News


Citywide train-tunnel idea hits dead end

Once popular option succumbs to financial and engineering challenges

After nearly a decade of dreaming, debating and designing, Palo Alto's bid to build a train tunnel from the north end of the city to the south came to a screeching halt Monday night.

In an unexpected move, the City Council voted 4-1 to eliminate from consideration what has been the most popular, the most expensive, and — in the opinion of most council members — most unrealistic alternative for separating the rail tracks from surface streets: A tunnel that would start near Channing Avenue and stretch south toward San Antonio Road.

The option, which has an estimated price tag of between $2.5 billion and $3.8 billion, is one of six that the council has been considering as part of its plan for "grade separation," the redesign of four rail crossings so that tracks and streets will no longer intersect. (The option to build a shorter tunnel, from Oregon Expressway south to the Mountain View border, remains in play.)

The council's decision came just three weeks after a divided council debated the idea of further studying the tunnel and ultimately failed to reach the four votes needed for a decision. The April 22 stalemate meant that the tunnel would remain in play, despite recent studies indicating that the option would require property seizures and would cost far more than any other alternative on the table.

Much like at the April meeting, Councilman Greg Tanaka lobbied hard on Monday in favor of keeping the tunnel in play and called the option a "multigeneration decision" that will have an impact for more than 100 years. He also accused staff and consultants of "bias" in their depiction of the tunnel's costs and impacts and challenged the engineering studies that suggested that the tunnel would require about 100 feet of space.

But unlike at the April meeting, when Councilwoman Lydia Kou joined Tanaka in ensuring that the short-handed council won't have the four votes it needs to eliminate the option (Mayor Eric Filseth and Councilwoman Liz Kniss were both recused because they own property near the tracks), on Monday Kou sided with the other three council members: Alison Cormack, Tom DuBois and Vice Mayor Adrian Fine. All three had argued at the prior meeting — and again on Monday — that the tunnel idea, while appealing to many citizens, is simply unrealistic.

Cormack said Monday that she supports eliminating the citywide tunnel because of its high cost and its impact on neighboring properties. An analysis by Aecom, the city's consultant, indicated that the city would need to acquire dozens of residential properties just east of the rail corridor to construct "shoofly tracks" — a temporary corridor that Caltrain would use while tunnels were being constructed.

Several residents told the council that it's time to pull the plug on the option, which became popular about a decade ago, when the city began bracing for the prospect of high-speed rail, a state project that has since been dogged by insufficient parking and flagging political support. Even with high-speed rail in limbo, the council remains focused on achieving grade separation to address the projected increase in Caltrain service.

"For a city of 67,000, to acquire $2 billion to $4 billion in debt would be an act of epic irresponsibility," resident Carolyn Schmarzo said.

She noted that if the city were to launch a GoFundMe site for the project, every resident would have to chip in $58,000.

Rob Levitsky, who lives in Professorville, similarly urged the council to nix the option. The city, he said, has neither the expertise or the funding to implement a tunnel. The project, he noted, is riddled with engineering challenges, including the need to get Caltrain's permission to construct the tunnel at 2% grade (which would require an exemption from Caltrain's standard of 1% grade) and the need for the new tunnel to cross Matadero and Adobe creeks.

"Accordingly, I believe it's time to say goodbye to the tunnel and remove it as an option," Levitsky said.

Not everyone was convinced that it's time to bury the idea. Stephen Rosenblum, who lives close to the California Avenue Caltrain station, echoed Tanaka's charge that the analysis presented to the council was "biased" against the tunnel, which staff had previously deemed financially infeasible. Resident Davina Brown also urged the council not to eliminate the tunnel option.

"I commend you for keeping all the options on the table and I sincerely hope you consider the future of Palo Alto, not just the costs today," Brown said.

Kou questioned Aecom's cost projections and pointed to the Central Subway tunnel project in San Francisco, which has a price tag of $1.6 billion (Fine countered that this project, unlike Palo Alto's grade separation bid, is a new subway project and, as such, does not require the disruptive and expensive construction of shoofly tracks).

