Residents split over Churchill closure at rail meeting | News | Palo Alto Online |

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Residents split over Churchill closure at rail meeting

Palo Alto unveils new plans for managing traffic if street is closed to traffic

As Palo Alto kicked off on Thursday a new phase of outreach in its ambitious plan to redesign rail crossings, city staff and consultants faced off with residents who expressed concerns that the proposed remedies will bring new problems to their neighborhoods.

The meeting, which brought about 150 people to the Mitchell Park Community Center, was the start of what City Manager Ed Shikada called the "community conversations" phase of the planning process, aimed at getting "more comprehensive feedback from community members on each one of the options, which will ultimately lead to a decision." City staff and consultants from AECOM presented the city’s remaining options for “grade separation” -- the separation of railroad tracks and roads so that one would go under the other (or vice versa).

Over the past year, the city winnowed down its menu of options from more than 35 to seven: At the Churchill Avenue crossing, the city is considering closing the road to traffic or building a viaduct. At the Meadow and Charleston crossings, the city is still eyeing a trench, a viaduct or a "hybrid" option that combines elevated trains and lowered roads. And while the city has already abandoned the once-popular idea of building a tunnel from one of the city to another, it is still considering a tunnel for the southern half of the city. In one proposal, the tunnel would include both passenger and freight trains; in another it would be only for passenger trains (freight trains would remain at street level).

View renderings of the remaining rail redesign options

As at prior meetings, staff and consultants offered an overview of the project before providing information about each option, accompanied by a 3D animation video of the construction process and a matrix showing how well the option lines up with the city’s evaluation criteria. Residents then had a chance to mingle with staff at one of the tables set up around the community center, with each table focusing on a particular design option or topic of interest.

While the two tunnel options remain the most ambitious and expensive options on the table, with each estimated to cost between $1 billion and $2 billion, the option on the table that is now causing the most tension is the cheapest one: closing Churchill, which is pegged at between $50 million and $65 million. Residents on Churchill Avenue, who last year successfully lobbied the council to eliminate options that would require property seizures (including the "hybrid" design), argued that the closure is far preferable to a viaduct. Those in the nearby Professorville neighborhood disagreed, noting that closing the street would bring more cars to their neighborhood.

A draft study that the city’s traffic consultant, Hexagon just completed suggests that once Churchill closes, about half of the roughly 400 cars that use the street during each peak commute hour would move to Embarcadero Road. The other half would start using Oregon Expressway. The study, which the city is preparing to verify in the coming days before making public, also suggests that with various modifications to Embarcadero and Oregon, the additional traffic can be added without increasing congestion on the two major thoroughfares.

Proposed improvements on Embarcadero aim primarily to make it easier for cars on Embarcadero to get onto Alma Street. Residents in the Professorville and University South neighborhoods have expressed concerns in recent months about the prospect of Churchill’s closure bringing even more cars onto their neighborhood streets, such as Emerson and Lincoln.

To address this impact, Hexagon has proposed a variety of changes to the interchange, including a right turn lane from eastbound Embarcadero and a left-turn lane from southbound Alma. The proposal also calls for building a pedestrian/bike overcrossing at Embarcadero and widening Alma at the Embarcadero underpass.

Gary Black, the Hexagon consultant whose table attracted a crowd of interested residents, indicated at the end of the meeting that there was little consensus.

“We had strong feelings on 'Don’t close Churchill.' And we have people with strong opinions that said, 'Close Churchill!' Very strong opinions on both sides of that," Black said at the end of the meeting.

Many people, he noted, said that they don’t think Embarcadero can accommodate more cars and that conditions are so bad that they should be addressed irrespective of the grade-separation project.

City leaders at the meeting also continued to make the case for grade separations and pointed to Caltrain’s electrification project, which will result in additional trains running up and down the corridor and additional "gate down" times at rail crossings.

Once the electrification of Caltrain is complete, the "gate down" time at the Churchill crossing will be about nine minutes per hour during the peak commute period, or 15% of the total peak hour time, according to city estimates. During the morning commute period (between 7 and 9 a.m.), it would take four to five signal cycles, or 10 to 12 minutes, for northbound cars on Alma to turn left. A recent analysis by the city’s traffic consultants shows vehicular queues extending for more than five blocks, past Seale Avenue. In the evening, eastbound Churchill traffic would back up onto El Camino Real.

Even so, not everyone is thrilled about the proposed alternatives. Residents in Old Palo Alto and some parts of Southgate have been vehemently against the viaduct option, which would cost between $300 million and $400 million and result in a 20-foot-tall structure next to their homes. One resident, Peggy Craft, asked the consultants how they plan to keep the viaduct from attracting homeless people to live underneath it. Etty Mercurio, a consultant with AECOM, said one way is to "activate" the viaduct through creation of attractive recreational amenities like a linear park or a skate park.

Others remain strongly opposed closure of Churchill. Rob Levitsky, who lives in Professorville, rejected the notion that the city can close Churchill without exacerbating traffic problems elsewhere. He wasn’t swayed by the proposed mitigations and argued that they would do little to curb the increased flow of traffic to the two thoroughfares north and south of Churchill.

"They get a nice, quiet street while driving all traffic to Embarcadero, Oregon and neighborhood streets," Levitsky said of Churchill residents.

As part of the renewed community outreach, the city plans to hold a series of Town Hall meetings early next year. The city’s newly reconstituted stakeholder group, the Expanded Community Advisory Panel, is expected to issue its recommendations on preferred alternatives by the end of April. The City Council is scheduled to make its decision in May.

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Comments

21 people like this
Posted by South Palo Alto
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 8, 2019 at 10:06 am

I live in South Palo Alto. If I want to get to Stanford - hospital, shopping centre, or university, I drive Alma to Churchill and try to do it outside morning school commute time. It is the best way to get to Stanford. Charleston and Meadow are just too slow due to passing so many schools and so many stop signs and lights. The only other possible methods would be to use the loops to get to Oregon or University. I still haven't worked out how to get from Alma to Embarcadero so not sure if that works. However, I have tried Alma to Page Mill and that involves a U turn on Embarcadero.

If (and I hope they don't close Churchill) Churchill is closed then it would be imperative to open the Alma/Page Mill route as an expedient method to get to Stanford.

Crossing the tracks is important and trying to do so without creating more traffic on already busy streets is not going to make it easier for traffic flow.

To sum up, I would prefer Churchill to remain open and to make Alma/Page Mill more user friendly.

Thank you.


1 person likes this
Posted by South Palo Alto
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 8, 2019 at 10:08 am

Typo sorry, I mean that to use Alma/Page Mill it involves a U turn on ElCamino, not Embarcadero. Sorry for that.


12 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 8, 2019 at 10:10 am

Is there a schedule for completing this project? Stalling and delaying is just making traffic throughout the city worse.


10 people like this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Nov 8, 2019 at 10:46 am

Reality Check is a registered user.

Want to see what "activated spaces" underneath a rail viaduct through neighborhoods look like?

Here's an excellent video (Web Link) showing the 4.5-mile Ohlone Greenway (Web Link) built underneath and along the BART viaduct over a railroad right of way (such as Caltrain's) between Berkeley and El Cerrito.

The video was shot from a slow-moving bicycle, so you can set playback speed up to 2x in YouTube's playback controls to move through it a bit faster.

Things to note besides the human scale and peaceful useability of the space created by putting trains completely up and out of the way of everyday life below: grafitti is under control, the lack of homeless, and how quiet and unobtrusive the brief passage of overhead BART trains is.

