News

Popular but expensive train-tunnel proposal splits Palo Alto council

City struggles to advance or abandon option that would require property acquisitions

As Palo Alto approaches a decision on the best way to separate the railroad tracks from local streets, city leaders remain divided over the most ambitious and expensive option on the table: an underground tunnel stretching from one end of the city to the other.

Everyone agrees that the tunnel option, which is one of six on Palo Alto's current menu of design alternatives, is unlike all the others, each of which is limited to a particular section of the 4-mile rail corridor. That, however, is where the consensus ends. Supporters of the tunnel believe the option is too good to pass up, a once-in-a-century opportunity to transform the rail corridor for the better. Opponents counter that it's an expensive distraction, an option that is both too good to be true and too expensive to be realistic.

Both views surfaced during the council's Monday discussion on "grade separation," which concluded with the council agreeing to a new working group to shepherd the effort, with the goal of reaching a decision by October. The group will be appointed by City Manager Ed Shikada and would not be subject to the state's Brown Act requirements for public meetings. As such, members would have the flexibility to talk between meetings and exchange ideas.

But while much of the discussion was devoted to procedural matters, the most contentious part in the discussion centered around the tunnel. Councilwoman Alison Cormack suggested that it's time to drop the tunnel idea, which carries an estimated price tag of between $2.5 billion and $3.8 billion and would require the acquisition of people's property. This option, she said, really is not like all the others.

"It's an order of magnitude different on costs, and the impacts are so much more significant than the others," Cormack said.

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Her argument was bolstered by a recent analysis from the city's consultant, Aecom, which suggested that the tunnel would require significant property acquisitions to make room for "shoofly tracks," temporary tracks that would need to be constructed to keep rail service going while the tunnel is being built.

A recent video created by Aecom indicated that Palo Alto would need to acquire properties on the east side of the tracks south of Embarcadero Road and around Charleston Road to make the tunnel possible.

Vice Mayor Adrian Fine and Councilman Tom DuBois both shared her view and recommended that it's time to drop the tunnel from consideration. Fine called the option a "rabbit hole" and suggested that the city already has all the information it needs to remove it from consideration.

Councilwoman Lydia Kou disagreed and took issue with the Aecom video, which she suggested reflects staff's anti-tunnel bias. Kou questioned the video's suggestion that the tunnel option would require property acquisition and suggested that the animation was designed to "cause concern." She argued that the city should explore other ways to build the tunnel that would not require acquisitions.

"I wanted to see more options on how to do tunnel," Kou said. "I'm not ready to let that loose yet."

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Councilman Greg Tanaka concurred and said he would like to see how the public feels about the tunnel before dropping it from the menu of options. Though normally a fiscal hawk, Tanaka said he would have no problem moving ahead with the project if the citizenry proves willing to foot the bill. Many cities, including Boston and Berkeley, have underground tunnels, and Palo Alto should consider one as well, Tanaka said.

"I've heard so many people say that they really want this, so for me to say 'Let's just drop it' doesn't make sense," Tanaka said.

Fine took issue with Kou's and Tanaka's assertions that the city's studies — which are costing hundreds of thousands of dollars — are biased. But with the council limited to five members (Mayor Eric Filsth and Councilwoman Liz Kniss are both recused because they own property near the rail corridor) and needing four votes to make a decision, Kou and Tanaka were able to effectively veto the three-member majority's desire to eliminate the tunnel.

In addition to the tunnel, Palo Alto's design alternatives include the closure of Churchill Avenue to cars; a tunnel just for south Palo Alto; and either a rail trench, a viaduct or a "hybrid" design (which combines raised tracks and lowered roads) for the Meadow Drive and Charleston Road intersections.

After debating the tunnel, the council voted 5-0 to approve staff's proposed work plan and timeline as well as the composition of the new working group.

Under the proposal adopted by the council, the group will include the 12 members of the existing Community Advisory Panel, which has been meeting monthly to vet the work of staff and Aecom. It also intends to include one representative from Stanford University, Stanford Research Park, the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce, the Palo Alto Unified School District and the Friends of Caltrain board, along with a representative from either Stanford Health or Stanford Shopping Center.

It will meet seven times between May and October.

The newly adopted work plan aims to achieve several goals: make progress on adopting a preferred alternative for grade separation, engage the business community on a potential ballot measure to raise revenues and set up a process that will allow the council to make key decisions on the two related efforts — grade separation and a revenue measure — in the same time frame.

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Popular but expensive train-tunnel proposal splits Palo Alto council

City struggles to advance or abandon option that would require property acquisitions

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Thu, Apr 25, 2019, 8:39 am

As Palo Alto approaches a decision on the best way to separate the railroad tracks from local streets, city leaders remain divided over the most ambitious and expensive option on the table: an underground tunnel stretching from one end of the city to the other.

Everyone agrees that the tunnel option, which is one of six on Palo Alto's current menu of design alternatives, is unlike all the others, each of which is limited to a particular section of the 4-mile rail corridor. That, however, is where the consensus ends. Supporters of the tunnel believe the option is too good to pass up, a once-in-a-century opportunity to transform the rail corridor for the better. Opponents counter that it's an expensive distraction, an option that is both too good to be true and too expensive to be realistic.

Both views surfaced during the council's Monday discussion on "grade separation," which concluded with the council agreeing to a new working group to shepherd the effort, with the goal of reaching a decision by October. The group will be appointed by City Manager Ed Shikada and would not be subject to the state's Brown Act requirements for public meetings. As such, members would have the flexibility to talk between meetings and exchange ideas.

But while much of the discussion was devoted to procedural matters, the most contentious part in the discussion centered around the tunnel. Councilwoman Alison Cormack suggested that it's time to drop the tunnel idea, which carries an estimated price tag of between $2.5 billion and $3.8 billion and would require the acquisition of people's property. This option, she said, really is not like all the others.

"It's an order of magnitude different on costs, and the impacts are so much more significant than the others," Cormack said.

Her argument was bolstered by a recent analysis from the city's consultant, Aecom, which suggested that the tunnel would require significant property acquisitions to make room for "shoofly tracks," temporary tracks that would need to be constructed to keep rail service going while the tunnel is being built.

A recent video created by Aecom indicated that Palo Alto would need to acquire properties on the east side of the tracks south of Embarcadero Road and around Charleston Road to make the tunnel possible.

Vice Mayor Adrian Fine and Councilman Tom DuBois both shared her view and recommended that it's time to drop the tunnel from consideration. Fine called the option a "rabbit hole" and suggested that the city already has all the information it needs to remove it from consideration.

Councilwoman Lydia Kou disagreed and took issue with the Aecom video, which she suggested reflects staff's anti-tunnel bias. Kou questioned the video's suggestion that the tunnel option would require property acquisition and suggested that the animation was designed to "cause concern." She argued that the city should explore other ways to build the tunnel that would not require acquisitions.

"I wanted to see more options on how to do tunnel," Kou said. "I'm not ready to let that loose yet."

Councilman Greg Tanaka concurred and said he would like to see how the public feels about the tunnel before dropping it from the menu of options. Though normally a fiscal hawk, Tanaka said he would have no problem moving ahead with the project if the citizenry proves willing to foot the bill. Many cities, including Boston and Berkeley, have underground tunnels, and Palo Alto should consider one as well, Tanaka said.

"I've heard so many people say that they really want this, so for me to say 'Let's just drop it' doesn't make sense," Tanaka said.

Fine took issue with Kou's and Tanaka's assertions that the city's studies — which are costing hundreds of thousands of dollars — are biased. But with the council limited to five members (Mayor Eric Filsth and Councilwoman Liz Kniss are both recused because they own property near the rail corridor) and needing four votes to make a decision, Kou and Tanaka were able to effectively veto the three-member majority's desire to eliminate the tunnel.

In addition to the tunnel, Palo Alto's design alternatives include the closure of Churchill Avenue to cars; a tunnel just for south Palo Alto; and either a rail trench, a viaduct or a "hybrid" design (which combines raised tracks and lowered roads) for the Meadow Drive and Charleston Road intersections.

After debating the tunnel, the council voted 5-0 to approve staff's proposed work plan and timeline as well as the composition of the new working group.