Tanaka, for his part, challenged nearly every assumption that Aecom's engineers had made in their analysis, including the width of each of the two tunnels bores and the space that would be required between them.

The analysis indicated that the trench that would need to be constructed to accommodate the tunnel boring machine would need to be about 100 feet wide and 44 feet deep. This, according to the consultants, would be needed to accommodate the two bores (each of which would be 34 feet in diameter) and to have the needed space between the bores and outside the bores.

Tanaka argued that the tunnel's impacts can be significantly reduced if the option takes up less space. He disputed the engineers' idea that it would require 100 feet and said he's seen pictures of tunnels in which the bores were separated by about 5 feet of space, far less than the 15 feet the engineers said would be required. City Manager Ed Shikada, himself an engineer, countered that the space is needed to "ensure you have stable positioning" and to keep the two tunnels from interacting and interfering with one another.

Tanaka did not buy any of the explanations, calling them "incredibly biased," and argued that the council needs more information and a vote by the broader public before it could make a decision on the tunnel.

"We know it's something the community wants and yet some of the basic facts that determine the costs of the projects are not known at this point," Tanaka said.

Kou also requested more information about the project, including a more detailed breakdown of the various costs that comprise the consultant's overall estimate. Ultimately, however, Kou sided with the majority, a shift that seemed to catch most of her colleagues by surprise. At the end of the long discussion, which was dominated by Tanaka, the council voted to merely rename the tunnel option. Long referred to as a "citywide tunnel," the council decided to refine the definition to specify that the tunnel would start near Channing Avenue (to avoid reconstructing the downtown Caltrain station and interfering with San Francisquito Creek) and end at the south end of the city.

The council unanimously supported that option, as well as the idea of making public the city's cost estimates and technical assumptions about the citywide tunnel. After that motion passed, seemingly ending the discussion, Councilman Tom DuBois made a separate motion to eliminate the ambitious tunnel option. Unlike last month, Kou joined DuBois, Cormack and Fine and effectively killed the tunnel by a 4-1 vote, with Tanaka dissenting.

Even with the vote, the council is still exploring the idea of constructing a shorter tunnel — one that would stretch from south of Oregon Expressway to the city's southernmost border. Other options on the table are: a viaduct at Churchill Avenue; the closure of Churchill to traffic; a viaduct at the two southernmost crossings, East Meadow Drive and Charleston Road; a trench at East Meadow and Charleston; and a "hybrid" option that combines raised tracks and lowered roads at these two crossings.

The council has a target of making a final decision on its preferred alternatives for grade separation by this fall.

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Comments

5 people like this
Posted by Bill Bucy
a resident of Barron Park
on May 14, 2019 at 7:30 am

Bill Bucy is a registered user.

I've got five bucks that says the council will vote to close Churchill and trench the tracks at East Meadow and Charleston.


41 people like this
Posted by Seriously
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 14, 2019 at 8:05 am

My five bucks says they’ll do nothing at all, and no rail separations will occur in the next 20 years.


20 people like this
Posted by allen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 14, 2019 at 8:57 am

Right now when a train comes it interrupts the traffic cycle. There is no coordination of the train and the signal lights other than the interruption. In this interconnected information age, this should not be the case. If the signal timing and cycle length were matched to when the trains were coming so that cross traffic were in the natural red light phase and two way Alma traffic were flowing when the train comes my $5 says that this improvement would allow the projected increase in train traffic without any of these proposals now that HSR is no longer an issue. Solve this with technology instead of shovels.

All of the analysis I have seen ignores this possibility and just assumes the train interrupts the traffic cycle. I understand that traffic light timing along Alma would be impacted so drivers may experience more red lights. But my understanding is that this is pretty much the case now during peak hours. I would not expect more train traffic in off peak hours so that should not be much more of an issue than it is now.


30 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown North
on May 14, 2019 at 9:02 am

The tunnel was a hoax all along. There was never any serious effort to fund it. That was just a red herring to postpone making a real decision for 10 years.