By the time a Palo Alto viaduct could be built, Caltrain will be fully electrified using quiet state-of-the-art self-propelled Swiss electric trains (using Stadler's KISS model: Web Link) which are in wide use across Europe — a place where designing and using quiet trains has long been important.

Melbourne, Australia is also grade-separating their Caltrain-like rail lines, putting them up onto viaducts in several areas as shown in the following video: Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by Random Resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 8, 2019 at 11:11 am

While my aesthetic preference is for a city-wide tunnel, financial and speed of construction considerations make a city-wide viaduct a more attractive compromise option to me. I agree with @RealityCheck that with quiet electric trains the situation should be relatively livable -- I do have an issue with the freight trains, though, which will continue to be run with diesel locomotives. As long as we have grade separation for all trains (not the proposal to run freight unseparated and passenger separated) we'll completely eliminate noisy horns, but the diesels are not all that quiet. I'd guess the chances of the freight companies using dual-mode locomotives is vanishingly small!


15 people like this
Posted by Family Friendly
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 8, 2019 at 12:42 pm

I pity the people living along Churchill. If the crossing isn't closed, the road will be turned into a freeway. The Oregon and Embarcadero crossings and intersections are beyond capacity, and University has been a parking lot for a decade.


35 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 8, 2019 at 12:59 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Most of the roads, esp Oregon and Embarcadero, are beyond capacity and have been for way too long.

Perhaps the city "leaders" can declare a moratorium on their costly, illogical and counter-productive traffic "calming" projects until they and they well-paid consultants come up with a solution to the RR issue. But instead we still hear proposals to reduce lanes on Embaraccero to allow for bike lanes and to reduce the number of lanes on El Camino. Why not just declare the whole area a parking lot and be done with all the nonsense.

Signed,
A Disgusted PIMBY (Prisoner In My Own Back Yard)


27 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 8, 2019 at 1:13 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

(PS: After missing a concert s month ago due to gridlock, we crawled up Sand Hill and 280 to the Millbrae BART station which will soon lose 600 -- SIX HUNDRED -- parking spaces to allow for more housing "close to transportation."

How does encouraging train travel square with making it tougher to take trains??? Seriously.)


4 people like this
Posted by Homer Ave tunnel
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 8, 2019 at 1:58 pm

Is the $4.1 Million Homer Ave tunnel of any use here?


32 people like this
Posted by Michael H
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 8, 2019 at 2:11 pm

Michael H is a registered user.

Why is the option to temporarily close Churchill for a week or two in order to conduct a brief real life test of the closure concept never considered no less discussed?


27 people like this
Posted by bls
a resident of Duveneck School
on Nov 8, 2019 at 3:02 pm

Embarcadero badly needs bike lanes for the full length of the street as it is already. We all see the increased traffic, aggressive speeding drivers, and meanwhile residents are backing out from their homes, and people driving out of their neighborhoods to merge quickly onto Embarcadero. At all times of the day people on Embarcadero are biking to/from Edgewood Plaza/T&C, kids biking to/from Walter Hays/Casti/Paly/Stanford, and people taking walks to all the amenities we have right on this busy street. By Greer and Embarcadero I've seen a 5 car pileup on Embarcadero, countless accidents at the intersection, as well as a car launched over both the planting strip and sidewalk during a collision and hitting a resident's fence. I'd welcome anything to help calm the traffic and improve safety of bikers/pedestrians.


29 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 8, 2019 at 3:16 pm

Electric trains are NOT quiet. Electric trans are quieter the diesel trains but that does not make them quiet.

Even if there was no other source of noise from an electric train, just the aerodynamic noise of a blunt object 9 feet wide and 16 feet tall going >50 mph will be quite loud.

To the aerodynamic noise you can add motor noise, bearing noise, steel wheel on rail noise, noise front the electric pick-up scraping along the overhead wires at >50mph, and all sorts of vibration from the trains structure.

Don't be fooled. Trains are inherently noisy, even if they are electric.


2 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 8, 2019 at 4:52 pm

BART is electric and it is tremendously more quiet than Caltrain. I bet people living along Alma Street will hear more noise from cars on the street than from an electric train.


16 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 8, 2019 at 6:38 pm

@Resident,

If you were living within 150 feet of BART you would not think BART is quiet. Within 75 feet of BART you have to shout to have a conversation with someone only three feet away (75dBA?).

BART is 1960's rail technology specially designed to carry passengers and reduce the impact on the surrounding community. Caltrain is basically 1920's freight technology that has been adapted to carry passengers.

BART is very noisy. Caltrain will be even noisier than BART.

It is time for the posters telling us Caltrain will be "quiet" to come clean and give the public numbers (dBA) instead of adjectives.


1 person likes this
Posted by Morris
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 8, 2019 at 6:50 pm

I don't see many residences in the video of the Ohlone Greenway.

In Palo Alto, privacy and noise due to proximity to the ROW put the kibosh on a viaduct/greenway.


2 people like this
Posted by Morris
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 8, 2019 at 7:00 pm

"Caltrain is basically 1920's freight technology that has been adapted to carry passengers."

Wrong as usual. Caltrain's precursor was built in the 1850's and was intended to carry passengers.


6 people like this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Nov 8, 2019 at 9:29 pm

Reality Check is a registered user.

@Ahem: BART is so loud because its engineers inexplicably chise to use a cylindrical – instead of the industry-standard conical – wheel profile ... this leads to chronic rail head “corrugation” (wavy, uneven surface) and an extraordinarily high noise levels emanating from the wheel-rail contact point ... even along straight (“tangent” in RR jargon) track segments. BART has (finally) acknowledged this problem and is converting its fleet to using a conical wheel profile and, using rail grinders, grinding away rail head corrugations. For more info, see: Web Link

Like most all trains, Caltrain’s existing and new electric trains use a conical wheel profile and therefore do not generate the ear-splitting howling noises that have long been associated with BART.

U-shaped viaducts can easily block and greatly attenuate noise from the train undercarriage and wheel-rail interface (contact point), as shown on the excellent Caltrain-HSR Compatibility Blog: Web Link

@Morris: if you “don’t see many residences” along the Ohlone Greenway in the 30 min. video (Web Link), then you need to watch it again more carefully ... particularly the last 10 minutes.


2 people like this
Posted by Mary Ruth Leen
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 8, 2019 at 10:15 pm

Mary Ruth Leen is a registered user.

Build a viaduct at Churchill!
Signed,
A 30 year homeowner who uses Charleston to get to PAMF and Stanford and Town and Country every day!


13 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 8, 2019 at 10:51 pm

@RC,

You work in the railroad industry. You have computer programs that model railroad noise. So, why don't you just come clean and tell the residents of Palo Alto just how noisy Caltrain is going to be in dBA at various distances from the rails?


5 people like this
Posted by TBM
a resident of another community
on Nov 9, 2019 at 2:07 am

@ "So, why don't you just come clean and tell the residents of Palo Alto just how noisy Caltrain is going to be in dBA at various distances from the rails"

Answer: 2.2 dBA.

Why go to the time and effort of doing Environmental Impact Studies if nobody is going to read them?

Caltrain Peninsula Corridor Electrification Project, Appendix C: Noise and Vibration Technical Report, page 64: Web Link

The graph shows human annoyance noise levels weighted over a 24 hour period and assumes 114 EMU trains per day vs. 92 diesel locomotives today, both at 79mph.