Under the proposal adopted by the council, the group will include the 12 members of the existing Community Advisory Panel, which has been meeting monthly to vet the work of staff and Aecom. It also intends to include one representative from Stanford University, Stanford Research Park, the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce, the Palo Alto Unified School District and the Friends of Caltrain board, along with a representative from either Stanford Health or Stanford Shopping Center.

It will meet seven times between May and October.

The newly adopted work plan aims to achieve several goals: make progress on adopting a preferred alternative for grade separation, engage the business community on a potential ballot measure to raise revenues and set up a process that will allow the council to make key decisions on the two related efforts — grade separation and a revenue measure — in the same time frame.

Comments

Mary O
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Apr 25, 2019 at 9:04 am
Mary O, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Apr 25, 2019 at 9:04 am
31 people like this

Thank you, Councilwoman Cormack, for bringing a dose of reality into the discussion. It IS time to drop the city-length tunnel. If Tanaka and Kou get their way and have "study" of some sort to determine if Palo Altans want the city-length tunnel, then that study has to include the estimated cost to build the tunnel and the question, "Who should pay for the tunnel?" I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if the people who want the tunnel also want someone else to foot the bill.


resident
Downtown North
on Apr 25, 2019 at 10:29 am
resident, Downtown North
on Apr 25, 2019 at 10:29 am
21 people like this

We have been looking for a decade or more for the money to build this mythical tunnel. If the money hasn't appeared yet, why do they think their fundraising effort will be better this time? More stalling just makes any project much more expensive and difficult. Are they just trying to kick the decision to the next council? Show some leadership now!


Can developer fees pay this
Greenmeadow
on Apr 25, 2019 at 10:40 am
Can developer fees pay this, Greenmeadow
on Apr 25, 2019 at 10:40 am
18 people like this

We simply don’t need more commercial development. But if developers force their way in by influencing elections, can they at least pay for this part of the infrastructure they leverage?


Monica P.
Old Palo Alto
on Apr 25, 2019 at 11:01 am
Monica P. , Old Palo Alto
on Apr 25, 2019 at 11:01 am
30 people like this

Councilwoman Cormack is correct. It is time to drop the tunnel idea. I live in the corridor of proposed acquired properties. I will oppose this plan with everything I have.


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 25, 2019 at 11:06 am
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 25, 2019 at 11:06 am
17 people like this

I really am in two minds about this. There are pros and cons on both sides. The arguments for both are good and I can agree with all that is being said by both sides and for all reasons.

However, as someone who has traveled to many countries and used many different forms of transport both public and private, I can see how important a decision this is. Whatever is decided is going to have to be around for a long time and is going to be used by a large number of people for reasons we haven't even invented. Tunnels, subway systems, elevated trains, bullet trains, monorail hanging trains, are all working in other countries to get people to where they need to go. People are moving every day for work, for recreation, for pleasure, for education, for relaxation, for business, for family reasons, you name it. People are not going to be living and working near their homes and never venturing anywhere. People are going to continue to want to move and not stay in the confines of walking distance from where they live. Some will do it on on a daily basis, others will do it on a less frequent but still regular basis and others will only move occasionally, but patterns of movement of the population are not going to stop.

As a result we as a region have to move forward with innovations that will get people to where they want to go. It is not going to be something that people stop doing, people will not continue to work in the one place and many people will not move as often as they change jobs. Likewise, within one family or one couple, there will be more than one person working who needs to get to their job which is not going to be the same as the other members of the family who need to get to their job.

We can't pretend that this is an easy option, but it wasn't for all the other places that have dug tunnels or built viaducts or elevated tracks. We are making proposals to close train crossings. Is that really going to move people around town quickly and efficiently?

Whatever costs are involved, they are more than just monetary. There is the inconvenience of any type of work and the added inconvenience of not doing anything at all.

I am no expert so my 2 cents can't weigh against those who are structural engineers and traffic engineers. But, I see that if we don't do anything or take too long to do whatever decision is decided upon, then we are doing an injustice to those who come after us.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Atherton
on Apr 25, 2019 at 11:08 am
Peter Carpenter, Atherton
Registered user
on Apr 25, 2019 at 11:08 am
24 people like this

a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 25, 2015 at 2:36 pm
Peter Carpenter is a registered user.
If this is done one crossing at a time it will be very expensive, take a long time and result in a dis-integrated design.

Please at least think about a more comprehensive and integrated approach.

Why not see this as an opportunity rather than a problem?

One thought is the put the trains underground, use the surface rights above it for housing in the stretches between stations and use the surface above the stations for transit connections and parking. The surface area of the current right of way is very valuable land - particularly in Atherton - and could generate a lot of the needed capital.

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

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

A piecemeal approach will be very expensive.

Do it once and do it right.


James Thurber
Registered user
Mountain View
on Apr 25, 2019 at 11:17 am
James Thurber, Mountain View
Registered user
on Apr 25, 2019 at 11:17 am
Like this comment

It's really simple to block off ALL rail / road crossing using simple concrete barricades. Cost? Almost nothing. Shut off the stop lights. Let the drivers find another way.

We don't need to spend a lot of dinero on a tunnel. Besides, with the new high speed rail being tossed about hither and yon when will Caltrain actually change it's route . . . if ever?

Thanks for listening. Now let's block off those crossings and let CALTRAIN run at speed.


Terrace Antelope
College Terrace
on Apr 25, 2019 at 11:18 am
Terrace Antelope, College Terrace
on Apr 25, 2019 at 11:18 am
13 people like this

People die every year getting stuck on those tracks before getting slammed by that damn train. I say dig the tunnel to save lives.


Jonathan Brown
Registered user
Ventura
on Apr 25, 2019 at 11:22 am
Jonathan Brown, Ventura
Registered user
on Apr 25, 2019 at 11:22 am
16 people like this

Thank you Councilmembers Kou and Tanaka. There are too many problems here to list in one post, but they include:
- the video shows the tunneled tracks taking up about twice the width they do now. Why should that be the case?
- the idea of taking private property for the purpose of temporary track construction is absurd and a non-starter. If subway tunnels can be built and re-built in urban settings, surely we can do that here with far fewer space constraints. Is this really Aecom's best work?
- Menlo Park and Mountain View ought to be brought into the conversation. Maybe they can be persuaded to let us use more appropriate staging areas and extend the length of the tunnel into their cities for the right price. The tunnel would be a lot more viable if it were extended for a longer distance, e.g. freeing up more land for development that would give the city some money back.
- Construction impacts are hideous for all the options, and we really need a big focus on that. Right now all the presentations have been skewed to make things easiest for the developers to maximize their profit. But we should be paying a bit more for a better experience during construction no matter which option we choose.
- Impacts of above-ground options as compared to the tunnel option continue to be ignored, as to relative differences in safety. As just one vector of this, I'd pay a lot to choose an option that reduced the suicide threat even a little bit over others.


bob-the-builder
another community
on Apr 25, 2019 at 11:23 am
bob-the-builder, another community
on Apr 25, 2019 at 11:23 am
11 people like this

The easiest way to definitively rule out the tunnel option is to write an official letter to the owner of the right of way, Caltrain, asking formal permission to destroy their valuable property by replacing it with a two track tunnel.

The answer will be an unequivocal "no way".
They already have plans to quad track South of California Avenue.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Atherton
on Apr 25, 2019 at 11:26 am
Peter Carpenter, Atherton
Registered user
on Apr 25, 2019 at 11:26 am
15 people like this

A bored tunnel - there are hundreds around the world - would require NO surface disruption except at each station and at the stations the surface footprint would fall well within the existing right of way.


Joseph E. Davis
Woodside
on Apr 25, 2019 at 11:43 am
Joseph E. Davis, Woodside
on Apr 25, 2019 at 11:43 am
16 people like this

People love to fantasize about the good they imagine will come from such projects, while completely ignoring the costs. If put to a vote, is each Palo Alto resident going to contribute the needed $60,000 per person for this tunnel? So a family of four will be on the hook for a quarter of a million dollars in tunneling costs.

Proponents may say, "we'll get the money from somebody else." Why should poorer parts of the state or country subsidize a lifestyle improvement for some of the richest and most entitled people on planet Earth?


TBM
another community
on Apr 25, 2019 at 11:57 am
TBM, another community
on Apr 25, 2019 at 11:57 am
4 people like this

Jonathan Brown@ "If subway tunnels can be built and re-built in urban settings, surely we can do that here with far fewer space constraints. Is this really Aecom's best work?"

