently popular but that is seen by most council members as extremely unlikely because of its high cost.

The council was unanimous in eliminating the two Churchill options with eminent domain implications from consideration. Members were split, however, over whether they should extend the same courtesy to the residents around Meadow and Charleston, where a citizen movement similar to Churchill is taking shape.

Councilman Tom DuBois urged his colleagues to eliminate the hybrid options at all rail crossings. He said he was loath to eliminate an option with eminent domain in one part of the city but leaving it in others.

"I think we need to think about a clear process and clear criteria as we go through these options," DuBois said.

Councilwoman Lydia Kou supported the idea, while others argued that scrapping the hybrid option from the two southern crossings is a premature move. City Manager James Keene noted that staff has not yet analyzed the impact of raising or lowering the rail tracks on properties around Charleston and Meadow. Making the decision on these crossings at this time, Keene said, would run counter to the council's established process on what he called "the biggest infrastructure decision that the city has faced in generations."

The council ultimately coalesced around a compromise: directing staff to return to the council in August with an analysis of the Meadow and Charleston crossings. At that time, with data at hand, the council will have a chance to decide whether the "hybrid" and "reverse hybrid" options should remain. Tanaka, as the sole dissenting vote, agreed with his colleagues that the city should not pursue options that require eminent domain. He voted against the motion after the council declined to accept a series of proposals that he offered, including one calling for a financial analysis of tunneling.

Councilman Adrian Fine, who sits on the council's Rail Committee, agreed with his colleagues about scrapping the two Churchill options but warned not to base all of their decisions on eminent domain. In developing a preferred alternative, the council should consider other criteria such as constructability, permitting, safety and funding.

"I'm a little worried that we're using eminent domain criteria to eliminate options that have other attributes that we like," Fine said.

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Comments

59 people like this
Posted by Red
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 20, 2018 at 5:42 am

So, eminent domain is no ok at Churchill, but is still a possibility for Meadow and Charleston? Is this a tale of two cities? What's next?


16 people like this
Posted by DTN Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 20, 2018 at 7:15 am

DTN Paul is a registered user.

It is clear to me that finding a solution to this rail crossing issue that isn't just closing the crossings will require tough choices and no small amount of political bravery. What is unclear to me is where that bravery will come from.

Using eminent domain to take peoples' homes is not a great option, but ruling it out while there are no other good options seems like pandering.

Why not just cut to the chase, then, and agree that we have no option but to close the crossings because every other option requires hard choices and will upset someone?


10 people like this
Posted by allen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 20, 2018 at 8:53 am

@Red. Only two crossings have been analyzed and this was a vote on what has been analyzed, not a tale of two cities.

Churchill is not a main road given it runs from Embarcadero, which is, to a dead end at El Camino. Much of the traffic flowing from Churchill turns left on Alma and for that closing the crossing is an advantage given trains will no longer interrupt the signal. A grade separation would either eliminate that possibility, force traffic on residential streets, or create a major intersection with on ramps and off ramps for this minor road. The City Council did the right thing.


22 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 20, 2018 at 9:12 am

It seems to me then that the solution will be to leave things as they are rather than to close the crossing.

Closing Churchill will be awful for crossing town. For those who need to get to Stanford or to Sand Hill, the alternatives would be horrendous. We have to remember that Alma is the continuation of Central Expressway and many use that Expressway for longer commutes just like a highway. Putting this Expressway traffic that may need to get to Stanford onto other roads would turn them into nightmares.

That forgets the fact that Paly is also a destination for local traffic, with students and staff needing to be able to get to the back entrance in their cars. It is no good saying put up a bike/pedestrian bridge as that will only encourage the Paly parkers to park in the poets neighborhood. Do those neighbors want that? I doubt it.

So closing the crossing is a no go and the status quo will remain.

I wonder if the status quo will end up being the same result to discussions on the other crossings, nothing will surprise me.