9 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of University South
on May 14, 2019 at 9:05 am

Tanaka recently had an odd Facebook post bemoaning the cost of sidewalk repairs using some odd comparison of paving with dollar bills.
It’s hard to reconcile how spendthrift he is on modest expenses that are really needed and then his dogged pursuit of a multi-billion dollar citywide tunnel. One of his plans was to pay for it by fees from building skyscrapers on and next to the tunnel. Sounds like a great idea that everyone will get behind.


5 people like this
Posted by Spendthrift
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 14, 2019 at 9:13 am

Spendthrift: squanderer, waster


5 people like this
Posted by CA Love
a resident of Atherton
on May 14, 2019 at 9:16 am

[Post removed.]


12 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 14, 2019 at 9:24 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

The city business manager is in attendance at the city council meetings. From where I am sitting he should be a qualifier in discussions which affect eminent domain and billion dollar projects. He is the so-called paid expert while the PACC folks are voted in for a limited amount of time relative to their effectiveness. There is a lawyer for the city in attendance - she was not clear on what was decided and had to ask. We need to come to some conclusions as to what actual authority each of these functions can implement within the total city government arena. I was very uncomfortable of the line of discussion at 10:30 at night - disorganized and unclear. This whole discussion needs to take place in a planned meeting at normal hours with clearly defined funding requirements required - both from the government and from the city and taxpayers. And a bunch of dedicated but tired people are not going to be it. Who is the current city finance person?


18 people like this
Posted by bike commuter
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 14, 2019 at 9:33 am

Every time I see the 4bn tunnel estimated cost, I thought of a story.
Steve Jobs was developing Macintosh in 1983. He proposed a revolutionary new way to operate our computer: with a mouse. (shocking) But at the time, the people he hired from HP (see Job's 1995 'lost' interview) told him a mouse will take $300 to build so it is unrealistic. He eventually got fed up and found IDEO, who built the mouse we all take for granted for $15.
The problem may not be the cost itself.


9 people like this
Posted by CA Love
a resident of Atherton
on May 14, 2019 at 9:51 am

IDEO did build a mouse for $15 in the ‘80’s but ask them to make a simple toothpick prototype these days don’t be surprised with a $100K bill. But your point is correct and well taken.


18 people like this
Posted by TorreyaMan
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 14, 2019 at 10:26 am

TorreyaMan is a registered user.

Every large infrastructure project I know of has come in at a considerable overrun. Likely this one, too. Thus the actual final tunnel cost would likely be much higher than the current estimates. And comparing the mouse development with the tunnel development is ridiculous.


13 people like this
Posted by George
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 14, 2019 at 10:27 am

Not tunneling is a mistake. Short term fixes just push the problem to others in the future. Transit solutions to meet current and future needs are a Bay Area issue. Significantly higher transit capacity along the Caltrans or 101 corridor would have tremendous economic benefit for the area.
But sure, as long as Palo Alto thinks in its own little box, as long as the problem is considered simply how to gain a year or two relief at the local rail crossings, the costs would be too high.
A small group pushed a $150 billion HSR boondoggle through to voter approval and ward of the state’s taxpayers with the thinnest justification and ROI studies. Surely, the same could happen for a high speed/ high capacity subway line along the peninsula. Insufficient planning is how we got here in the first place.


4 people like this
Posted by DES
a resident of Southgate
on May 14, 2019 at 10:36 am

Is my understanding correct that Caltrans already has on order electric trains intended to run up the peninsula at 110 MPH? Can you imagine running a train through Palo Alto at 110 MPH, twice the present speed, and at grade level? We who average one train suicide per year? What happens when a train hits a person or car going 110 MPH? And how far will the noise carry for a train going that speed?


6 people like this
Posted by bike commuter
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 14, 2019 at 10:43 am

What is the best strategy for a student, an employee, or a government when they are not willing to get something done? They come up with a big cost/time estimate. ("I really want to do it, but I can't") The $300 mouse quote is a good-faith estimate from someone who does not want to make it happen. If someone really want to make it happen, he/she will find a cost effective way. Palo Alto is working toward 2050's vision with its 1950s infrastructure. This cannot continue.