Most subway tunnels in the bay area are built under roads. To launch the tunneling machine, the road is closed to traffic for several years while a deep pit is dug Web Link , Web Link , Web Link , Web Link .

It is not possible to close Caltrain for several years while a tunnel entrance or underground station is being dug.


PhilB
Registered user
St. Claire Gardens
on Apr 25, 2019 at 12:04 pm
PhilB, St. Claire Gardens
Registered user
on Apr 25, 2019 at 12:04 pm
8 people like this

@Peter Carpenter

You refer to Atherton. That's completely off-topic. The so-called Citywide Tunnel would run from south of the University Avenue station to just north of San Antonio Road.

The tunnel cannot fit within the existing right of way because of requirements for spacing between each of the two bores. That is reality.


PhilB
Registered user
St. Claire Gardens
on Apr 25, 2019 at 12:06 pm
PhilB, St. Claire Gardens
Registered user
on Apr 25, 2019 at 12:06 pm
9 people like this

@James Thurber,

If the grade crossings are simply closed, then exactly how are all those people supposed to go between west of Alma Street and east of Alma Street? Cars, bicyclists, pedestrians? Via Mountain View or Menlo Park?

That suggestion is irresponsible because it completely ignores reality.


Curmudgeon
Downtown North
on Apr 25, 2019 at 12:09 pm
Curmudgeon, Downtown North
on Apr 25, 2019 at 12:09 pm
Like this comment

"People die every year getting stuck on those tracks before getting slammed by that damn train. I say dig the tunnel to save lives."

Better, stop the train at all grade crossings except Meadow. Close that one. Build ministations at the remaining crossings. That will give Paly High and south PA rail transit access.

Meantime, rationalize the crossing layouts for safety. Put traffic signals on the west side of each.


Shame on Kou and Tanaka
College Terrace
on Apr 25, 2019 at 12:31 pm
Shame on Kou and Tanaka, College Terrace
on Apr 25, 2019 at 12:31 pm
15 people like this

There are no GREAT options on this rail project, but the tunnel is leaps and bounds worse and more complicated. I was at the community meeting where they showed a video of the massive disruption the tunnel would cause for 5-8 years. Oh, and it could cost up to $4 BILLION - and don't you think by the time it's done costs will have gone up even more?

Councilmembers Kou and Tanaka are simply holding up the entire process. They keep asking questions that have already been answered, as if they haven't done their homework. They probably haven't! On transportation and development stuff, you don't often see DuBois, Cormack, and Fine in synch.. but on this issue, they're in agreement that the tunnel is exceedingly complex, way too expensive, and doesn't provide the benefits of other options.

Kou and Tanaka: do your homework on the issues, or step out of the conversation.


Something to ponder
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 25, 2019 at 12:51 pm
Something to ponder, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Apr 25, 2019 at 12:51 pm
4 people like this

What are the implications of the confluence of sea level rise and increased groundwater pressure on such a tunnel? Has anyone studied this?


Something to ponder.
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 25, 2019 at 12:54 pm
Something to ponder., Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Apr 25, 2019 at 12:54 pm
Like this comment

For the long term....What are the implications of the confluence of sea level rise and increased groundwater pressure on such a tunnel? Has anyone studied this?


Marie
Registered user
Midtown
on Apr 25, 2019 at 1:01 pm
Marie, Midtown
Registered user
on Apr 25, 2019 at 1:01 pm
14 people like this

I agree with Peter Carpenter. A tunnel would be a win-win for everyone. And if we could work with other cities on the peninsula to design a longer tunnel, the per mile costs could be less. And maybe the pit for the entrance to the tunnel could be where Caltrain owns more right of way.

We so need additional housing. Look at Penn Station and Grand Central Station which sold the air rights above their trains for substantial sums. While it is Caltrain who would be selling the air rights, why wouldn't they be interested? Other transit systems have done so. And I think a tunnel for electric trains only would be much cheaper. Can Caltrain negotiate with Southern Pacific to switch to electric engines in San Jose? We need to be getting rid of all diesel engines sooner or later. Maybe some of the money saved with a cheaper tunnel could be used to subsidize electric engines for Southern Pacific.

Let's start thinking outside the box and come up with a solution that enhances our community and improves Caltrain.

Do it once and do it right.


Joseph E. Davis
Woodside
on Apr 25, 2019 at 1:34 pm
Joseph E. Davis, Woodside
on Apr 25, 2019 at 1:34 pm
10 people like this

Marie, are you willing to put up the $60,000 that represents your share of the tunneling cost?


Thank you Kou and Tanaka!
Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 25, 2019 at 1:39 pm
Thank you Kou and Tanaka!, Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 25, 2019 at 1:39 pm
9 people like this

These two are the only members of the City Council to show adult leadership.

DuBois, Cormack, and Fine just don't want any issues to distract from their continued focus on development and underparking.

Do it once and do it right!


Brenton Hanlon
College Terrace
on Apr 25, 2019 at 1:41 pm
Brenton Hanlon, College Terrace
on Apr 25, 2019 at 1:41 pm
Like this comment

Has anyone talked to Elon Musk? His Boring Company does this kind of thing and he should have a vested interest.


Davis Fields
Crescent Park
on Apr 25, 2019 at 1:45 pm
Davis Fields, Crescent Park
on Apr 25, 2019 at 1:45 pm
2 people like this

Assuming nothing's been achieved by the time Caltrain's electrification project is done in 2022, are we just going to live with the existing grade crossings, even as Caltrain is finally able to dramatically increase the number of trains it can run?


TBM
another community
on Apr 25, 2019 at 1:54 pm
TBM, another community
on Apr 25, 2019 at 1:54 pm
8 people like this

@Marie "While it is Caltrain who would be selling the air rights, why wouldn't they be interested?"

Caltrain would get no interest, for the same reason that Palo Alto has had no interest selling the "air rights" above El-Camino-Real, or the Santa Clara Valley Water District has failed to sell air rights above San Francisco Creek.

The extreme cost of the complex foundations straddling a railroad in the marshy bay area would require a 50 story building on top for a developer to break even on such a project Web Link .

Constructing heavy buildings above bored tunnels is possible in Manhattan only because the ground is solid granite.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Atherton
on Apr 25, 2019 at 1:55 pm
Peter Carpenter, Atherton
Registered user
on Apr 25, 2019 at 1:55 pm
10 people like this

Bored tunnels can be big and they can easily go below water or the water table:

Web Link

And a bored tunnel needs a surface excavation only at the starting point - San Francisco bored a tunnel 14-foot high corridor through clay, sand and bedrock from Menlo Park to Newark as deep as 103 feet below the bay floor. They then ran a 9-foot-high steel water pipe through the middle to provide a more earthquake resistant path for its water pipes from Hetch Hetchy.

Web Link


Mary O
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Apr 25, 2019 at 2:07 pm
Mary O, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Apr 25, 2019 at 2:07 pm
8 people like this

There's no doubt that it should be done once and done right. But, in addition to the cost of putting it underground, what, if any, are the additional costs of maintenance if it's underground? The issue of the location of the top of the water table is huge as well. And, finally, let's not forget the phenomena known as soil liquefaction that can happen with earthquakes. Will a tunnel make the trains close enough to the water table that it actually becomes a possibility?


Boring
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 25, 2019 at 2:12 pm
Boring, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 25, 2019 at 2:12 pm
4 people like this

>>> "Has anyone talked to Elon Musk? His Boring Company does this kind of thing and he should have a vested interest."

If Tesla's stock price falls below $230, Musk could be personally wiped out and the Boring companies assets will be sold off for pennies.

Caltrain's worst nightmare would be a half dug tunnel and a bankrupt developer.