12 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 9, 2019 at 1:34 pm

@TBM,

The graph that you link to is based on the discredited Day-Night Noise Level metric. Snake-oil salesman in the transportation industry love to use the Day-Night Noise Level metric because it is an AVERAGE that hides the actual noise of a noise-event by averaging the noise-event with all of the times throughout the day when there is NO noise-event.

In the case of Caltrain the Day-Night Noise Level is the average of all of the noise made by 114 trains times the amount of time a train is generating noise passing by a particular location (30 seconds?) averaged over the total amount of seconds in a day including all of the seconds between trains and at night when there are no trains!

For example:

Day-Night Noise Level = (114 trains x 30 sec x 85 dBA) / 86400 sec

It is shameful that Wilson Ihrig & Associates is using the discredited Day-Night AVERAGE noise level metric.

Again, why don't you and RC just come clean and tell the public just how loud these trains are really going to be? You have the computer sound models. What are you trying to hide?


Like this comment
Posted by Morris
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 9, 2019 at 1:44 pm

How did they deal with the issues of noise and privacy at the Ohlone Greenway?

How much public/citizen resistance was there?

Could a viaduct be funded in Palo Alto if put to a vote, or would it die at the ballot box (this IS privileged Palo Alto,after all)?

I'm not opposed to a viaduct but you will have these issues to address: noise, privacy, funding and public opinion. Can we assume no residential properties would be taken for a viaduct? That's one component of potential citizen resistance.

My gut tells me PCJPB would be more likely to approve a viaduct than a trench/tunnel.


Like this comment
Posted by Morris
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 9, 2019 at 1:53 pm

"The graph that you link to is based on the discredited Day-Night Noise Level metric. Snake-oil salesman in the transportation industry love to use the Day-Night Noise Level metric because it is an AVERAGE that hides the actual noise of a noise-event by averaging the noise-event with all of the times throughout the day when there is NO noise-event."

So now you're an expert in acoustics? You have a history of bending facts to suit your arguments, so your credibility is shot.

No one else has floated the idea of soundproofing homes near the tracks at city expense. That would mitigate noise from Alma street as well as the trains.

Where is there a comparison of the noise from the new trains vs. traffic noise on Alma street?


Like this comment
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Nov 9, 2019 at 3:09 pm

Reality Check is a registered user.

If I lived on or near Alma and could eliminate either traffic noise or train noise, that’d be an easy choice!


13 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 9, 2019 at 4:02 pm

RC said:

"If I lived on or near Alma and could eliminate either traffic noise or train noise, that'd be an easy choice!"

It would also be an easy answer. Much easier than telling the public how much noise the trains are really going to make. It is also not a choice any one will have. The residents living next to Caltrain will have to endure train noise and traffic noise.

If I lived on or near Alma, was concerned about noise, and could eliminate either traffic noise or train noise, I would eliminate the train noise. Within a decade the automotive fleet will be fully electrified and nearly silent.

But it is not my choice. I don't live on or near Caltrain. The people living next to Caltrain should decide and they should be fully informed.

RC, you are in the railroad industry, you have the numbers. They are embedded in the Day-Night average numbers. What are you afraid of? Why not just come clean and tell the public just how much noise the trains are going to make?


Like this comment
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Nov 9, 2019 at 4:56 pm

Reality Check is a registered user.

@Ahem: Sorry to disappoint, but I’m not “in” – or even “associated with” – any industry, let alone the “rail industry.” Nor do I have any more numbers than anyone who cared to do research on what figures they can find in papers or studies or data sheets published on the Web.

If you’ve noticed how a Tesla passing by at a steady 40 mph (or more) isn’t noticeably quieter than, say, a comparably-sized gasoline-powered sedan due to the predominance of tire-on-pavement noise, you’d understand why I’d easily choose — regardless of vehicle propulsion in use — to eliminate the constant car & truck traffic noise of a nearby road or highway vs. the occasional passing train.


17 people like this
Posted by Independent
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Nov 9, 2019 at 7:15 pm

They talked about making Embarcadero Road 6 lanes. No Way!!! That is like a freeway and will be close to many, many houses. That is a non starter and believe me, will be starting to make people aware of that.

Guess you have to stay on top of this; other neighborhoods have already been fending off unworkable suggestions and throwing them onto other neighborhoods. This stinks.


1 person likes this
Posted by Morris
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 9, 2019 at 9:58 pm

"Why not just come clean and tell the public just how much noise the trains are going to make?"

Diesel locomotives have been roaring up and down those tracks since the '50s when S.P. abandoned steam. So what's to tell? The electric trains will be quieter. I don't think anyone but you would dispute that.


21 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 9, 2019 at 10:53 pm

It's ridiculous to close down Churchill to traffic. It will most definitely divert all the car traffic to oregon and embarcadero. Homes on churchhill were cheap for a reason. To close it down to car traffic and make embarcadero and oregon heavier means taking away property value there and suddenly driving up value in churchill.

To also take a valid road crossing and completely remove it will mean that if there ever is a major disaster or earthquake, there will be tremendous bottle necking and complete breakdown during times of emergency.

Not sure who is making all these road and transportation decisions in Palo Alto, but it seems every new move favors the few who live on those streets, and makes it increasingly terrible for everyone else living in Palo Alto.

The minor few receive benefits whilst the the common good goals are sacrificed and becoming increasingly inconvenienced. WHAT IS GOING ON WITH THIS CITY?


1 person likes this
Posted by Ron Schloss
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 9, 2019 at 10:59 pm

Just get rid of antiquated, polluting CalTrain and replace if with a modernized BART that is built avoiding traffic conflicts. We missed the opportunity for political reasons decades ago. Why continue the pain with band aid solutions now.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Ventura
on Nov 9, 2019 at 11:00 pm

If Caltrain is working on electrification won’t Palo Alto's plan mess up all the improvements?


10 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 9, 2019 at 11:11 pm

To take the most cheapest land (Churchill) and make it one of the nicest quietest streets with NO CAR TRAFFIC .. when people bought it knowing it was next to a train track with the highspeed rail that would be coming in soon... it's ridiculous that Churchhill residents are selfishly lobbying to have one of the most essential traffic conduits for cars connect the 2 parts of Palo Alto (on either side of the train tracks) be closed down.

They epitomize NIMBY behavior. Meanwhile they bought relatively cheap homes on a street knowing full well the highspeed rail would be coming in on Alma and there was a set of running train tracks along Alma to begin with.

It's akin to buying a home whose backyard is bordering on the busy 101 for a cheap price, then lobbying to have the 101 closed down and diverting the traffic completely to 280. It's outrageous.

Why is a vidaduct being considered for Churchhill but not for other neighborhoods along Alma? For instance, College Terrace area, the caltrain line becomes grade level and the viaduct disappears.

How much more special treatment do folks along Churchhill demand. The city shouldn't be listening ot the squeaky wheels as so much as making SANE and LOGICAL decisions that BENEFIT THE ENTIRE CITY... not just a self seeking interested group of folks who live and own land on or near Churchhill.


6 people like this
Posted by Morris
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 10, 2019 at 2:03 am

"Just get rid of antiquated, polluting CalTrain and replace if with a modernized BART that is built avoiding traffic conflicts."

Where do you propose these "modernized BART" trains run that won't cross Palo Alto's surface streets?

How are you going to get three counties to agree to "get rid of" Caltrain and spend the billions needed to replace it with a 50-mile BART line?

How "polluting" will Caltrain be when it is electrified?

That is one of the most ignorant posts I've seen on this topic.