11 people like this
Posted by slud
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 14, 2019 at 10:45 am

slud is a registered user.

Just one more voice for keeping the tunnel alive. It will be amortized over more than a century. To drop it is incredibly short sighted.


9 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 14, 2019 at 10:46 am

>> Can you imagine running a train through Palo Alto at 110 MPH, twice the present speed, and at grade level?

Too much here to unpack everything, but, the current top speed is 79 MPH and trains vary their speed all the time. Also, there are safer versions of grade level crossings (which will increase the overall time the crossing is blocked). Eventually, it will have to be "hybrid"-- there is really no other way to do it affordably. As for "110 MPH"-- much easier to accommodate than "200+ MPH".

-Anyway-, the tunnel is done for now. Time to move on. If IDEO can develop a tunneling machine that tunnels for 1/10 the current cost - and, I don't mean the Boring company with its tiny cross-section, designed-for-small-cars, tunnels- then, sure, let's reconsider. We can always reconsider if/when costs drop.

The tunnel is done. Time to move on.


17 people like this
Posted by Midtown resident
a resident of Midtown
on May 14, 2019 at 10:47 am

The lack of gonads Palo Alto (and this country) has towards long-term infrastructure development is the reason we are not the greatest country in the world. When taking costs into consideration, we should factor in the environmental impact, traffic alleviation, suicide prevention and other important but less tangible considerations.
A forward-thinking community like Palo Alto should also not take estimated costs at face value. Why can other countries undertake these projects at a fraction of the cost? What are the doing differently? Are there lessons to be learned? Where there's a will, there's a way. Cowards!


9 people like this
Posted by Jonathan Brown
a resident of Ventura
on May 14, 2019 at 11:05 am

Jonathan Brown is a registered user.

People, people everywhere and not a stop to think.


17 people like this
Posted by Daniel Lilienstein
a resident of Barron Park
on May 14, 2019 at 11:13 am

I'm sorry to see the tunnel option get buried. It is clear however that any approach that treats the transportation system as a "city-by-city" piecemeal problem is doomed and shortsighted. We live in a vast complex region that requires larger-scale solutions. It makes no sense to limit the tunnel to within our city's borders- Caltrain and Sacramento already know that, and should be planning for a system-long tunnel. If they did that, we could leave the tracks in place and in use while tunneling underneath the length of the peninsula. No shoofly, no street closures, no property taking. Bore deeply under the creeks, under the roads and utilities, under historic trees. After it's done, remove the tracks above and build housing and parks, join the neighborhoods in formerly separated parts of the cities. I guess this will never happen- we will have to leave it to future generations to wonder why we didn't have the vision.


8 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 14, 2019 at 11:32 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

I attended the initial HSR meetings 100 years ago at the Santa Clara Marriott. The principals then took off to Europe and Japan to see the trains they had at that time - on taxpayer money. Then total silence. In the mean time the whole valley exploded with new buildings, new freeways, new infrastructure, new other transportation options. The window of opportunity to make this happen on the proposed funding disappeared. We went from open land to built on land. All depends on timing. The HSR program missed all of the opportunities that were there and is still missing the opportunities. The plan assumed a lot of opportunities to visit Europe on a paid vacation to see cars built by foreign countries. The plan bypassed existing rights of way to go after private owned farms by eminent domain. They were even trying to put an Indian casino in Merced. Deals upon deals. It all depended on a time when people did not have access to information on an immediate basis. See how this all changes - need a different business model to make big things happen when the window of opportunity is available.


9 people like this
Posted by Grumpy Older Guy
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on May 14, 2019 at 11:40 am

Funny how this morning Caltrain announced their move to have a sales tax hike to 'electrify' the system for all three counties. The argument is that electrification would allow Caltrain to run more cleaner trains reducing congestion on 101. More trains? That's a great idea, but that raises safety and congestion concerns even higher.

I've heard that one before. Wanna buy a bridge?