18 reasons to remove the tunnel
Charleston Gardens
on Apr 25, 2019 at 2:51 pm
18 reasons to remove the tunnel, Charleston Gardens
on Apr 25, 2019 at 2:51 pm
38 people like this

-The tunnel will cost between $2.8-$4.8 billion
-The tunnel will only be "tunneled" for about half the width of the city
-The tunnel, as envisioned, will not carry freight --> there will still be tracks at the surface
-The tunnel will have serious maintenance, air circulation, and emergency retrieval issues
-The tunnel will require extensive permissions from Caltrain, the Army corp of engineers, and Santa Clara Water
-The land on top of the tunnel is owned by Caltrain, so it is not the city's to redevelop or turn into a park
-The tunnel will require rebuilding California Ave and the Downtown stations
-The tunnel may require rebuilding the Page Mill/Oregon underpass
-The tunnel entrances and shoe fly tracks will require taking dozens of homes, some of the bike path along the tracks, and potentially the Paly football field
-The tunnel project will be managed by the City of Palo Alto, an agency with zero tunneling experience
-The tunnel will require reducing Alma to one lane each way
-The tunnel will take 5-8 years to build, at least
-The tunnel will require moving or rebuilding numerous utility systems and substations
-The tunnel would require a 2% grade design exemption from Caltrain
-The tunnel, as designed, would not support passing tracks that Caltrain is planning for portions of Palo Alto
-The tunnel, as designed, would not support potential HSR trains
-The tunnel would require temporary new stations for the shoofly tracks
-The tunnel would require additional security and safety measures to keep people out

...And I am just getting started!

Council Members Tanaka and Kou - if you can provide realistic solutions to the above problems, then let's talk about tunnels. Otherwise, it's time to drop the idea.

Sources: Web Link and Web Link


Tim
Crescent Park
on Apr 25, 2019 at 3:11 pm
Tim, Crescent Park
on Apr 25, 2019 at 3:11 pm
6 people like this

Any bets on the cost and time to build the tunnel will double when it’s finished. Oh, and the lawsuits...


Curmudgeon
Downtown North
on Apr 25, 2019 at 3:24 pm
Curmudgeon, Downtown North
on Apr 25, 2019 at 3:24 pm
2 people like this

"Why not take this as an opportunity to design a multi-dimensional, multi-purpose system that uses the existing right-of-way that includes CalTrain, HSR, utility conduits for telephone and internet cables, surface housing with high density housing around each station."

It makes a lot of sense, but the majority seems tuned to the Negative side on any workable option. We may have dithered past the deadline to create a cost-effective regional underground solution.

But just think: SB 50 will enable five story housing units above the entire ROW, owing to their intimate proximity to transit. ;-]


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Atherton
on Apr 25, 2019 at 3:30 pm
Peter Carpenter, Atherton
Registered user
on Apr 25, 2019 at 3:30 pm
4 people like this

There are always those that say something bold cannot be done:

‘The Bridge That Couldn’t be Built’. How the Golden Gate Bridge Came into Being

Web Link


bob-the-builder
another community
on Apr 25, 2019 at 3:46 pm
bob-the-builder, another community
on Apr 25, 2019 at 3:46 pm
9 people like this

"There are always those that say something bold cannot be done:"

Nobody is saying it can't be done technically.
It probably can't be done financially unless you can show otherwise.
AT&T will pay peanuts to run their cables through your conduits.


Joe Meyers
Downtown North
on Apr 25, 2019 at 4:13 pm
Joe Meyers, Downtown North
on Apr 25, 2019 at 4:13 pm
4 people like this

Why not combine the train right of way with Alma Street, and trench the tracks with Alma Street above it. Then we could have safe crossings and turns for cars, bicycles and pedestrians. Such a plan would probably not require acquisition of properties. Also, we could have more, not fewer, crossings over the RR (such as restoring California Avenue). A good artist's rendition of this idea (I can't do it) might make its feasibility and attractiveness more evident.


Hussein
Barron Park
on Apr 25, 2019 at 4:15 pm
Hussein, Barron Park
on Apr 25, 2019 at 4:15 pm
4 people like this

Palo Alto is one of the richest areas in the entire world and you all are scoffing at a few million in city fees to make an underground train tunnel and save human lives (people die because of no grade separation between the Caltrain and the roads every year).

Only in America with primo levels of NIMBY-ism can you see this absolute nonsense. This entire comment section and Councilwoman Cormack's nonsense is Exhibit A for why we, as human beings, don't deserve representative democracy.


Fr0hickey
Registered user
Fairmeadow
on Apr 25, 2019 at 4:32 pm
Fr0hickey, Fairmeadow
Registered user
on Apr 25, 2019 at 4:32 pm
1 person likes this

On north/south Shoreline Blvd, Rengstorff Ave, San Antonio Rd, Charleston Rd, Meadow Dr, Churchill Rd, temporary overpasses can be built for the lanes of north/south car/bike/pedestrian traffic. There make wooden roller coasters that are taller than the height required to clear a a train car. These overpasses can be made out of steel and concrete.

The existing Caltrain tracks can be used while a tunnel is dug underneath the existing tracks.

If the tunnel doesn't get dug, Caltrain can still run lots of trains, because the overpasses allow north-south car traffic to pass by.


Curmudgeon
Downtown North
on Apr 25, 2019 at 4:47 pm
Curmudgeon, Downtown North
on Apr 25, 2019 at 4:47 pm
3 people like this

"‘The Bridge That Couldn’t be Built’. How the Golden Gate Bridge Came into Being"

The GGB was a technological challenge. The societal will to build it was there.

Times have changed. A mature tunneling technology exists. The will to build is flabby.


member
Palo Verde
on Apr 25, 2019 at 5:01 pm
member, Palo Verde
on Apr 25, 2019 at 5:01 pm
4 people like this

Let's not let this discussion distract us from what really matters, the horror that is now Ross Road


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Atherton
on Apr 25, 2019 at 5:03 pm
Peter Carpenter, Atherton
Registered user
on Apr 25, 2019 at 5:03 pm
4 people like this

"Nobody is saying it can't be done technically.
It probably can't be done financially >>>"

Read the article :

"Initial reports estimated that a bridge would cost over $100 million and was probably unfeasible. But one engineer came forward with a plan that he claimed could be built for $25 to $30 million. His name was Joseph Baermann Strauss."

That is what happens when new technologies and designs emerge.


Mary O
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Apr 25, 2019 at 5:09 pm
Mary O, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Apr 25, 2019 at 5:09 pm
23 people like this

@hussein. Palo Alto is one of the wealthiest areas of the country, but not everyone here is wealthy - many people have been here since the 1960's and 1970's (or sooner) and have been able to stay since their property taxes have not gone up relative to neighbors who sold. And, the population is less than 70,000. The cost to build a tunnel underground was estimated at about $3billion. That would required a contribution of about $43000 per resident. Palo Alto's senior citizen population is about 20% and I believe (I should be checked on this) that 50% of those people live on less than $50K/year. That makes the tunnel not affordable. The REAL issue is our current tax system. We have entered a new "guilded age" where the wealthy are taxed at a fraction of what they would've been prior to Ronald Reagan taking office. And, that means, the cities and the state have fewer resources than ever. Don't blame Palo Altans. Blame the administrations startig with Ronald Reagan.


Dennis
Crescent Park
on Apr 25, 2019 at 6:10 pm
Dennis, Crescent Park
on Apr 25, 2019 at 6:10 pm
9 people like this

I for one am not going to pay any $ for a tunnel.


Vik
Charleston Gardens
on Apr 25, 2019 at 6:22 pm
Vik, Charleston Gardens
on Apr 25, 2019 at 6:22 pm
9 people like this

Tunnel dream is like High Speed Rail. The earlier we stop dreaming, more money we will save. Instead of clinging to tunnel solutions the city will benefit if we all think of alternate solutions. How about one way underpasses or overpasses to avoid affecting homes near railroad crossings?


PA Resident
College Terrace
on Apr 25, 2019 at 6:31 pm
PA Resident, College Terrace
on Apr 25, 2019 at 6:31 pm
14 people like this

I don't understand why everyone thinks Palo Alto residents should be the only ones footing the bill on this. Commuters come to Palo Alto by train and criss-cross this city in cars at least twice a day to get to Google, FaceBook, Apple, Stanford, HP, other firms in the Stanford Industrial Park, Palantir, and all the other businesses that hire people from up and down the Peninsula and across the Bay. Has any of this highly expensive analysis included numbers on how many people commute from where to where?

Why should the commute target firms not be required to provide funding for an improved commute for everyone? FB, with it's stash of $50-odd Billion is about to be fined $5B, financial peanuts for FB, for it's nefarious practices. Not to mention that the tech firms mentioned above pay Zero or at least very little in taxes on their overseas wealth stashes.