24 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 20, 2018 at 10:45 am

The only technical solution that works is a tunnel, but how much is Palo Alto willing to spend to make sure the San Francisco real-estate mafia's new Salesforce Tower is served by rail from the Peninsula?


14 people like this
Posted by Chip
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 20, 2018 at 10:52 am

Well, the NIMBYs are out again, as usual. I predict that nothing will change the current awful traffic situations. How are students & staff to access parking off of Churchill if the road is closed?

Maybe in 20-30 years, with nothing resolved & most of us here long gone, Palo Alto will revert to a nice, pleasant residential community because people will have gotten so fed up with gridlock that they have stop moving here. Housing will once again become affordable for educators, physicians, accountants, etc. Developers will head to Turlock, Modesto, and the Redwood Empire. New communities will b built there.

Oh, maybe CA will have enough water to supply the needs of its population, if it doesn't stop growing at such a scary rate?


48 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 20, 2018 at 11:02 am

The plans for Churchill were scrapped after 400 residents signed a petition; however, the city has escalated work on the ill-conceived Ross Road bicycle boondoggle after over 1,000 of us signed a petition against it. Once again, we see just how much the city kowtows to Old Palo Alto and abuses those of us who live in South Palo Alto.


33 people like this
Posted by Andy bo
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 20, 2018 at 11:20 am

Train is dead! Let caltrain stay as-is until city finds dollars to fund underground option. Caltrain is bound to die in the world of autonomous vehicles. Stop discussion on any changes on any intersection.


19 people like this
Posted by Kari
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 20, 2018 at 11:25 am

I am interested in seeing the studies for meadow and Charleston but agree it sounds like a tale of two cities. It is completely unfair to ruin the neighborhoods and homes of people in south Palo Alto but not those in the north. I understand the trench is expensive but do we know if the Tech giants have been asked to make large contributions?


27 people like this
Posted by Novelera
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 20, 2018 at 12:09 pm

Novelera is a registered user.

@Resident. You are so right. North Palo Alto gripes and our city pooh-bahs back right down. Midtown gripes about the bike lane boondoggle and they hold a meeting, offering us pizza and platitudes. And I noticed they salted the speakers with some bike coalition folks. And it was reported that the response at the meeting was 50:50 about the changes. What a joke!


6 people like this
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 20, 2018 at 12:23 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

Insanity: Doing the same thing over again and expecting different results..

I guess Palo Alto is insane...


7 people like this
Posted by senor blogger
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 20, 2018 at 12:27 pm

Resident, I agree with you.
Would you support South Palo Alto being annexed by Mountain View, who seems to be well run?


2 people like this
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 20, 2018 at 1:05 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

Democracy: Sacrificing the rights of the few for the good of the many...The Democratic People,s Republic of Palo Alto.
you are in good company:

Web Link

Just sacrificing the rights of the many for the good of the few...

So who will pony up the estimated $2 Billion to bury the train tracks? Elon Musk might give you a better deal; Palo Alto could be renamed " The Boring Company " to knock off a couple of $1 Million to the cost of creating the tunnel...( tongue firmly in cheek


17 people like this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 20, 2018 at 1:30 pm

Closing the Churchill crossing is an awful idea.

Besides impeding travel between Alma and El Camino, it is used by Paly students and staff as well as the PAUSD offices and several residences. It would affect Mariposa, Castilleja and Madrono, the three streets which intersect with Churchill. Closing the crossing would merely impede auto traffic and push it to already-overburdened Embarcadero. There would be no added benefit to the trains as they always have the right of way over auto traffic.

Restricting access to Churchill during certain hours after the Paly students have gone home might be an improvement, or not.

A trench or tunnel at Churchill has been deemed infeasible by the engineers due to its proximity to Embarcadero. Please read the story and pay attention to the discussion. It is a dead horse so please stop beating it.

For the umpteenth time, leaving the Churchill crossing as is and not building an elevated viaduct, digging a trench or boring a tunnel seems like the most attractive solution. No funding would be required and no residences taken.