How about linking any approval for electrification of the system and the tax with it to building a tunnel throughout the system not only in Palo Alto, but to other cities as well. The reality is that if you're going to 'up' the number of train running through the city, then Caltrain should pay for part of the costs for tunnelling so that it'll be safer and reduce traffic congestion for those who have to drive through our city. (contrary to those who want traffic so congested, that everyone will just 'walk/bike')

Oh, and don't forget that increased Caltrain passenger flow really benefits downtown SF as its key endpoint. The landlords of Downtown SF appreciate all of us making it easier for them to increase their rents.


9 people like this
Posted by Grumpy Older Guy
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on May 14, 2019 at 11:45 am

We'll be okay with building a tunnel through Palo Alto so long as we don't hirer those High Speed Rail guys to do it. (Especially their consultants!) :-)


22 people like this
Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on May 14, 2019 at 12:25 pm

Grumpy,

You are living is an alternate fact-free universe. The point of grade separations is to make the train safer than it is now, while increasing the number of trains and improving traffic flow.

Palo Alto Is the #2 station on the whole line, even more than San Jose or Millbrae. SF is not the only beneficiary.

The tunnel advocates have never spelled out any material benefits of a tunnel, certainly none to justify the cost. Building a tunnel in a lightly developed area is the height of folly. SF has built tunnels in densely developed downtown and Mission. Much of BART in SF above ground. Light rail is at grade level in the areas of SF where train frequencies are lower.

The vast majority of Palo Altans would not benefit from a tunnel and would not be willing to pay for it. The City Council finally turned their back on a handful of vocal supporters with no judgment.


4 people like this
Posted by bob.smith
a resident of another community
on May 14, 2019 at 12:28 pm

Some people are commenting that not building a tunnel is the result of a lack of vision, but really it is a lack of commitment to spend the money.

In the US, any large public project that intends to spend $ billions over a 15 year period will suffer a death by 1000 cuts. It will be aggressively litigated by minority special interests, the media will write boondoggle hysteria as click bait, politicians will promise to cancel it and spend the money on other things in an attempt to get elected, ambulance chasing lawyers will search for a toehold to file a frivolous lawsuit in the hope of a big payday.

China does not have these problems, China has a 30 year plan, allocates funding, and builds the thing in 2 years, with the overwhelmingly support of the people.

The US system is just not set up to do things that take 10 years to build and 100 years to get a return-on-investment. Wall street wants a return-on-investment in 2 years, politicians think in terms of 4 year election cycles, many Americans live paycheck to paycheck. The federal government has no 30 year plan with dedicated annual funding.

Big infrastructure projects need a powerful evangelists with the stamina to push them through the swamp. Right now in the US there is no such entity. Maybe when the Millennials take power they can get stuff done.


1 person likes this
Posted by Martin
a resident of Downtown North
on May 14, 2019 at 12:47 pm

Nice! Now, please drop the 2nd tunnel idea, and stop wasting time. While we are at it, let's take Alma across the creek into Menlo Park, and share costs to improve the Ravenswood Ave crossing.

Martin


8 people like this
Posted by Martin Engel
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 14, 2019 at 1:02 pm

Hey, Grumpy Older Guy. You're my kind of Grumpy Older Guy because I also happen to be a Grumpy Older Guy who has been advocating tunneling for the entire Peninsula for over 10 years. Why?

1. Even moderate forecasts project Peninsula population and commerce growth by large percentage points.
2. What has been suburban and even 'ex-urban' is destined to become high-density, high-population, high-rise, commercial and industrial. (Look at growth along 101)
3. Our currently discreet chain of Peninsula towns will become over time -- from SF to SJ -- one 50 mile long Megatropolis.
4. Costs and cost-projections depend upon cost/benefit ratios. Capital development costs amortize over time.
5. We need to think -- not tactically -- but strategically, very long term.
6. Caltrain, and its "vision" of itself, is already obsolete and needs fundamental restructuring into one unified Bay Area transit system. What we are advocating is a Peninsula local-and-express subway system. (Paris?London?NYC?
7. Most major high-density cities on this planet have subways, and the entire Peninsula is going to be such a city.
8. All these current negative conversations will only kick the can down the proverbial road for the next generation.
9. The irony is that those today who are advocates for ever greater development, oppose tunneling. Ditto for those who have hopes that things will never change. Both need to change their perspective.