I don't understand why the cities up and down the Peninsula are so reluctant to politely ask, or even demand, that these multi-billion dollar behemoths pay their fair share. After all, they are the ones that caused the problem.


Rick Horther
Old Palo Alto
on Apr 25, 2019 at 7:37 pm
Rick Horther, Old Palo Alto
on Apr 25, 2019 at 7:37 pm
1 person likes this

[Post removed.]


Well....
another community
on Apr 25, 2019 at 9:54 pm
Well...., another community
on Apr 25, 2019 at 9:54 pm
10 people like this

"'The Bridge That Couldn’t be Built’. How the Golden Gate Bridge Came into Being

The GGB was a technological challenge. The societal will to build it was there"

To be fair...

The golden gate bridge was built during the great depression, so labor (even by the standards of the time) was cheap since there was high unemployment.

They had the will because they had no alternative.


Clem
another community
on Apr 25, 2019 at 10:32 pm
Clem, another community
on Apr 25, 2019 at 10:32 pm
2 people like this

$3 billion seems kinda steep for the Alma Traffic Sewer Beautification Project.


Tunnel
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 26, 2019 at 12:05 am
Tunnel, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 26, 2019 at 12:05 am
6 people like this

"Marie, are you willing to put up the $60,000 that represents your share of the tunneling cost?"

These things are typically financed over 30 years or more. We're already paying as much for very very expensive paint and a little hardscape on our schools, a tunnel would be a bargain at that price.


George
Crescent Park
on Apr 26, 2019 at 12:21 am
George, Crescent Park
on Apr 26, 2019 at 12:21 am
Like this comment

Am I out in the wilderness somewhere. I thought the rail right of way was owned by Union Pacific.


eileen
Registered user
College Terrace
on Apr 26, 2019 at 12:24 am
eileen , College Terrace
Registered user
on Apr 26, 2019 at 12:24 am
Like this comment

The only option is tunnel. Think big Palo Alto!!


Rick
Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 26, 2019 at 8:44 am
Rick, Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 26, 2019 at 8:44 am
2 people like this

The JPB owns the ROW from San Francisco to San Jose but UP must have some trackage rights in the contract.


WilliamR
another community
on Apr 26, 2019 at 9:38 am
WilliamR, another community
on Apr 26, 2019 at 9:38 am
6 people like this

Will a tunnel be able to handle diesel trains? In addition to the UP freight trains, until Caltrain reaches an agreement with UP to electrify the line south of San Jose, they are still going to run diesel passenger trains between Gilroy and SF.

Broader question-- Shouldn't any grade separation discussion begin with knowing or negotiating what Caltrain/JPB's and UP's requirements are? For example, there is no point to spending the time and money to design a two-track tunnel (or viaduct), only to find out at the end that they are going to require four tracks through all or part of the route. If the city knows what the hard parameters are for the system, then they can work on the best solution within those requirements.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Atherton
on Apr 26, 2019 at 9:43 am
Peter Carpenter, Atherton
Registered user
on Apr 26, 2019 at 9:43 am
6 people like this

"Will a tunnel be able to handle diesel trains"

All of the trains that go in to NYC. Paris, London etc are electrified and diesel engines are swapped out for electric engines before the trains reach these cities.


Rajiv
Greenmeadow
on Apr 26, 2019 at 9:45 am
Rajiv, Greenmeadow
on Apr 26, 2019 at 9:45 am
9 people like this

I live about a quarter mile from the tracks. I'd like nothing more than to have a tunnel to eliminate train noise (especially those 2 am horns) and anticipated traffic on E Charleston. It's just a very messy decision and expensive. Caltrain does not own the tracks, so what do you do about Union Pacific? A train tunnel is very different from a water tunnel. It's much bigger and requires the ability for access and evacuation. It needs to have passing lanes. Each station would have to be rebuilt.

At $4 billion, we would need a bond that is about 10x the current school bond. Are we willing to pay that?

I might be off on particular details, but this is a lot like the police station, it will take forever and cost much more than we anticipate. It's one thing if this was a regional initiative, but that's not where we are. Let's make a decision on a more cost-effective, hybrid solution and get on with it.


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 26, 2019 at 11:50 am
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 26, 2019 at 11:50 am
7 people like this

There really is no reason to rush on this. There isn't enough money to do a real tunnel solution. Let's just patch this together for another 15-20 years, or until HSR reaches San Jose and needs the San Francisco-San Jose link improved. Without HSR, there is no necessity to "do something".

We can't afford to do it incorrectly. Better to wait than to do the wrong thing.


Jon Claerbout
Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 26, 2019 at 12:05 pm
Jon Claerbout, Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 26, 2019 at 12:05 pm
2 people like this

Retirees like me living in south Palo Alto frequently use the Stanford medical complex. The reason we feel we must take Churchill Street is that Palo Alto previously blocked the Alma to Sand Hill Rd connection. Such a connection would be a dirt cheap way to connect Alma St with El Camino in both directions too.


Clem
another community
on Apr 26, 2019 at 1:39 pm
Clem, another community
on Apr 26, 2019 at 1:39 pm
2 people like this

A tunnel would not eliminate 2 AM horns or loud freight trains. It’s important to know what $3 billion DOESN’T buy you.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Atherton
on Apr 26, 2019 at 1:54 pm
Peter Carpenter, Atherton
Registered user
on Apr 26, 2019 at 1:54 pm
1 person likes this

“A tunnel would not eliminate 2 AM horns or loud freight trains“

Of course it would!! Trains in a tunnel don’t sound horns or make loud noises.


Freight trains
Registered user
Evergreen Park
on Apr 26, 2019 at 3:10 pm
Freight trains, Evergreen Park
Registered user
on Apr 26, 2019 at 3:10 pm
Like this comment

My understanding is that freight trains can't use the tunnel and would continue to run at ground level as they do now.


Davis Fields
Crescent Park
on Apr 26, 2019 at 4:09 pm
Davis Fields, Crescent Park
on Apr 26, 2019 at 4:09 pm
8 people like this

To some of the questions posed here... I am not an expert, but I have done a lot of reading on these topics. (1) Freight trains are MUCH heavier than commuter trains, and the electric locomotives that make sense for commuter rail can't pull them. (2) They also (obviously) make smoke and other emissions, and (I think) are also much taller, so putting them underground would make any tunnel much more elaborate and expensive. (3) A plan that says commuter trains are in a tunnel but freight stays at ground level seems (to me) to be dumb because it does not free up the ground level for any other uses.

The requirement that the Caltrain tracks accommodate freight trains (also called "heavy rail") is a huge complicating factor and cost-adder for Caltrain modernization. Freight trains can tolerate only very long, gentle inclines - so anything that involves going from above-ground to ground-level to underground has to be done other much longer lengths of track. And the weight of freight trains means the tracks can't run on graceful trestles with open space underneath (as BART tracks often do) but have to run on raised-each berms with occasional underpasses for roads (like Caltrain now does in San Carlos, for example).

It seems like we're going to enormous expense and trouble to accommodate fright trains in this corridor, and I think there are only one or two a day using it. Is there not a way to do away with that requirement?


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 26, 2019 at 5:02 pm
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 26, 2019 at 5:02 pm
2 people like this

>> It seems like we're going to enormous expense and trouble to accommodate fright trains in this corridor, and I think there are only one or two a day using it. Is there not a way to do away with that requirement?

I also support freight rail. It is -so- much more efficient than trucks.

"A modern railcar has a gross capacity of 286,000 lbs or 125.5 tons moving in trains consisting of 100 cars or more, yielding a total carrying capacity of 12,500 tons"

"higher horsepower locomotives have been developed whereby 4000-5000 HP locomotives are capable of moving 1 ton with .80 HP. These factors combined yield improvements that see two locomotives capable of moving 100 cars loaded at 263,000 lbs. each. "

Web Link


Freight trains
Registered user
Evergreen Park
on Apr 26, 2019 at 5:10 pm
Freight trains, Evergreen Park
Registered user
on Apr 26, 2019 at 5:10 pm
4 people like this

Doubt that Palo Alto will have any say on whether freight trains can be stopped from using these tracks. Besides, should we permanently eliminate the option of freight trains transporting goods up and down the peninsula? Perhaps their future design might be more environmentally friendly, and they have the possibility of significantly reducing the number of long-distant trucks on the roads.