1 person likes this
Posted by TBM
a resident of another community
on Nov 10, 2019 at 5:40 am

@ "To take the most cheapest land (Churchill) and make it one of the nicest quietest streets with NO CAR TRAFFIC .. when people bought it knowing it was next to a train track with the highspeed rail that would be coming in soon... it's ridiculous"

>> The intelligent potential Churchill home buyer could have done due diligence, researched the history of grade separations, and concluded that the most likely future grade separation option would be a pedestrian underpass which would boost the value of the property. The next most likely option would be a road underpass that would result in the property being purchased by the County for FMV + generous expenses; still not a bad investment. A rail trench at Churchill was never an option due to the proximity to Embacradero underpass.
A viaduct, which would reduce property values on Churchill, is unlikely, at $200 million it would be a very expensive way to grade separate one small 2 lane road and Caltrain would probably object to having its right-of-way narrowed to two tracks. Sunnyvale plans to grade separate a 6 lane road for only $125 million while preserving Caltrain's four track right-of-way.


4 people like this
Posted by Steven
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 10, 2019 at 6:08 am

Morris - first of all calling a comment ignorant is not an intelligent way to have an exchange of ideas.
1) BART in SF and the East Bay has no traffic crossings. Why wouldn't PA be the same?
2) I believe there are just 2 counties involved, San Mateo & Santa Clara both of which already have or have approved BART for other locations in the counties.
3) Cost & construction disruption could be points against. I'd be interested to see a financial comparison between the cost of a tunnel/viaduct and electrification of Caltrain vs. scrapping Caltrain which is inconsistent with and more expensive for the rider than other Bay Area rail systems.


2 people like this
Posted by Steven
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 10, 2019 at 6:13 am

... scrapping Caltrain and replacing it with a modernized BART.


5 people like this
Posted by merry
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Nov 10, 2019 at 7:09 am

merry is a registered user.

And this is how nothing gets done.
Talk, talk,talk..


6 people like this
Posted by TBM
a resident of another community
on Nov 10, 2019 at 8:10 am

@ "... scrapping Caltrain and replacing it with a modernized BART."

The proposed 16 mile BART extension in San Jose is projected to cost $8 billion, so to extend it another 32 miles thru Palo Alto to Millbrae could cost about $16 billion.
Electrification of Caltrain costs only $1.9 billion and $600 million of that was funded by High Speed Rail. Add a few billion for grade separations.


2 people like this
Posted by Morris
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 10, 2019 at 10:18 am

"1) BART in SF and the East Bay has no traffic crossings. Why wouldn't PA be the same?"

The question stands: where would you put BART in Palo Alto without crossing issues?

"2) I believe there are just 2 counties involved, San Mateo & Santa Clara"

You would be incorrect.

You need to study the matter more carefully. There are myriad reasons your arguments don't stand up to scrutiny.


4 people like this
Posted by Cafe Hunk
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 10, 2019 at 10:45 am

TBMs astute financial analysis makes clear that Churchill residents get a financial benefit from traffic modifications there. TBM therefore suggests an obvious & fair solution: a special assessment on Churchill residents to finance the construction. Put that in your cost/benefit analyses.


8 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 10, 2019 at 10:59 am

Posted by Steven, a resident of Palo Alto High School

>> ... scrapping Caltrain and replacing it with a modernized BART.

Steven,

Your questions are reasonable, but, you clearly are not familiar with all the discussion on these subjects that has taken place. BART has been discussed numerous times before, as well as many other alternatives. In a nutshell, BART has proven to be very expensive. It uses non-standard, custom technology. Caltrain uses standard commuter rail technology. In addition, the Caltrain right-of-way is shared by freight rail, which also uses standard rail technology, and, will be shared by CAHSR, which also uses upgraded standard rail technology. Because of the high speed, the grade and turn radius requirements are more stringent. In the meantime, BART is, and will remain, an expensive, semi-obsolete one-off.


5 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 10, 2019 at 11:21 am

Sublimating the individual to the collective is one of the most fundamental distinctions between totalitarian forms of government like fascism and communism, and democracy. Is that really the way we want to roll in Palo Alto?


6 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 10, 2019 at 11:31 am

Anon,

Caltrain uses standard FREIGHT technology which is cheaper but even more antiquated and less well suited for carrying passengers than BART.

San Francisco County and San Jose get 1960s passenger rail technology (BART). San Mateo County and Santa Clara County get 1930s freight technology adapted to carry passengers.


4 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 10, 2019 at 12:06 pm

^ "self loading freight"


5 people like this
Posted by Morris
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 10, 2019 at 12:20 pm

To think that Caltrain will simply vanish in a puff of smoke is unrealistic to the point of fantasy, particularly with electrification and the acquisition of new rolling stock well underway.

BART through Palo Alto faces many of the same problems as Caltrain: elevated or underground? If underground, how to deal with the myriad hydrological issues in Palo Alto: creek crossings, aquifers and soft soil? In addition, you'd have to convince voters in San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties to finance this multi-billion-dollar undertaking through bond sales or increased taxes or both when we already have a functional rail system in place. Good luck with that.

As noted above, BART technology is no blessing. The use of custom, non-standard hardware and track gauges is just the beginning.


2 people like this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Nov 10, 2019 at 2:42 pm

Reality Check is a registered user.

@Ahem: Caltrain's new Swiss double-deck, electric KISS trains (Web Link) from Stadler (Web Link) have nothing to with "freight technology" (whatever that means). And they're arguably a
more modern, far better, more comfortable, more versatile, more user-friendly/comfortable product that BART's little subway trains.

Here they are in Russia (in some cases with noisy jointed rail):
Web Link

And in Germany / Luxembourg / Switzerland:
Web Link

And for Hungary in the Czech Republic:
Web Link

Stadler promo video showing KISS and other of their trains (even eBART's GTWs):
Web Link


7 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 10, 2019 at 3:01 pm

The usual suspects are out, including TBM and Reality Check, who really should keep out of our local issues since they don't live in Palo Alto.

Morris - Ahem is correct. The Day-Night measurement is complete nonsense. It's like saying the temperature of Palo Alto is simply 60 degrees, even though the high was 75 and the low was 44. The average is yet another example of "lies, damn lies, and statistics."

This is hilarious - "Etty Mercurio, a consultant with AECOM, said one way is to 'activate' the viaduct through creation of attractive recreational amenities like a linear park or a skate park."

Yeah, a skate park. That's exactly what residents want near their homes.

BTW, I find it hilarious that a resident in Downtown North is worried about the closure of Churchill. Maybe you should be more worried about closing Palo Alto Avenue.

Viaduct at $200M at Churchill is as likely as a trench. If people in Professorville (and other neighborhoods) feel like Churchill residents should pay for an "unfair" benefit from closing Churchill, it would be just as prudent to ask that residents along Embarcadero (and maybe Oregon Expressway) to pay for a viaduct. I hope that the folks at Hexagon are tabulating how much traffic would *increase* on Churchill because of a freer-flowing intersection. That's usually what happens with "traffic improvements."

Anyway, all this money being spent on Caltrain, where ridership levels have leveled off, HSR is dead and the long-term plan full of holes because no strategy for last-mile for a vast suburb is even addressed.


2 people like this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Nov 10, 2019 at 3:58 pm

Reality Check is a registered user.

@Me 2: Yeah, wouldn't want somebody that knows what they're talking about contradicting any "alternate facts" certain posters habitually (and shamelessly) sling here! While it's completely irrelevant to whether my participation here is appropriate, while I live nearby, I still have family and other lifelong ties to Palo Alto, and also happen to own and manage residential property within easy walking distance of Alma.