4 people like this
Posted by TBM
a resident of another community
on May 14, 2019 at 1:55 pm

@Martin Engel "What we are advocating is a Peninsula local-and-express subway system. (Paris?London?NYC?"

Paris, London, and NYC also have high speed trains running into their centers.

The easiest place to build a peninsula subway would be under El Camino Real, pits can be opened in the road while stations are built. Traffic can easily divert around the openings.

Grade separations would still be needed on the Caltrain alignment for long distance surface trains.


Like this comment
Posted by senor blogger
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 14, 2019 at 2:03 pm

Town Square moderator, Can you provide a link to Facebook?
Some of these comments are too precious to lose.


Like this comment
Posted by Martin
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 14, 2019 at 2:42 pm

@DES

Why does speed of train matter?
1) Even at 50mph, train cannot swerve for a suicide
2) Even at 50mph, train cannot stop for a suicide
3) Gates come down the same 30 secs before train passes.

How is 110mph a factor?


3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 14, 2019 at 2:55 pm

High Speed Trains run under the English Channel.

The Channel Tunnel was thought to be too difficult, too expensive, take too long, too political, etc.

The tunnel now runs trains well. Nobody says that it should not have been dug.


7 people like this
Posted by Leave The Trains Alone
a resident of Community Center
on May 14, 2019 at 3:14 pm

The cars should have a tunnel with the trains operating overhead.

Then no one has to stop for anyone.


4 people like this
Posted by Maurice
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 14, 2019 at 6:28 pm

Palo Alto can still have underground trains!

PACC dropped the plan for a *CITYWIDE* tunnel.

Just build a 2% trench between San Antonio road and Matadero creek and go no further (requires Caltrain design exception).

Look,

1. Oregon expwy is already grade separated.

2. Embarcadero rd. is already grade separated.

3. University ave. is already grade separated.

There was never any justification for spending billions to tunnel under these three roads. It was a hare-brained idea to begin with.

Hatch Mott MacDonald came up with this plan five years ago and delivered it to CPA.

It called for a 2% trench between San Antonio and Matadero creek and called for NO taking of private residences. None! No citizens complaining about ugly elevated structures (viaduct/hybrids) or Caltrain passengers peering into back yards.

Yes, it will be very expensive. (It will be expensive no matter what option you choose.)

Yes, it will likely run several times over projected cost (these projects always do, c.f. Bay Bridge).

Yes, it will require a shoofly track to divert Caltrains during construction, thus turning Alma St. into a temporary railroad right of way.

Yes, much of the cost will involve enabling the trains to cross Barron, Adobe and Matadero creeks, and dealing with the high water table in that area.

Yes, you'll save billions by not tunneling under the northern half of the ROW.

Yes, you'll save even more billions by not having to build a completely new Calif. Ave. station underground.

Yes, save even more by taking NO private residences at upwards of $3 million each.

Web Link


6 people like this
Posted by relentlesscactus
a resident of another community
on May 14, 2019 at 7:39 pm

> (The option to build a shorter tunnel, from Oregon Expressway south to the Mountain View border, remains in play.)

I'm really sorry to hear this. As stupid as the longer tunnel.


6 people like this
Posted by relentlesscactus
a resident of another community
on May 14, 2019 at 8:06 pm

>What happens when a train hits a person or car going 110 MPH?

It kills them, just as a train going 79mph or 20mph will kill them.

If you grade separate, people still jump in front of trains at stations. Trains will not hit cars anymore, though.

What is your point?


4 people like this
Posted by relentlesscactus
a resident of another community
on May 14, 2019 at 8:11 pm

>should be planning for a system-long tunnel.