Judging from the posts here, the reason Palo Alto has no clue regarding grade separation while other nearby cities are well on their way is that residents and city council alike can't focus. They can't focus on a practical solution which takes into account all of the attendant ramifications, and there are many. For a city councilperson to suggest that maybe Elon Musk has some magical solution up his sleeve is beyond absurd; it's comical.


6 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 20, 2018 at 1:40 pm

Of course, they would like to close Churchill. The need of the few...


7 people like this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 20, 2018 at 1:55 pm

"I am interested in seeing the studies for meadow and Charleston but agree it sounds like a tale of two cities. It is completely unfair to ruin the neighborhoods and homes of people in south Palo Alto"

This was studied four years ago and CPA has sat on the study ever since. A 2% trench from San Antonio to Matadero creek, separating Charleston and Meadow, with zero residences taken.

Shoofly tracks would have to be constructed along with cutoffs to and from the main line.

Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 20, 2018 at 3:54 pm

Close the crossings and build housing on the leftover street stubs.


4 people like this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 20, 2018 at 4:07 pm

"Close the crossings and build housing on the leftover street stubs."

There already IS housing on those streets. Ride your bike down Churchill, Meadow or Charleston and see all the houses.


1 person likes this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 20, 2018 at 4:31 pm

Close the crossings and build housing in the leftover street stubs.


21 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 20, 2018 at 4:54 pm

Andy Ho has it right. The train is dead, or at best a dead man walking. Autonomous vehicles are the killer app for passenger rail which has already been on taxpayer funded life support for the last 50 years.

If Palo Alto wanted to show real vision and play the long game it would just do nothing and wait for autonomous vehicles to kill the train. 10 years from now Palo Alto would look like the smartest guys in the room.

But then... how would our local real-estate developers sell all the under-parked stack-n-pack they are building next to the tracks?


12 people like this
Posted by Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 20, 2018 at 5:23 pm

Elevated tracks, zero houses taken, multiple passages under track. No train horns. Worked in Chicago for decades.


10 people like this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 20, 2018 at 5:28 pm

Great idea. Kill off Caltrain and clog the surface streets and freeways with thousands more self-driving cars.

Brilliant. It's right up there with the flying trains Elon Musk is going to build.


16 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 20, 2018 at 7:02 pm

If Palo Alto builds elevated rail the people living near the tracks will wish the government had taken their property Web Link .


15 people like this
Posted by SuzyQ
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 20, 2018 at 9:15 pm

SuzyQ is a registered user.

Time for a reality check. The only thing that will work without creating an even more horrendous traffic nightmare than we already have is the tunnel. It is a nonsensical idea to save some citizens from eminent domain and impose it on others. Closing a heavily-traveled street like Churchill is ridiculous. Why spend time and energy discussing options which should be nonstarters? Let”s get to work on figuring out how to raise the money for a tunnel. If there are businesses that will definitely benefit from high-speed rail, how about getting them to help bear the cost? How about seeking donations? How about coming up with some type of benefit the city could realistically offer to encourage businesses to donate? How about working with the state and/or federal government to come up with some type of tax advantage to encourage businesses and/or individuals to contribute? Let’s not assume that there are no methods other than bonds, taxes or the sale of development rights to raise the needed funds. We live in a community rich not only in money, but also in creativity and innovation. Let’s put it to work.


11 people like this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 21, 2018 at 1:00 am

SuzyQ:

A tunnel is not going to happen at Churchill for engineering reasons; this has already been decided. In addition, the City of Palo Alto cannot sell development rights to something it does not own. The right of way is owned by Caltrain and not CPA. This point has been made here countless times. I hope everyone on the city council is aware of this fact by now.

I wish you great good luck in obtaining voluntary donations from area companies.

Please pay attention to the news coverage and the discussion here. You and everyone need to be better informed about a project of this magnitude.


3 people like this
Posted by WTF
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 21, 2018 at 10:16 am


“Caltrain and BART are fighting for turf,” says Alon Levy.