Obviously trains will be audible ... but I'll just note that there are lots of videos (such as those I linked above) with audio tracks of essentially the same high-performance electric Stadler KISS trains Caltrain is in the process of replacing its entire fleet with. You'll also note from watching (and listening to) the videos that the track roadbed construction (e.g. jointed vs welded continuous raill, ballasted vs. direct fixation, etc.) has a significant influence on how much noise emanates from a passing train at a given speed.

So AECOM gives a couple examples of what "activation" of the open space underneath a viaduct could include ... and you find it "hillarious" because one of the uses was one that proabably wouldn't be popular within earshot of backyards? The point is that you actually have space that can be activated with a variety of uses ... as shown by the video (Web Link) shot from a bicyclists' perspective riding the length of the El Cerrito-Berkeley Ohlone Greeway built on an old railroad right of way (like Caltrain's) underneath an active rail viaduct with single famiy and multi-unit homes, businesses and various other uses on both sides.

Oh, and while the years-long phenomenal growth rate of Caltrain ridership seems to have plateaued due to peak period trains running at or above their seated capacity despite fare increases, the most recent performance statistics report published to Caltrain's governing board this month states on PDF page 2 (Web Link):

"In September 2019, Caltrain’s Average Weekday Ridership (AWR) increased by 1.3 percent to 72,387 from calibrated September 2018 AWR of 71,479. The total number of passengers who rode Caltrain in September 2019 increased by 5 percent to 1,584,833 from 1,509,524 calibrated September 2018 ridership."

A careful and thoughtful reading of Caltrain's recently-approved 20-year business plan (Web Link) should leave no credible doubt that when Caltrain adds the equivalent of 5.5 to 8.5 _additional_ freeway-lanes-worth of peak-period service capacity on its far more quiet, comfortable and fast-accelerating/braking all-electric sleek new train fleet, that ridership will continue to skyrocket.


2 people like this
Posted by Morris
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 10, 2019 at 4:25 pm

"This is hilarious - "Etty Mercurio, a consultant with AECOM, said one way is to 'activate' the viaduct through creation of attractive recreational amenities like a linear park or a skate park."

Yeah, a skate park. That's exactly what residents want near their homes."

You know how those Stanford professors in Professorville love their skateboards.

"Hilarious" is a more polite word than I would have used.

I very much doubt JPB will allow any kind of park to be built on its land. A structure that would carry their trains, yes, but a skate park? No.

Etty Mercurio has no business holding out the possibility of a park on the right of way without first having obtained approval from JPB/Caltrain. Based on the news reporting I've read, I'm not seeing much interaction between AECOM and JPB. It makes me wonder what we're paying AECOM millions for.


1 person likes this
Posted by Morris
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 10, 2019 at 5:09 pm

I don't see any sound walls in the videos Reality Check linked to. Of course in Palo Alto we would need to have sound walls for privacy and acoustical purposes.

There is also the possibility of CPA paying to soundproof homes near the tracks. I'll keep making this point until it gains traction.

Trains are going to make noise no matter where you put them unless they're in a tunnel, and I wouldn't count on that happening. JPB, who own the rail infrastructure, should be an integral part of the planning process on this project, but of course it isn't, which is why CPA has been at this for over 10 years and has accomplished nothing.

Maybe we need yet another rail committee.


8 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 10, 2019 at 6:24 pm

"Oh, and while the years-long phenomenal growth rate of Caltrain ridership seems to have plateaued due to peak period trains running at or above their seated capacity despite fare increases, the most recent performance statistics report published to Caltrain's governing board this month states on PDF page 2"

That's not the reason why it's plateaued. I am an active Caltrain rider. The decision to ride or not ride Caltrain is not based on seating capacity at all. People stand on trains all the time. BFD. I've routinely stood all the way from Cal Ave to 4th and King.

That doesn't drive people to choose to drive. People drive because Caltrain is inconvenient for them. Because the peninsula is spread out. If I weren't walking distance to Cal Ave (or Palo Alto Station), I would be driving a lot more.

That's the decision process. Not some fake reason of seating capacity.

Oh by the way, Caltrain self-reported a drop in ridership themselves.

Web Link

"Caltrain’s annual ridership count showed a decrease of 2.3 percent for weekday ridership, with an average mid-weekday ridership (AMWR) of approximately 63,597."

That's hardly "skyrocketing"

"A careful and thoughtful reading of Caltrain's recently-approved 20-year business plan (Web Link) should leave no credible doubt that when Caltrain adds the equivalent of 5.5 to 8.5 _additional_ freeway-lanes-worth of peak-period service capacity on its far more quiet, comfortable and fast-accelerating/braking all-electric sleek new train fleet, that ridership will continue to skyrocket."

Your faith in these ridiculous projections is cute. Adding capacity won't do squat for people who can't get from their origin or to their destination to a Caltrain station more easily than they can today. That's the blocker. Not seating capacity. Caltrain has no control over this issue - it's up to VTA, Samtrans and MUNI to make it better. And I don't see any plans for those transit authorities to support Caltrain 2040 at all. The plan is completely devoid of anything related to the last mile problem they have.

In fact, VTA is actively looking to *reduce* service to Palo Alto.

So, in the vast suburb that we have with the zoning and building restrictions that exist up and down the peninsula, the Caltrain 2040 plan is full of crap.


4 people like this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Nov 10, 2019 at 9:51 pm

Reality Check is a registered user.

@Me 2: don't try to misunderstand just to make a point; I ride too ... since the late 70s under SP.

I've been a close observer of its growth and political/governance history since that time, and know precisely what I'm talking about; I assure you.

"Skyrocketing" refers to going from ~24k AWR in 2004 to ~70k AWR today: Web Link

Caltrain's bi-directional demand, multi-centric corridor is already the highest performing rail service of its kind in the US ... and has the highest upside ridership growth potential.

Further, as real as it is, and while Caltrain is concerned about it, the "last mile problem" is not really Caltrain's to solve ... and as history shows, increased ridership can, will, and does find its way to the train in spite of it. There is no doubt ... none whatsoever ... among serious and/or professional people who understand Caltrain's market and corridor that ridership will resume its historic, dramatic and steady year-over-year rise when the imminent post-electrification service frequency, capacity and quality improvements occur. Along with numerous approved or planned densifying infill TODs and increased jobs along the line (e.g. Web Link), additional substantial ridership leaps will occur associated with the downtown SF extension (Web Link) and commencement of Dumbarton Rail service (Web Link).


9 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 10, 2019 at 10:22 pm

None of your links solves the last mile problem on the peninsula. It may not be Caltrain's to solve, but it is Caltrain's greatest roadblock to actually achieving their growth plan and really solving our traffic issues on 101 and 280. Even Google opening up near Diridon still requires employees to live close enough to a Caltrain station (sounds like a new fleet of buses will still be required). And Dumbarton Rail? It's even less defined than the dead-duck HSR fiasco.

Your use of 2004 is cherry picking of the post-dotcom implosion economic downturn to fluff things up ("lies, damn lies, and statistics"). And given the growing anti-tech backlash (and the increasing power of anti-tech residentialists and NIMBY), there's a economic cliff awaiting us that may return us back to 2004 levels.

Also, highest performing rail service in the US is akin to being the tallest midget.

But I admire your unwavering faith in make-believe projections. It's almost religious.