That's about $40-60 Billion. Where the h*ll you gonna find that?


5 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on May 14, 2019 at 10:03 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

How does such a short stretch of tunnel with tracks end up costing an estimated $2.5 billion and $3.8 billion? You would build three or four LEVI'S STADIUMS for that price.

I know that California has a penchant for ballooning labor costs, delays and perpetual "unforeseen costs." After all, look at the Mitchell Park library.

Still, I cannot fathom such a short stretch of tunnel costing that amount of money. Do they add diamonds to the concrete?


3 people like this
Posted by Maurice
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 14, 2019 at 10:13 pm

"As stupid as the longer tunnel."

A trench or tunnel in that area has no natural drainage, and CPA has a poor record of pumping storm water (c.f. Oregon expwy). If the pumps fail and the trench/tunnel floods, Caltrain and the freights don't move.

Hopefully Caltrain will recognize this when considering the proposal.


3 people like this
Posted by TBM
a resident of another community
on May 15, 2019 at 12:06 am

"As stupid as the longer tunnel."

Caltrain has penciled in four tracks for South PA under its high-growth scenario, so a 2 track tunnel would be a non-stater for that reason alone. Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by relentlesscactus
a resident of another community
on May 15, 2019 at 12:50 am

> Hopefully Caltrain will recognize this when considering the proposal.

The know.


2 people like this
Posted by Maurice
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 15, 2019 at 3:58 am

"Caltrain has penciled in four tracks for South PA under its high-growth scenario"

Four tracks for the HSR project that's been killed by Governor Newsom.

Yes, HSR was approved by California voters as Prop 1a and could theoretically come back to life. However, voters never voted on or approved the "blended approach" which calls for the sharing of the Peninsula ROW by Caltrain and HSR, so the "blended approach" could die and stay dead.

I put little credence in Caltrain's vision of the future, but they own the ROW so if they say "four tracks" then four tracks it shall be. Likewise if Caltrain says "no tunnel through Palo Alto" or "we're not putting the Calif. Ave.station underground". A train trench with no tunnel means no development on toop of the ROW such as bike paths, dog runs, quaint shoppes, housing, fancy restaurants, etc.

Even a trench in south P.A. and the associated pumps and shoofly track must meet with Caltrain's approval. A 2% trench would also require a design exception from them.


4 people like this
Posted by Maurice
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 15, 2019 at 4:20 am

"How does such a short stretch of tunnel with tracks end up costing an estimated $2.5 billion and $3.8 billion? You would build three or four LEVI'S STADIUMS for that price."

You compare it to the cost of comparable rail tunnels built elsewhere, such as Boston and Seattle, not by comparing it to the cost of a sports stadium.


Like this comment
Posted by TBM
a resident of another community
on May 15, 2019 at 5:26 am

@MOrice "voters never voted on or approved the "blended approach" which calls for the sharing of the Peninsula ROW by Caltrain and HSR, so the "blended approach" could die and stay dead."

The only things Prop1A has to say about this is:
----
It is the intent of the Legislature by enacting this chapter and of the people of California by approving the bond measure pursuant to this chapter to initiate the construction of a high-speed train system that connects the San Francisco Transbay Terminal to Los Angeles Union Station and Anaheim, and links the state’s major population centers, including Sacramento, the San Francisco Bay Area, the Central Valley, Los Angeles, the Inland Empire, Orange County, and San Diego
----
Legislature may appropriate funds for any of the following high-speed train corridors:
(B) San Francisco Transbay Terminal to San Jose to Fresno
----
Maximum nonstop service travel times for each corridor that shall not exceed the following:
(3) San Francisco-San Jose: 30 minutes
----
A study of alternative SF-SJ alignments was done Web Link. The conclusion was "Use of the existing Caltrain corridor for the HST alignment would improve safety through the construction of grade separations. The HST alignment would be directly connected to the existing rail and transit infrastructure and would be consistent with the current use of the corridor for rail infrastructure."

Regardless of what Newsome's confused speech writer made him say, Prop1A remains the law of the land and recent court challenges have confirmed that the Legislature cannot materially change the text of a voter approved law.