To make smarter investments in future construction, Levy agrees with local transportation advocates who have been “banging their heads against the wall” as they call for transit agencies to coordinate regional planning.

In many countries, including France, Germany, and Switzerland, regional planning organizations are charged with creating well-coordinated network that offers a seamless experience between different transit agencies. They design rail, subways, tram, and buses lines to work together.

Web Link


20 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 21, 2018 at 10:30 am

There are no "engineering reason" that preclude the construction of a tunnel at Churchill or anywhere else in Palo Alto. The only problem with a tunnel is cost (about $1 billion/mi).

A tunnel would actually be one of the least disruptive options because most of the construction would take place below ground and at the stations.

If someone can find a few billion dollars, I am sure Palo Alto would be more than happy to build a tunnel.


6 people like this
Posted by @Ahem
a resident of another community
on Jun 21, 2018 at 11:20 am

So let me get this straight. In the same post, you talk about how autonomous vehicles are going to make the train obsolete, but at the same time bring up "underparked" apartment buildings? Make up your mind! If autonomous vehicles are going to make mass transit obsolete then it's not going to be a system where every individual owns their own personal car anymore.


7 people like this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 21, 2018 at 11:46 am

"There are no "engineering reason" that preclude the construction of a tunnel at Churchill"

Yes there is. The difficulty is in bringing the trains back to the surface given the close proximity of Churchill to Embarcadero. The grade must be 2% or less per PCJPB who own the ROW. There just isn't enough room.

The trains must be brought to the surface before S.F. creek or else you're going under the creek into Menlo Park/San Mateo County. I've floated the idea of bringing the trains to the surface north of Embarcadero to be told that it is not feasible. If you think it's doable then I invite you to call AECOM and explain to them why it is.

City staff has already decided that it would be too onerous to tunnel under the creek into Menlo Park/San Mateo County. Anyone who has been paying attention to developments would know all this.

"A tunnel would actually be one of the least disruptive options because most of the construction would take place below ground and at the stations."

Every tunnel must have two portals for entrance and exit. You would still have to build a shoofly track and two cutoffs from the main line. Don't gloss over that important detail.


10 people like this
Posted by Rainer
a resident of Mayfield
on Jun 21, 2018 at 11:48 am

Rainer is a registered user.

The new rail road tunnel in Europe - double wide - has cost $300Million per mile.
Lets hire Italian tunnel designers and builders, they are the best in the world.


11 people like this
Posted by Lionel
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 21, 2018 at 11:16 pm

Very cowardly for the Council to fold and drop eminent domain because the affected people don't want it. Of course they don't. I wouldn't either if I were them. But I'm not -- I'm part of the rest of the general public. The council is obligated what is best for the overall public, even if that hurts the tiny minority. The Constitution guarantees to the minority reasonable compensation, and no more. They should not have a veto.


10 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 22, 2018 at 5:01 pm

" The council is obligated what is best for the overall public, even if that hurts the tiny minority."

Thomas Jefferson: "All . . . will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect and to violate would be oppression. "

In other words, there are times where the minority needs to be protected from the majority. A fundamental principle of a constitutional democracy.

As for ODB - you still haven't stated any engineering reason. What you state are political and budget reasons, not engineering reasons.


1 person likes this
Posted by Pro Cyclist
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 22, 2018 at 7:27 pm

@ Me 2
“Thomas Jefferson: "All . . . will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful”

Jefferson was behind the times. (“What’d I miss?”) He was still singing Jaz when the rest of the founding fathers were singing rap. Didn’t you see “Hamilton” ?


2 people like this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 22, 2018 at 8:58 pm

Pay attention, me 2. I spelled it out just three posts before yours.

"The difficulty is in bringing the trains back to the surface given the close proximity of Churchill to Embarcadero. The grade must be 2% or less per PCJPB who own the ROW. There just isn't enough room.