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Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 10, 2019 at 10:28 pm

(ironic that I'm having to give a reality check to someone calling themselves "Reality Check")


14 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 11, 2019 at 1:30 am

RC said:

"I... also happen to own and manage residential property within easy walking distance of Alma."

Sounds like you drank the developer cool-aid and forgot the three rules of real-estate investing (location, location, location). Now you are desperately hoping somehow, someway, some combination of electrification, grade separation, and rosy ridership projections can bail you out of a bad real-estate investment next to the rail-road tracks (Park Avenue?).

Fourth rule of real-estate investing: above ground rail = blight.


2 people like this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Nov 11, 2019 at 3:07 am

Reality Check is a registered user.

@Me 2: if you had bothered to view the linked “skyrocketing” ridership graph (Web Link) you’d see there was no cherry picking. And be sure to think back on this conversation every few years and you’ll see why I go by “Reality Check” :-)

@Ahem: nope, wrong again! An excellent location: easy walking distance to downtown, the station and Alma ... but far enough away that grade seps will have no significant or perceptible effect. Fantastic rental income, choice of excellent and well-qualified tenants. Criminally low Prop. 13 assessed value. Sweet!


18 people like this
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 11, 2019 at 1:27 pm

I live close to Embarcadero. We do not want to absorb additional traffic just to benefit Churchill home owners. We would love to see the crossing be safer for Paly students in some way, but not to the tune of making Embarcadero become 6 lanes!!! NO!!!

And so I'd prefer to see nothing happen --- as the City wants us to pay for all of this! Fine if people have to wait at the train crossings. They'll adjust.


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Posted by dbaron
a resident of University South
on Nov 11, 2019 at 4:27 pm

dbaron is a registered user.

Caltrain's modernization plans (electrification, purchase of new EMUs, movement towards level boarding and grade separation) are a plan to have Caltrain provide BART-like service. There's no need to pay tons of extra money to change the infrastructure and make it actual BART trains. There's a clear path forward to BART-like service on Caltrain, and some parts of it (electrification, EMUs) are in progress today.

One of the things that plan requires is the elimination of grade crossings. This means Churchill either needs grade separation or closure. Closure (and replacement with a pedestrian/bicycle underpass or overpass) seems like the right option.

This is the right choice from a long-term perspective: we're encouraging the environmentally friendly transport (rail) and discouraging the polluting one (cars) that encourages other forms of pollution (sprawl, separated houses and their excessive heating and cooling costs and harmful land use, etc.). It's one step at a time, but in the long term we should be prioritizing rail over cars, and dense development over sprawl.


9 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 11, 2019 at 6:43 pm

@dbaron,

The net result of your enlightened system of "encouragements" will simply be the replacement of suburban sprawl with an even less environmentally friendly urban sprawl. There is nothing Caltrain can do to stop the Peninsula from becoming Los Angeles. The only thing that can stop the Peninsula from becoming Los Angeles is a halt to real-estate development. But hey, have fun feeling morally superior while you watch real-estate developers destroy the world you hate and take the environment down with it.


7 people like this
Posted by Morris
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 11, 2019 at 6:58 pm

"Caltrain's modernization plans (electrification, purchase of new EMUs, movement towards level boarding and grade separation)"

Grade separation is not part of any Caltrain plan. It is entirely undertaken and financed by the cities. Palo Alto could opt to do nothing about grade separation and leave things the way they've been for 150+ years. There is no way the JPB could force Palo Alto to do grade separation.

The notion of closing Churchill is so polarizing and carries so much baggage and controversy with it, that fact alone tells us it's clearly the wrong plan for Palo Alto.

If it were truly a good idea then almost everyone would be in favor of it.


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Posted by Clem
a resident of another community
on Nov 11, 2019 at 9:30 pm

Conversely, there is also no way that Palo Alto could force Caltrain to do anything with their land that they don’t wish.

Caltrain is wise to stay out of the Palo Alto process until there emerges a compromise. At that point they will take over the project and manage its construction. Take however long you need.


6 people like this
Posted by Another resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 11, 2019 at 10:58 pm

Agreed. An issue so decisive means it’s the WRONG decision and a poor solution. Clearly everyone near Churchill wants it closed to traffic and everyone near Embarcadero won’t want it. Hi would want any street in Palo Alto diverted to where they live? I suggest we divert the traffic to where to city councilors live. And the folks on transportation that are making these decisions


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Posted by TBM
a resident of another community
on Nov 12, 2019 at 12:48 am

@Morris "There is no way the JPB could force Palo Alto to do grade separation."

Actually they can, Judicial decisions have established that the subject of grade crossings is a matter of statewide concern within the jurisdiction of the Public Utilities Commission and that it does not come within the field of municipal affairs.

Kings County found this out when it unsuccessfully tried to block HSR from building grade separations of County roads. The Authority was "forced to exercise the State's sovereign rights over sections of the County's roads needed for the project" Web Link

The CPUC has the "exclusive power" to "determine and prescribe the manner" of a grade separation and also to "prescribe ... the proportions in which the expense of the construction ... shall be divided between the railroad ... and the state, county, city" Web Link

If Churchill becoming "one of the nicest quietest streets" is a problem, there is a third option. If the city purchases one of the corner properties on Alma/Churchill, the plot should be big enough to host a zig-zag bicycle ramp down to the underpass, thereby leaving the street open to traffic while providing a safe bike/ped underpass grade separation. The city cannot propose this option because of its misguided policy of never considering "taking" property.


1 person likes this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Nov 12, 2019 at 1:12 pm

Reality Check is a registered user.

Property is never literally "taken" ... it is purchased at a mutally-agreed/negotiated price. In the few cases where that fails, it is instead purchased at a full and fair market value determined and approved by the court in an eminent domain proceeding.


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Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Nov 12, 2019 at 1:21 pm

Reality Check is a registered user.

@TBM, I understood @Morris to say that Caltrain cannot force Palo Alto to pay for grade separations. And I believe that is just as correct as Palo Alto not being able to stop Caltrain — should it decide to do so — from building its own grade separations.


6 people like this
Posted by Ummmm...this meeting was aobut south PA crossing too.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 12, 2019 at 2:01 pm

Not sure why this is all about Churchill and Embarcadero. At the same meeting they offered info on south Palo Alto grade separation options for East Meadow and Charleston which together carry almost 30,000 cars per day--which are equally important.

Why does north PA get the headline AGAIN? PA Weekly, south PA is part of Palo Alto. Give us equal time...at least.

I was at tables where there was lots of discussion and concern about south PA options. Where was the press?


9 people like this
Posted by Don't Close Churchill
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 12, 2019 at 3:46 pm

The proposal of closuring Churchill is very problematic. Embarcadero is already at its traffic limit. During most of the day, Embarcadero is either filled with bumper to bumper traffic or cars flying down way above the speed limit. Embarcadero can't take more traffic. The migration for the closure proposal to divert Alma traffic without considering the impacts to the surrounding Embarcadero residents is irresponsible. Until the current traffic problem with Embarcadero is solved, the City should not consider any proposal that will add more traffic to it. Churchill should stay open.


3 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 12, 2019 at 5:35 pm

@Ummmm,

If you want this to be about south Palo Alto you better get to work organizing your neighbors in south Palo Alto and working with your neighbors in north Palo Alto. If your are expecting the Weekly to carry the fight for south Palo Alto, you are going to be very disappointed.