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 26, 2019 at 6:02 pm
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 26, 2019 at 6:02 pm
Like this comment

Posted by Freight trains, a resident of Evergreen Park

>> Perhaps their future design might be more environmentally friendly, and they have the possibility of significantly reducing the number of long-distant trucks on the roads.

Perhaps a train buff would like to chime in, but, I believe that the most powerful locomotive of any type is the Chinese HXD1 freight engine with 9.6 MW (12,900 hp) (continuous) output.

Web Link

Generally speaking, electric locomotives have much lower operating costs than diesels.


Cart Before Horse
Old Palo Alto
on Apr 26, 2019 at 6:36 pm
Cart Before Horse, Old Palo Alto
on Apr 26, 2019 at 6:36 pm
3 people like this

"Shouldn't any grade separation discussion begin with knowing or negotiating what Caltrain/JPB's and UP's requirements are? For example, there is no point to spending the time and money to design a two-track tunnel (or viaduct), only to find out at the end that they are going to require four tracks through all or part of the route."

Has PCJPB agreed in principle to have its tracks and at least one of its stations placed underground? Has the county water district agreed in principle to have its creeks crossed and/or diverted? Until the answer to both of these questions is "yes" then this grandiose pipe dream of a citywide tunnel is just that — a pipe dream.

Palo Altans are assuming that PCJPB — Caltrain — will acquiesce to Palo Alto's every whim and agree to any scheme we come up with for a tunnel and an underground station at Calif Ave.

None of these comments has callS out the insanity of tunneling north of Matadero creek (approximately Fry's Electronics). There are three crossings north of Matadero which are ALREADY GRADE SEPARATED (Oregon, Embarcadero and University). Why spend billions to tunnel under these crossings when there is absolutely no need to? That's insanity! Why Kou and Tanaka continue to tilt at this windmill is anybody's guess. Maybe they're waiting for Elon Musk to pull a magical solution out of his hind quarters?

Councilwoman Kou seems to think she knows better when it comes to designing a rail tunnel while at the same accusing city staff or the engineering firm of malfeasance in skewing their video. That is arrogance!


Safety Sandshrew
Mountain View
on Apr 26, 2019 at 7:27 pm
Safety Sandshrew, Mountain View
on Apr 26, 2019 at 7:27 pm
Like this comment

Why does property acquisition for temporary tracks make it cost so much? After the project is done, the city can sell the property, perhaps even for a profit.


Cart Before Horse
Old Palo Alto
on Apr 26, 2019 at 9:09 pm
Cart Before Horse, Old Palo Alto
on Apr 26, 2019 at 9:09 pm
Like this comment

"Am I out in the wilderness somewhere. I thought the rail right of way was owned by Union Pacific."

Caltrain from San Francisco to Tamien, then Union Pacific south.

There are three Caltrains in each direction to and from Gilroy.


Curmudgeon
Downtown North
on Apr 26, 2019 at 10:57 pm
Curmudgeon, Downtown North
on Apr 26, 2019 at 10:57 pm
Like this comment

"There are three crossings north of Matadero which are ALREADY GRADE SEPARATED (Oregon, Embarcadero and University). Why spend billions to tunnel under these crossings when there is absolutely no need to? That's insanity!"

Well, it's simply silly to bring the tracks to the surface at each of these crossings, and then back down in between.


Cart Before Horse
Old Palo Alto
on Apr 26, 2019 at 11:45 pm
Cart Before Horse, Old Palo Alto
on Apr 26, 2019 at 11:45 pm
3 people like this

"Well, it's simply silly to bring the tracks to the surface at each of these crossings, and then back down in between."

Can't be done. There isn't enough space. 2% grade is the design limit.

The trains would come to the surface once around Matadero creek and stay above ground to the city limit. The tunnel would be half the length of the city. To tunnel under crossings which are already grade separated would be throwing money away, to the tune of several billion dollars.


bob.smith
another community
on Apr 27, 2019 at 12:29 am
bob.smith, another community
on Apr 27, 2019 at 12:29 am
2 people like this

>>>> "Why does property acquisition for temporary tracks make it cost so much? After the project is done, the city can sell the property, perhaps even for a profit."<<<<

If the property owner knows their property is vital for the project they can demand an extortionate price.
The City can then turn to Eminent Domain law to force the owner to sell at the "fair market value".
In the old "moral" days, property acquired through Eminent Domain should in theory remain in public ownership in perpetuity, and not sold on to a property developer for a profit, otherwise the City could acquire a taste for it as a new income stream.


WilliamR
another community
on Apr 27, 2019 at 1:58 am
WilliamR, another community
on Apr 27, 2019 at 1:58 am
1 person likes this

@ Curmudgeon and Cart--

I agree, an up-and-down tunnel system makes no sense. Either tunnel just under Charleston and Meadow, and leave the rest of the line at ground level, or bore a really deep tunnel that goes under Oregon and Embarcadero and put the Cal Avenue station underground.


Cart Before Horse
Old Palo Alto
on Apr 27, 2019 at 7:56 am
Cart Before Horse, Old Palo Alto
on Apr 27, 2019 at 7:56 am
3 people like this

"bore a really deep tunnel that goes under Oregon and Embarcadero"

... which are already grade separated, so what have you accomplished for the billions you've spent tunneling under them and completely rebuilding the Calif. Ave. station and placing it underground, assuming PCJPB will let you?

One big problem with Palo Alto's efforts at grade sep is that they're being carried out in a vacuum with no input from the owners of the ROW, PCJPB. So yeah, dream your grandiose pipe dreams of a citywide tunnel, but don't cry when PCJPB bursts your bubble and says "no" to your scheme.


WilliamR
another community
on Apr 27, 2019 at 8:18 am
WilliamR, another community
on Apr 27, 2019 at 8:18 am
Like this comment

@ Cart--

We're on the same side of this discussion. I don't think a tunnel is a good idea, but if Palo Alto wants to pursue it, it has to be a functional design, either half-way or all the way. I'm just trying to keep the facts straight.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Atherton
on Apr 27, 2019 at 8:25 am
Peter Carpenter, Atherton
Registered user
on Apr 27, 2019 at 8:25 am
2 people like this

The best and least expensive tunnel per mile would be the longest tunnel - ideally from San Jose to San Francisco.

A Palo Alto only tunnel would be much more expensive per mile.

And a bored tunnel need not own the property above it but could simply purchase an easement to pass under that property. And since the surface property would remain available for other uses the market price for the tunnel easement would be some fraction of the cost of the surface property.


Cheryl Lilienstein
Barron Park
on Apr 27, 2019 at 10:25 am
Cheryl Lilienstein , Barron Park
on Apr 27, 2019 at 10:25 am
1 person likes this

I fully agree with ALL of Peter Carpenter’s comments. A Green New Deal would make a long deep tunnel possible.


Pasz says
Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Apr 27, 2019 at 11:31 am
Pasz says, Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Apr 27, 2019 at 11:31 am
4 people like this

Cheryl- so that means that kuo, filseth and Dubois will be agreeing with Peter carpenter as well? I also expect a weekly editorial in favor as well


TBM
another community
on Apr 27, 2019 at 12:09 pm
TBM, another community
on Apr 27, 2019 at 12:09 pm
4 people like this

@Cheryl Lilienstein "A Green New Deal would make a long deep tunnel possible."

How?

There is nothing "green deal" about moving an electric railroad underground. Making concrete for the tunnel will emit huge amounts of greenhouse gases and a tunnel would REDUCE the capacity, speed and robustness of the public transport system compared to the current 4 track surface right-of-way.


Rick
Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 27, 2019 at 2:13 pm
Rick, Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 27, 2019 at 2:13 pm
3 people like this

Boring a tunnel would keep hundreds of cars from idling for long periods of time over the course of decades. Pretty sure that would make up for the minimal CO2 needed for the concrete tunnel liner. The tunnel could also extend -beyond- the existing ROW -and a pair of tracks could be left above ground for freight traffic and perhaps a local trolly like the one along the Seattle waterfront. That said, Palo Alto would rather spend millions on underused and unwanted bikeways than anything that might actually alleviate the traffic congestion - said traffic moving the very people who are responsible for the office complexes that are the main revenue drivers for this City.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Atherton
on Apr 27, 2019 at 2:23 pm
Peter Carpenter, Atherton
Registered user
on Apr 27, 2019 at 2:23 pm
7 people like this

Freight trains can and do operate in tunnels - this tunnel accommodates over 120 freight trains every day in addition to handling over 10,000 passengers every day:

Web Link


Curmudgeon
Downtown North
on Apr 27, 2019 at 3:41 pm
Curmudgeon, Downtown North
on Apr 27, 2019 at 3:41 pm
1 person likes this

"The trains would come to the surface once around Matadero creek and stay above ground to the city limit. The tunnel would be half the length of the city. To tunnel under crossings which are already grade separated would be throwing money away, to the tune of several billion dollars."

