Community Notebook: Caltrain unveiling construction plans in preparation for electric fleet

Tuesday meeting to address concerns from residents over the upcoming work

Caltrain officials plan to host a public meeting on Tuesday to discuss upcoming construction at its two stations in Palo Alto.

The construction is part of the Caltrain Modernization Program, an ongoing project to replace Caltrain's diesel-hauled trains with electric ones by 2022. The electric trains are expected to improve system performance and reduce the environmental impact and average commute times.

The meeting will address concerns from residents about the impacts of the construction on the surrounding community and provide more insight into the goals and scope of the project, Caltrain said in a press release.

In the next few months, construction is expected to begin on concrete foundations for overhead poles and a paralleling station, which will help power the electric trains. The foundation for the poles will be placed along the corridor and will be completed in three months. The paralleling station will be located on Caltrain property south of Page Mill Road and is expected to take up to eight months, according to Caltrain spokesman Alex Eisenhart. In the fall, Caltrain will start installing the poles and building a bridge barrier.

These construction projects may impact the commute for local residents. "There is a potential for some grade crossing closures to facilitate foundation installation," Eisenhart said in an email. "This would be during the evening and only a few nights for each crossing."

With more trains slated to run up and down the corridor (Caltrain's draft business plan assumes having between six and 10 trains running per hour, in addition to four high-speed rail trains), Palo Alto and other cities along the corridor have been crafting plans to redesign rail crossings. The City Council has a goal of choosing its preferred alternative for "grade separation" — the physical separation of the tracks from local streets at four grade crossings — by this fall.

Efforts to redesign the city's rail corridor have been a controversial issue in recent years, with some residents advocating for a train tunnel and others protesting against any grade-separation options that would require property takings. The tunnel alternative, which is by far the most expensive one on the table, officially stalled last month in the face of financial and structural challenges. The projects have also faced pushback from residents concerned about construction diverting traffic flow onto residential streets.

The public meeting is set for Tuesday, June 4, at 6:30 p.m. in the Embarcadero Room of the Rinconada Library located at 1213 Newell Road. More information on the modernization project can be found at


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11 people like this
Posted by C. Walters
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 4, 2019 at 10:28 am

So glad to see these upgrades finally happening.
Thank you Caltrain for your vision and leadership. I hope Palo Alto joins me in supporting this much needed commuter service upgrade.
Now if we can just get people out of their cars an return all the asphaltt and infrastructure they require back to more healthy uses (trees, gardens, parks, housing, etc) wed have a much better quality of life.

8 people like this
Posted by MP Resident
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 4, 2019 at 10:49 am

Electric trains are a huge improvement - we'll have better service, cleaner air, and better opportunities to increase service. Palo Alto is already one of the top origin / destination cities for Caltrain, and improved transit will help ease traffic and parking concerns.

In terms of system design - don't let perfect get in the way of better. A train tunnel is too expensive, but a mix of grade separations and crossing closures probably makes sense. And some passing tracks are way better than having to build the next 101/280 because they're both full!

4 people like this
Posted by Caltrain electrification
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 4, 2019 at 12:29 pm

Caltrain electrification is a registered user.

Will electrification restore the cuts that were made to midday Caltrain service (it used to be twice an hour, one express and one local, and now there is only a local)?

Will electrification mean more frequent service in the evening than once an hour or less frequent?

We should demand at least 20 minute headways throughout the day, just like on BART.

Like this comment
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 4, 2019 at 12:31 pm

We're in a whole new phase once Caltrain turns on the juice and retires its diesels. Every track modification will require stringing new wires from new poles and certifying them, which ain't cheap. Caltrain will understandably be reluctant to uproot its spiffy new electric system to accommodate future grade separation schemes, because they provide little benefit for trains.

So look at what we got, imagine a web of wires, and that's what we're gonna have.

4 people like this
Posted by Leslie
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 4, 2019 at 9:19 pm

Don't be shocked when you see diesel locomotives barreling down the tracks AFTER electrification is complete. Caltrain will have to run diesel to Gilroy: three northbound and three southbound trains per day, and then there is the issue of freight trains.

I maintain that the pipe dream of 10 trains per hour full of fare-paying passengers is so much vaporware.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 5, 2019 at 3:52 pm

Did anyone attend this meeting and care to comment?

Did the Weekly send a reporter who is able to comment?

5 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 5, 2019 at 4:50 pm

C. Walters said:

"Now if we can just get people out of their cars an return all the asphalt and infrastructure they require back to more healthy uses (trees, gardens, parks, housing, etc) wed have a much better quality of life."

This is childlike magical thinking. Caltrain serves way less that 1% of the transportation needs of the Peninsula. Even AFTER the increased capacity from electrification it will still serve way less than 1% of the transportation needs of the Peninsula. It is just silly to think that a system with the capacity to serve less than 1% of the transportation needs of the the Peninsula can some how absorb the other >99%.

If there was no asphalt who would pick up your garbage? Deliver your parcels? Supply your grocery store? Without asphalt how would people get to the train station from their homes, and to their destination from the train station? Without asphalt where would you ride your bike?

Sometime in the 1960s passenger railed gave up all hope of being a competitive transportation option and became a new age religion.

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

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