The grade separation issue has a lot of moving parts:

Divided Palo Alto City Council
Bureaucratic Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board
Unprofitable Caltrain
Unqualified Palo Alto City Staff
Biased Rail Planning & Engineering Consultants
Sanctimonious Environmentalists
Ambitious Rental Property Owners
Connected Construction Companies
Greedy Real-Estate Developers
Starstruck Rail Fanboys

And people like me who think passenger-rail is noisy and obsolete, and no longer suited to share the modern American landscape with people, homes, and/or the predominant road-going forms of transportation.

A lot different people with different biases trying to fit a square plug into a round hole and the only place it really fits is underground, but nobody wants to pay for that unless they can get state and federal grants like San Jose and San Francisco.


Good Luck!


8 people like this
Posted by Closing Churchill is the ONLY fair option
a resident of Southgate
on Nov 13, 2019 at 9:33 am

Gary (traffic consultant who spoke at las CC meeting) indicated that Churchill has a peak of 400 cars per hour and that embarcadero has a peak of 900+. The 400 from Churchill will split into Embarcadero (250) and Oregon (150). So embarcadero would have 20% more traffic at peak. The issue in Embarcadero is not the tunnel but the traffic lights at Bryant and El Camino. The mitigation measures will more than handle the additional traffic and residents may even see an improvement on both Embarcadero and Oregon, when all the updates budgeted in the Churchill closure budget of $50M+ are incorporated. At the end of the day, it is hugely unfair that so many of our Southgate neighbors will be NEGATIVELY impacted by keeping Churchill 0pen with a TERRIBLE viaduct just so a few people can save a few minutes of time driving. How about the kids, the pets - which have already been hit on Churchill as that will just get worse as people speed through a Viaduct. Its unfair to keep Churchill open when so many homes, kids and people will be so BADLY impacted - people saying no to closure - please try and imagine if this was your house and life that was impacted by a Viaduct -help your neighbors please. We are all in this together - lets just drive a few more minutes and help our neighbors out who might lose A LOT with a Viaduct.


2 people like this
Posted by Please Close Churchill
a resident of Southgate
on Nov 13, 2019 at 9:36 am



Gary (traffic consultant who spoke at las CC meeting) indicated that Churchill has a peak of 400 cars per hour and that embarcadero has a peak of 900+. The 400 from Churchill will split into Embarcadero (250) and Oregon (150). So embarcadero would have 20% more traffic at peak. The issue in Embarcadero is not the tunnel but the traffic lights at Bryant and El Camino. The mitigation measures will more than handle the additional traffic and residents may even see an improvement on both Embarcadero and Oregon, when all the updates budgeted in the Churchill closure budget of $50M+ are incorporated. At the end of the day, it is hugely unfair that so many of our Southgate neighbors will be NEGATIVELY impacted by keeping Churchill 0pen with a TERRIBLE viaduct just so a few people can save a few minutes of time driving. How about the kids, the pets - which have already been hit on Churchill as that will just get worse as people speed through a Viaduct. Its unfair to keep Churchill open when so many homes, kids and people will be so BADLY impacted - people saying no to closure - please try and imagine if this was your house and life that was impacted by a Viaduct -help your neighbors please. We are all in this together - lets just drive a few more minutes and help our neighbors out who might lose A LOT with a Viaduct.


1 person likes this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Nov 13, 2019 at 10:15 am

Reality Check is a registered user.

Making Churchill safe for bikes and peds with passive speed-controlling design features and well-designed bike/ped facilities would not be difficult ... we only need to look to people & places who know how to do such things.

But it’s unclear how neighbors “might lose A LOT” with a viaduct that avoids property acquisitions, removes a thought-to-be-dangerous and annoying grade crossing while creating open useable/landscapable new space underneath without requiring any change of grade for Alma or Churchill users and getting trains completely up and out of the way.


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Posted by No Viaduct at Churchill
a resident of Southgate
on Nov 13, 2019 at 12:46 pm

"Etty Mercurio, a consultant with AECOM, said one way is to 'activate' the viaduct through creation of attractive recreational amenities like a linear park or a skate park."

Why AECOM is promoting Viduct at Churchill? What is in it for AECOM? Do they specialized on Viaduct study?

There will be a light under the Viaduct at night, would it be to too bright for the residential neighborhood?


3 people like this
Posted by NEGATIVELY impacted by keeping Churchill 0pen
a resident of Southgate
on Nov 13, 2019 at 1:12 pm

@"Reality Check" for question on "NEGATIVELY impacted by keeping Churchill 0pen"

The current solution for Churchill open is viaduct, so here are the NEGATIVE impacts on viaduct at Churchill.


- Visual impact: Ugly, provide the limited lights for the house nearby, destroying the characteristics of neighbor hood
- Noise impact: Long term health impact on Low frequency noise from the raised structure train, bot electrical train and freight train noise
- Property Value: Can not sell any properties along Mariposa or Alma with 20 ft structure behind their front or back yards, viaduct is 40 - 50 ft high including the electrical polls
- Safety of bike commuter: Viaduct will increase the traffic, more cars on Churchill will increase danger pedestrian and cyclist for Paly High Students and Stanford staffs
- Financial impact: Closure (with bike path and traffic improvement at Embarcadero) is Cheaper with $65 million vs Viaduct is expansive with $400 millions
-There is no room to to build viaduct, property line near Mariposa and viaduct will be 2 feet away.



3 people like this
Posted by RalphE
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 13, 2019 at 1:58 pm

Maybe during commute time, the stop lights at the 4 rail crossing intersections could be synchronized with the Cal Train locations on the train tracks so that cars can cross the tracks for the maximum amount of time between trains. The software must exist somewhere.


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Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Nov 13, 2019 at 2:27 pm

Reality Check is a registered user.

Viaducts do not require lighting any more than the existing right of way does.

Yes, the viaduct would be visible to homes along Alma and Mariposa if you bothered to look up and past, between or over whatever trees and foliage may be in the way. Depending on design, trains atop a viaduct would likley be _less_ audible to adjacent homes than if they remained at grade.

If you want to play the dishonest game of including the widely-spaced poles in the viaduct height, then to be fair and consistent, you'd also have to say that city streets are already 30-40 feet high due to power and light poles. Which is, of course, just as laughably ridiculous.

Far from "promoting," AECOM was merely answering a question the city is paying them to answer when they replied that the space underneath a viaduct could (not must) be "activated" — just as with the Berkeley-El Cerrito Ohlone Greenway viaduct (Web Link) with parks, paths, etc.

Of course, a viaduct (or any other grade sepataration design) would (and should!) cost far more than closing the street and reducing cross-town connectivity and forcing traffic onto other neighborhoods. But the viaduct appears to the only design that doesn't require home acquisitions or costly and/or disruptive and user-unfriendly lowered streets and intersections along with underground utility relocations.

Traffic may increase somewhat due to the removal of unpredictable delays for passing trains, but proper traffic-calmed complete street design would ensure speeds are kept down and increased safety for all users, particularly bikes and pedestrians.

Sorry, but there's no free lunch. And as @Clem said, take as long as you like. AECOM (or any other consultant) is happy to rack up more billable hours while Palo Alto dithers and Caltrain can wait forever, as there is no requirement for them or HSRA to grade separate, and essentially all the benefits of grade separation accrue to crossing users and the community, and not their trains.


5 people like this
Posted by Please do "Reality Check" again
a resident of Southgate
on Nov 13, 2019 at 2:56 pm

@Reality Check

I checked "the Berkeley-El Cerrito Ohlone Greenway viaduct (Web Link) with parks, paths, etc", it is very nice, but the distance from their viaduct to their residential houses and the path ways are look like 20 ft away.
In Churchill crossing, the viaduct and the residential properties is "2 feet" away.