As it stands today, it is very unlikely that the California Public Utilities Commission will approve any grade separation plan that thwarts HSR.


2 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 15, 2019 at 8:32 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

On the papers today a story about Caltrain and it's problems which will be addressed by a tax that will be voted on. The tax is specific to counties- San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara. One has to conclude that what ever HSR funding was presumed is limited. That brings to mind that we all agreed to pay a tax for Bart which we assumed was going to circle the bay. No Bart on the horizon for San Mateo down to San Jose. So question on the table is are we currently paying a tax for BART - which we are not going to get - and also Caltrain? Someone knows the answer to that one.

I would like Bart to come down the west side of the peninsula near Foothill Blvd. That would have stops in RWC, Menlo Park, PA - Veterans and SU, Foothill College - and then down to Cupertino to close the loop at the Apple Complex. That would address the HWY 280 issues. That is a different topic but the tax is the same topic - get taxed with no results. Can the Bart tax we are presumably paying get applied to Caltrain?


1 person likes this
Posted by Old Steve
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on May 15, 2019 at 8:51 am

Old Steve is a registered user.

@Res 1:

Wishing and hoping for BART beyond Millbrae won't get anything done. In the Sixties, when San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties decided not to join, their property taxes were not increased to pay for BART. Now, their sales taxes pay their local transit agencies (Samtrans & VTA) to pay BART to run the new extensions to SFO/Millbrae and Berryessa.


1 person likes this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 15, 2019 at 9:03 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

SO back to the tax question on Caltrain - still to be voted on. If the Gov has a huge amount of funding - presumably because we do such a good job in the Valley - then one could presume that he could include the upgrade in his bucket of money. There already has to be an allocation for the Merced to Bakersfield section so why not provide the funding to an area which is producing his budget windfalls? We are already addressing the states requirements with one of the biggest taxes in the country. Get to work council members and SC leadership - this is what you are paid to do. You are not paid to "resist" - you are paid to work and get a better grip on the state tax issues.


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Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 15, 2019 at 10:10 am

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood

>> The Channel Tunnel was thought to be too difficult, too expensive, take too long, too political, etc.

>> The tunnel now runs trains well. Nobody says that it should not have been dug.

Well, there is this Brexit thing. But, sure, from a purely neo-liberal-economics sense, it made perfect economic sense.

You can still take a ferry from Calais to Folkestone. I gather it costs more than flying or the Chunnel, but, I may do it for nostalgia's sake one of these days.

Back on topic: a deep(er) tunnel end-to-end might make sense, but, the cost of doing a short stretch really doesn't make sense. The end-to-end, doing big lengths at a time, approach, can likely be done in the future for less, as tunneling gets relatively cheaper, unlike a local approach.


2 people like this
Posted by TBM
a resident of another community
on May 15, 2019 at 10:18 am

@Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
"why not provide the funding to an area which is producing his budget windfalls"

The State already contributed $713 million toward the electrification of Caltrain Web Link


3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 15, 2019 at 10:30 am

The Channel Tunnel takes trains from London to Paris and other large European cities faster than it does to fly or to take a ferry. Ferries are still very popular as people like to take their cars with them to tour for a couple of weeks vacation.

The Channel Tunnel is very much a city to city destination although there are stops in very rural areas each side of the tunnel to enable those who want to travel without their car somewhere to park it, or alternatively I believe some cars can go on the trains too.

As for cost, there are always deals. Booking well in advance, booking last minute, group bookings and family bookings are often much cheaper than the regular price.

As for Brexit, I have never heard this being discussed in terms of the Tunnel, but others may know better.

However, the funding was found. Two governments wanted to work together. The public wanted better options to cross the English Channel. This is now an engineering marvel that is taken for granted in many ways. All the debate beforehand included many of the same arguments as here, but it happened and it is successful.


2 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 15, 2019 at 11:26 am

"people like to take their cars with them "
Always interesting with your steering wheel on the wrong side.


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