Which city limit? What about the Palo Alto Ave grade crossing? It's within 100 yds of the PA/MP city limit. What do you do beyond the city limits? Like you said, "2% grade is the design limit."

Why not ditch the smallthink and face reality instead?


Old Joe
Barron Park
on Apr 27, 2019 at 4:05 pm
Old Joe, Barron Park
on Apr 27, 2019 at 4:05 pm
1 person likes this

Bad idea
Time for new management I guess.


Clem
another community
on Apr 27, 2019 at 7:49 pm
Clem, another community
on Apr 27, 2019 at 7:49 pm
14 people like this

Pretty sure the owner of the right of way (PCJPB) won’t touch Palo Alto with a ten foot pole until all this tunnel nonsense dies down. Take as long as you like!

Meanwhile, plans are afoot to add a third and fourth track on the existing railroad land southwards of Peers Park, much the same as was done in Brisbane, Redwood City and Sunnyvale in the early 2000s. In five years this will come as a total shock to Palo Alto, where a committee will still be deciding on the tint of the concrete tunnel lining.


Cart Before Horse
Old Palo Alto
on Apr 27, 2019 at 11:12 pm
Cart Before Horse, Old Palo Alto
on Apr 27, 2019 at 11:12 pm
Like this comment

"Which city limit?"

The one you have to pass three grade-separated crossings to reach from Matadero creek.


Cart Before Horse
Old Palo Alto
on Apr 27, 2019 at 11:18 pm
Cart Before Horse, Old Palo Alto
on Apr 27, 2019 at 11:18 pm
Like this comment

"Take as long as you like!"

Meanwhile the cost goes up and up until sticker-shocked voters kill it at the ballot box when it comes time to vote on funding.

Ideal!


Freight trains
Registered user
Evergreen Park
on Apr 28, 2019 at 11:41 am
Freight trains, Evergreen Park
Registered user
on Apr 28, 2019 at 11:41 am
Like this comment

My understanding is that the cost of boring a tunnel to fit the height and width of freight trains would increase substantially because the engineering becomes a lot more complicated for a tunnel that size. Doesn't make sense when the freight trains are already accommodated at grade level. f money were no object ....


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Atherton
on Apr 28, 2019 at 11:51 am
Peter Carpenter, Atherton
Registered user
on Apr 28, 2019 at 11:51 am
2 people like this

The freight trains are only “accommodated” at grade level by creating huge problems at every grade level intersection.


Freight trains
Registered user
Evergreen Park
on Apr 28, 2019 at 12:33 pm
Freight trains, Evergreen Park
Registered user
on Apr 28, 2019 at 12:33 pm
3 people like this

Problems for whom and why? They only run at night.


Jason
Old Palo Alto
on Apr 28, 2019 at 4:48 pm
Jason, Old Palo Alto
on Apr 28, 2019 at 4:48 pm
5 people like this

Population of Palo Alto in 2017 68,178
Low ball estimate for tunnel $2.5 BILLION
Cost per Palo Alto resident $36,764

High estimate for tunnel $3.8 BILLION
Cost per Palo Alto resident $67,178

For insight on how these projects go try a search on the train trench that was built in Reno years ago. As one would expect, it took longer than expected and cost much more than estimated. So expect the Palo Alto project to cost at least 3.8 billion.

Come on folks let's get real here. Most of us are pretty well off but this is crazy! Forget the tunnel and move on.


Curmudgeon
Downtown North
on Apr 28, 2019 at 5:19 pm
Curmudgeon, Downtown North
on Apr 28, 2019 at 5:19 pm
Like this comment

""The trains would come to the surface once around Matadero creek and stay above ground to the city limit. The tunnel would be half the length of the city. To tunnel under crossings which are already grade separated would be throwing money away, to the tune of several billion dollars."

Then:

"The one [city limit] you have to pass three grade-separated crossings to reach from Matadero creek."

So let's stipulate that option makes the trains run on the surface north of Matadero creek over the grade crossings at Churchill Ave and Palo Alto Ave. You would tunnel under two favored x-ings (Charleston and Meadow) but leave the very busy Churchill and Palo Alto x-ings under assault by the trains.

Or you submerge north of Oregon, emerge north of Churchill, then submerge north of the main station and let Menlo Park make the connection to that tunnel stub. The PA Caltrain section will be dubbed "The Inchworm Line."

Or, we save needless repeated spudding costs and tunnel the whole route.


Paly Grad
Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 28, 2019 at 7:18 pm
Paly Grad, Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 28, 2019 at 7:18 pm
Like this comment

John,

What would the cost be per household?


Paly Grad
Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 28, 2019 at 7:19 pm
Paly Grad, Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 28, 2019 at 7:19 pm
2 people like this

Jason,

What would the cost be per household?


Jason
Old Palo Alto
on Apr 28, 2019 at 9:58 pm
Jason, Old Palo Alto
on Apr 28, 2019 at 9:58 pm
4 people like this

Paly Grad... Households in Palo Alto in 2017 ~ 26,348 (2.60 people per household)

The high cost estimate of $3.8 BILLION equals $144,223 per household.
The low cost estimate of $2.5 BILLION equals $94,883 per household.


musical
Palo Verde
on Apr 28, 2019 at 11:26 pm
musical, Palo Verde
on Apr 28, 2019 at 11:26 pm
2 people like this

^ $8.70/day per household for 30 years, there go our lattes.


mortgage calculator
another community
on Apr 29, 2019 at 12:42 am
mortgage calculator, another community
on Apr 29, 2019 at 12:42 am
4 people like this

^
Assuming households are not going to pay a lump sum up front, and Palo Alto takes out a 30 year mortgage on $3.8b at 4%:
Monthly repayments would be about $18,000,000, or about $680 per household per month, or $22 per household per day.

Caltrain are not going to start digging holes in their property until the full amount is in an escrow account.


Curmudgeon
Downtown North
on Apr 29, 2019 at 10:51 am
Curmudgeon, Downtown North
on Apr 29, 2019 at 10:51 am
3 people like this

"Monthly repayments would be about $18,000,000, or about $680 per household per month, or $22 per household per day."

Geez. None of us could afford to ride Caltrain then.


SuperD
Community Center
on Apr 29, 2019 at 11:25 am
SuperD, Community Center
on Apr 29, 2019 at 11:25 am
6 people like this

If you think the tunnel can be built on time and within budget, look to the new Bay Bridge extension results as an example because the tunnel solution through Palo Alto will end up just like the new bridge span from Treasure Island to Oakland = Over budget, late, and wrought with structural problems and expensive upkeep.


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2019 at 1:47 pm
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2019 at 1:47 pm
4 people like this

At this point, the soonest HSR tracks are coming to San Jose is 2029. And, that would still not finish the Southern end from Bakersfield to LA. We have (at least) 10 years "to do something". -Don't panic.- Let's do the correct thing.

Support CAHSR, Caltrain, and rail freight
Maximize safety for cars, bicycles, pedestrians
Minimize noise and pollution
Enhance neighborhoods, walking, bicycling
Minimize cost

I don't see how a small segment of tunnel can make sense. Perhaps some large sections can make sense, but, if Palo Alto has to do this pretty much on its own, I don't see a sensible tunnel solution.

For the next decade, why not just upgrade the safety gates at the intersections and move on?


Cart Before Horse
Old Palo Alto
on Apr 29, 2019 at 5:51 pm
Cart Before Horse, Old Palo Alto
on Apr 29, 2019 at 5:51 pm
3 people like this

"the trains run on the surface north of Matadero creek over the grade crossings at Churchill Ave and Palo Alto Ave. You would tunnel under two favored x-ings (Charleston and Meadow)"

Makes sense to me. That was actually one of the plans proposed by Hatch Mott MacDonald.