The trains must be brought to the surface before S.F. creek or else you're going under the creek into Menlo Park/San Mateo County. I've floated the idea of bringing the trains to the surface north of Embarcadero to be told that it is not feasible."

The parts about "less than 2% grade" and "not enough room" are neither political nor economic. They're pure engineering.

"Very cowardly for the Council to fold and drop eminent domain because the affected people don't want it. Of course they don't. I wouldn't either if I were them. But I'm not -- I'm part of the rest of the general public."

So eminent domain for grade separation is OK by you as long as it's not your home that's being taken?

Eminent domain will add at least $3 million to the cost of the project per property taken. That doesn't include the cost of the litigation that's sure to follow. It's bad economics.


3 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 22, 2018 at 9:40 pm

"The trains must be brought to the surface before S.F. creek or else you're going under the creek into Menlo Park/San Mateo County. I've floated the idea of bringing the trains to the surface north of Embarcadero to be told that it is not feasible.""

That's a political problem, not an engineering problem. That involves finding some way to work with Menlo Park and San Mateo County.


6 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 22, 2018 at 9:53 pm

@ODB,

You slam SuzyQ for suggesting Palo Alto should explore ways to raise the large sums of money required to build a tunnel and claim a tunnel cannot be built for "engineering reasons"... and then as proof offer engineering obstacles that could be easily overcome with large sums of money.

Huh?


10 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 22, 2018 at 11:37 pm

@Allen who is Resident of Old Palo Alto and thinks closing off Churchill to car traffic is a great idea. WELL it's so clear why YOU think that it's a great idea. It's self serving. By closing off Churchill to traffic, and you claim it's a fairly useless route where most people turn left onto Alma, and the road dead ends at Embarcadero... HA!

Churchill is a MAJOR artery from El Camino to Embarcadro and other parts of Palo Alto. I use it daily to go from El Camino and head North East. And frankly.. I RARELY do a left turn onto Alma.

Can we be a bit more objective than self serving here Allen?
A tale of 2 cities is NEVER fair. It's ok for Churchill to be eliminated (which will decrease car traffic in your neck of the woods where YOUR home is).. while increasing traffic to other streets since Churchill is closed off?

Churchill needs to be kept open to car traffic. To close it off is a ridiculous idea.


Like this comment
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 22, 2018 at 11:53 pm

"That's a political problem, not an engineering problem."

The short distance between Churchill and Embarcadero is not a political problem.

City staff has already said it is unwilling to tunnel under the creek.

You can spend tens of millions tunneling under two crossings which are already grade separated, but you're going to have enough trouble funding this project to begin with.


2 people like this
Posted by bob.smith
a resident of another community
on Jun 23, 2018 at 1:23 am

There is no engineering problem, engineering has the solutions.

If you insist on trenching under Churchill, to the north there are 2 engineering solutions:

1: Reconfigure Embarcadero as an overpass. A full overpass would be 20 feet in the air and would cross over Alma, a partial overpass would be 10 feet high and Alma would be sunk 10 feet to pass under it, this would cut off driveway access to properties along Alma.

2: Trench under Embarcadero underpass. There is insufficient distance to pass under Embarcadero and return to the surface by University Ave underpass and Palo Alto station platforms, so The station platforms would need to be moved underground and University Avenue reconfigured. From an underground Palo Alto station the only option may be to pass under San Francisco creek.

Choose you preferred engineering solution and start collecting political consensus and cash.
Both options are a crazy expensive way to achieve one grade separation.

Here is a helpful visual representation: Web Link


1 person likes this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 23, 2018 at 1:14 pm

"2: Trench under Embarcadero underpass. There is insufficient distance to pass under Embarcadero and return to the surface by University Ave underpass and Palo Alto station platforms, so The station platforms would need to be moved underground and University Avenue reconfigured."

All this would have to be done while keeping the train tracks at a grade of 2% or less, and even 2% would require an exemption from PCJPB.

"From an underground Palo Alto station the only option may be to pass under San Francisco creek."