"Or you submerge north of Oregon, emerge north of Churchill, then submerge north of the main station and let Menlo Park make the connection to that tunnel stub."

You've been following these discussions long enough to know that a grade > 2% is a no-go. Brush off that geometry you learned at Paly high. There isn't enough linear distance to make this happen at a <= 2% grade. Not even Elon Musk could pull that off.

I very much doubt Menlo Park wants the first thing to do with CPA which has been spinning its wheels and dithering on grade sep for years and can't get out of its own way.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 29, 2019 at 6:28 pm
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Apr 29, 2019 at 6:28 pm
1 person likes this

If you follow the tracks going up El Camino they are street level in Redwood City, and in sections of San Carlos they are on a higher berm with under crossings under them. The train is capable of going up or down elevations on a berm. I saw them building an undercrossing up in San Mateo county and they had that done in no time. Not sure what is happening with the train while a berm is being elevated but cannot imagine how you would be digging a tunnel and still keep the trains going every day. If you are actually doing very extreme configurations how do you keep the system working on a daily basis? I do not see any tunnels from beginning to end on the system so why would we be the only location with a tunnel? I think we have better things to do with our money. Someone is trying to sell us A bridge? Figure out who is thinking up these ideas and what company would be used.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Atherton
on Apr 29, 2019 at 6:35 pm
Peter Carpenter, Atherton
Registered user
on Apr 29, 2019 at 6:35 pm
2 people like this

" cannot imagine how you would be digging a tunnel and still keep the trains going every day. "

Easy - the tunnel can be bored beneath the surface and would have no impact on the current surface right of way.

A cut and cover tunnel would disrupt the surface right of way but a bored tunnel would not.


Cart Before Horse
Old Palo Alto
on Apr 29, 2019 at 6:40 pm
Cart Before Horse, Old Palo Alto
on Apr 29, 2019 at 6:40 pm
1 person likes this

"cannot imagine how you would be digging a tunnel and still keep the trains going every day."

Run a temporary track down Alma while the portals on either end are being constructed.

You would have huge, lumbering Caltrains hurtling dowwn Alma. Sounds like fun, doesn't it?


Cart Before Horse
Old Palo Alto
on Apr 29, 2019 at 6:45 pm
Cart Before Horse, Old Palo Alto
on Apr 29, 2019 at 6:45 pm
1 person likes this

Pete Carpenter: How does your magic tunnel-boring machine get below the surface to bore its hole and how is the excavated soil carried away, all without disrupting daily Caltrain service?

Didn't think of that part, did you?


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Atherton
on Apr 29, 2019 at 6:50 pm
Peter Carpenter, Atherton
Registered user
on Apr 29, 2019 at 6:50 pm
Like this comment

As with the SF water tunnel under the bay from EPA to Fremont the boring machine is lowered in place at the beginning of the tunnel path through a vertical shaft and then the boring machine is abandoned underground after the bore is completed . The excavated soil is sent back thru the tunnel and removed at the original vertical site.


"Didn't think of that part, did you?" Yes - this is well thought through and proven in hundreds of bored tunnel projects.



Web Link


Curmudgeon
Downtown North
on Apr 29, 2019 at 7:34 pm
Curmudgeon, Downtown North
on Apr 29, 2019 at 7:34 pm
2 people like this

@Peter Carpenter

Is Atherton aboard the tunnel idea? Do you know what Menlo's position is?


TBM
another community
on Apr 29, 2019 at 11:19 pm
TBM, another community
on Apr 29, 2019 at 11:19 pm
5 people like this

@Peter Carpenter

You post a link to the Seattle tunnel, which looks nice finished, but look at the size of the launch pit: Web Link , Web Link , Web Link . Where in Palo Alto do you imagine this size of work site? It has to be located somewhere on the straight Caltrain alignment, because unlike water, high speed trains can't go round sharp corners.
To keep Caltrain service operating, the train will need a temporary diversion.
Constructing an underground station will require a similarly large pit with a temporary diversion track and temporary station.


Cart Before Horse
Old Palo Alto
on Apr 30, 2019 at 12:24 am
Cart Before Horse, Old Palo Alto
on Apr 30, 2019 at 12:24 am
1 person likes this

"As with the SF water tunnel under the bay from EPA to Fremont"

... where there is no scheduled rail service competing for the same space.

Bad metaphor. Apples and oranges.

Do you own stock in a tunnel-boring company? You keep touting the technology.


TBM
another community
on Apr 30, 2019 at 2:11 am
TBM, another community
on Apr 30, 2019 at 2:11 am
2 people like this

@Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
"Not sure what is happening with the train while a berm is being elevated"

This is what happened to the train while the berm was being elevated: Web Link
Coming soon to Alma...


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 30, 2019 at 11:19 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Apr 30, 2019 at 11:19 am
6 people like this

If you have been following the disruption up in San Francisco with their boring activities for a subway - over budget, over schedule, and total disruption for the surrounding area. Do we here have a separate problem with the gas lines that are under the streets in a web work that everyone seems to think needs to be redone? It is not worth the aggravation, cost, and total disruption that is evident in the city for the same type activities. We are next to the bay and have a water table that is at varying degrees of fill based on the type of underground support system. We got a earthquake map for the bay area back when buying the house and there are cut off zones from the bay up to the hills that reflect the ground type and earthquake impact. We are on a major earthquake zone so boring in the ground has more complications which have not been reconciled.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Atherton
on Apr 30, 2019 at 11:26 am
Peter Carpenter, Atherton
Registered user
on Apr 30, 2019 at 11:26 am
2 people like this

"We are on a major earthquake zone so boring in the ground has more complications which have not been reconciled."

SF Water had zero problems boring a tunnel under the Bay from EPA to Fremont.

San Francisco bored a tunnel 14-foot high corridor through clay, sand and bedrock from Menlo Park to Newark as deep as 103 feet below the bay floor. They then ran a 9-foot-high steel water pipe through the middle to provide a more earthquake resistant path for its water pipes from Hetch Hetchy.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 30, 2019 at 11:59 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Apr 30, 2019 at 11:59 am
10 people like this

Boring under the bay is using different equipment and different agencies to approve the activities and absorb the overruns. It is state and federally funded. We are not going to put a tunnel 103 feet under the street. Boring under the bay did not disrupt a train that has to run every day. This is a train - a commuter train that has to keep running. Comparison to SF's subway is a least apples to apples. As to rails the cities both south and north of us have redone their stations, underpasses, and modernized their station accessibility. They are done with it - or near done. As a side note the cities both north and south of us have overpasses over the 101 for bikes and walkers. They seem to make these things happen without excess money and drama - they just do it. A new bridge is near completion in EPA at Home Depot parking lot as the end zone. Check it out.


Cart Before Horse
Old Palo Alto
on Apr 30, 2019 at 10:56 pm
Cart Before Horse, Old Palo Alto
on Apr 30, 2019 at 10:56 pm
8 people like this

Peter Carpenter -

For the umpteenth time, we are building a rail tunnel on an active commute line, not an aqueduct under the bay. That's not going to change no matter how many times you post about it. Enough with your flawed comparisons to an aqueduct.


Duane
Midtown
on May 7, 2019 at 6:14 pm
Duane, Midtown
on May 7, 2019 at 6:14 pm
Like this comment

Why can't the air rights above the tunnel be sold to pay for the tunnel? (That's how they did in NYC when they buried the tracks going into Grand Central Station.) Since Palo Alto real estate is $, could we help fund part of the tunnel in MtV and Menlo Park so the tunnel entrances are in those towns? I'm sure they wouldn't mind. ;-)


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on May 9, 2019 at 11:44 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on May 9, 2019 at 11:44 am
3 people like this

Mr. Carpenter lives in Atherton, San Mateo County. The rail lines supporting his city are Menlo Park and Redwood City. I have no idea how Menlo Park is going to approach this but Redwood City has built up new construction directly next to the tracks so they are Done. I suspect that Menlo Park is not going to make any tunnels. Cannot figure out why he is focused on PA vs the cities that support his home location. We cannot spend the time and money to dig tunnels. We are in a flood zone and need the trains on berms. Mountain View is Done so there is no city within our location zone that is interested in tunnels.


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