CPA has already taken this option off the table as I'm sure you're aware, having read the memo by James Keene. Who wants to negotiate and pay for a shoofly track and cutoff in Menlo Park on land not owned by PCJPB for a project in Palo Alto?

"1: Reconfigure Embarcadero as an overpass. A full overpass would be 20 feet in the air and would cross over Alma"

Yeah, the local citizenry will just love having a 20-foot edifice like at San Antonio, not to mention the impact it will have on access to Paly and T&C village and the surrounding neighborhood with big access ramps on either side.

That do-nothing option at Churchill is starting to look pretty good.


Like this comment
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 25, 2018 at 3:58 am

The presentations by AECOM to the rail committee are on line. Apparently AECOM and Apex have some kind of partnership going.

There are lots of pretty pictures and little descriptive text. I infer that Caltrain (PCJPB) has forbidden any alteration to the Palo Alto or Calif. Ave. stations which it owns. So forget about undergrounding the Palo Alto station to accomodate a tunnel.


7 people like this
Posted by Lazlo
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 27, 2018 at 2:57 pm

Kinda silly as the city council unanimously urged Palo Alto residents to vote for the high speed railway way back when and prior to knowing any specifics on routes, details cost, etc....Maybe Liz Kniss can fill you all in about those details. The sad fact is 87% of Palo Altans voted in favor of the high speed rail project. Here it comes... Choo-choo!


2 people like this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 27, 2018 at 7:13 pm

It's nice to think how gridlock would be relieved by grade separation, but when you drill down and start consulting engineers, dreaming about viaducts, tunnels, residences taken and shoofly tracks, one wonders if the cure is worse than the disease, and that's without talking about where the money will come from. No wonder we've gone so many decades without grade separation!

One also wonders if the increased frequency of Caltrain service will actually materialize or if it is merely a line being fed to the public to grease the public-relations skids for electrification, which we all know is an outgrowth of the HSR boondoggle.

A plan to trench from just north of San Antonio Road to approximately Matadero creek has been in the possession of CPA for over 4 years and they have just sat on it. It would require a shoofly track and two cutoffs which would be highly disruptive, and would take care of Charleston and Meadow. It would also require the installation and maintenance of pumps for evacuating storm water. As for Churchill, if there is too much citizen opposition to a viaduct or property taking then I think you are stuck. The do-nothing plan at Churchill looks attractive now.

The idea of extending Alma across S.F. creek into Menlo Park and adding a second bridge for autos has merit in theory, but it would depend on CMP being cooperative and sympathetic to Palo Alto's gridlock plight. CPA has behaved so badly on the matter of grade separation, I wouldn't blame CMP for telling Palo Alto "no dice" to this plan.

Looking at the presentations made by AECOM, I infer that PCJPB (Caltrain) has forbidden any alteration to its two stations. If true, this puts the kibosh on putting these stations underground for tunnel or trench access.

I very much doubt city officials pay any attention to these posts anyway. So much for "context sensitive solutions". "Ignore the citizens" seems to be their approach. Yeah, let's call Elon Musk and ask him to come to Palo Alto and wave his magic wand.

If Elon Musk is smart he'll have nothing to do with grade separation in Palo Alto.


2 people like this
Posted by just1user
a resident of another community
on Aug 26, 2018 at 12:20 pm

As apparently building overpasses with less than 14' clearance for cars is prohibited by highway standards, the only chance to avoid closing the crossing for cars totally is the following:
raise the rails, lower the road to create a wide enough space with 10' vertical clearance and call it ped/bicycle underpass (because pedestrians are good and shold not be squeezed into 7' hole), then later, somehow, allow cars through it.


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

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Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund

For the last 26 years, the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund has given away more than $7 million to local nonprofits serving children and families. When you make a donation, every dollar is automatically doubled, and 100% of the funds go directly to local programs. It’s a great way to ensure your charitable donations are working at home.

DONATE HERE