So, please check again the reality as your name has suggested. Please stop sending the false reality, and wake up and do the proper reality check. Thank you!!!


5 people like this
Posted by NEGATIVELY impacted by keeping Churchill 0pen 2
a resident of another community
on Nov 13, 2019 at 3:18 pm

- Space under viaduct is not very valuable, two narrow strips boxed in on 3 sides. By the time the viaduct is "value engineered" it will be mostly solid fill.

- Goes against Caltrain policy of preserving a four track right-of-way in places where passing tracks may be required.


7 people like this
Posted by Close Churchill
a resident of Southgate
on Nov 13, 2019 at 3:18 pm

I think its clear that those interested in having a Viaduct don't live anywhere near where the Viaduct will be. I can imagine how bad it would be if I lived close to it. I would never vote for anything that so negatively impacted my neighbors, its just selfish. The extra few minutes drives saves millions, saves our neighborhood, makes the kids on Churchill safer. We are one community and no one should be forced to live next to a Viaduct. Please support closing Churchill.


6 people like this
Posted by Close Churchill
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 13, 2019 at 3:34 pm

I realize everyone wants to categorize the viaduct at Churchill Old Palo Alto / Professorville / Southgate "problem" or even a north Palo Alto problem. It's not it's a city wide problem - there will be a new man-made 20 foot structure literally in our backyards. This structure will be able to be seen from as far as 5.5 miles away based on using this calculation from Quora (
Web Link). Sure the foliage will cover some of it, but is everyone in Palo Alto ready for a 20 foot structure running for almost 1/4 mile in the heart of one of the most beautiful parts of the peninsula. Please I ask all of you to visit Burlingame or San Carlos and drive down El Camino are you ready for Alma at Churchill to look like Holly Street and El Camino. What neighborhoods would be able to see this new structure? So Crescent Park is 1.4 miles from Churchill and Alma, Duvaneck is 1.0 mile from Churchill and Alma, Midtown is 1.1 miles from Churchill and Alma. If you're standing at Stanford field playing soccer you'll have a perfect view of the viaduct.

Mountain View will be closing the crossing at Castro and will be mitigating the grade separated crossing at Shoreline. The 2 crossing are in such close proximity that it did not make sense for Mountain View to mitigate both of them. We already a grade separated crossing about 100 yards from Churchill - let's mitigate traffic where it belongs and save money to do the work that is very much necessary at the Meadow / Charleston crossing. If we try to take on too many battles on too many fronts we are going to lose the war.


4 people like this
Posted by No Viaduct
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 13, 2019 at 3:52 pm


Can trees and foliage can grow under 2 feet space over 20 feet structure?


1 person likes this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Nov 13, 2019 at 3:52 pm

Reality Check is a registered user.

Sigh. It's OK to hate the idea of a viaduct. Except for its higher cost, I'd prefer that to putting the trains up on a solid berm and excavating (lowering) Churchill and Alma with property acquisitions ... or to closing Churchill. It's obvious every option (including no-build) will have its detractors.

But, please, let's stop making stuff up. That's not helpful since such "alternate facts" have a way of getting repeated.

Caltrain requires 15 feet between track centerlines, and another 10 feet to the nearest lineside obstacle (such as a low sidewall to block wheel noise). So a 2-track viaduct would be around 35 feet (10+15+10) wide. The Caltrain ROW maps (Web Link) show it's 75 feet wide along essentially the entire length of Mariposa ... enough for even a 4-track viaduct!

So much for the unfounded claim the viaduct would need to be "2 feet" from Mariposa Ave. property lines.


7 people like this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Nov 13, 2019 at 4:23 pm

Reality Check is a registered user.

@Close Churchill: how dumb do you think your audience is when you quote maximum sight distances for a 20-foot-tall ship (or island) across an ideally flat surface (e.g. a calm body of water) and then apply that to the Caltrain corridor around Churchill?

I live in a neighborhood of single family homes similar to those along Alma or Mariposa Ave. and I can't even see the 2-story houses whose roofs are over 20 feet tall from more than a couple houses away due to other houses, trees, bushes, etc.

The viaduct would peak at ~20 feet at Churchill — where there are poles and wires 20 feet or more right now — and slope lower to either side. Note that one can't see those 20-foot tall poles and wires at Churchill or along Alma right now unless one is very, very close to them (and certainly not from more than maybe the backyard of the home on the corner of Mariposa & Churchill.

So much for that nonsense claim of being able to see a structure that would only be ~20 feet tall around Churchill from miles away.

Please, let's stop making stuff up. Especially dumb stuff.


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Posted by TBM
a resident of another community
on Nov 13, 2019 at 4:33 pm

@ "So much for the unfounded claim the viaduct would need to be "2 feet" from Mariposa Ave. property lines."

But, to make space for the temporary shoofly track without shutting down Alma, the viaduct will need to be built at the Eastern edge of the right-of-way, not down the middle. Web Link


8 people like this
Posted by Morris
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 13, 2019 at 4:43 pm

I have the perfect solution for Churchill. It involves no ugly viaduct, no traffic spillover from Churchill to other streets, no construction, no property taking, no loss of the use of Churchill between El Camino and Alma, no internecine wars between neighborhoods.

Just leave everything as it is. Leave it as it's been for 150+ years.

There will be no HSR in the foreseeable future and Caltrain's 20-trains-per-hour plan may never materialize. At this point it's just vaporware – it's Caltrain P.R. So you have to wait three minutes for the trains to pass. Big deal.


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Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Nov 13, 2019 at 4:52 pm

Reality Check is a registered user.

@TBM: yes, with the construction approach depicted in the video, the viaduct would be built closer to Mariposa than Alma.

Another approach is to build the viaduct closer to Alma in two stages _without_ a shoofly. First build the NB viaduct half while leaving the trains on the existing tracks. Then shift NB trains onto the viaduct allowing the old ground-level NB track to be replaced with the SB viaduct half. Then shift the SB trains onto the viaduct and remove the old ground-level SB track. This results in the viaduct being closer to Alma and leaving open space between it and the Mariposa Ave. property lines.


4 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 13, 2019 at 6:41 pm

The space under an elevated freeway for trains (viaduct) is a useless wasteland. No one in there right mind wants to hang out in a place where conversation is drowned out by noise every time a train passes overhead. The space under the BART viaduct in Berkeley/Albany is mostly used by people living near by as a place to let their dogs do their business.

The space under a freeway for trains (viaduct) cannot be landscaped with trees and bushes. Police need to have a clear view under these structures from their patrol cars or else they become a refuge for the homeless and criminal activities.


2 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 13, 2019 at 6:54 pm

How tall is an elevated freeway for trains (viaduct)?

If the elevated freeway for trains is 20 feet tall (to the tracks), to that you have to add:

14 feet for the train
04 feet for the pantagraph
02 feet for the height of the poles above the pantograph,

Total height = 20 + 14 + 04 + 02 = 40 feet.


1 person likes this
Posted by Morris
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 13, 2019 at 6:56 pm

"The space under a freeway for trains (viaduct) cannot be landscaped with trees and bushes."

Must be the time of day that the stopped clock is right.

For the 1,000th time, the City of Palo Alto does not own that land. It is owned by JPB. Haven't we already established that JPB will not allow a permanent encumbrance of the land, so no tennis courts, no dog runs, no bike paths, no landscaping and no quaint shoppes?


1 person likes this
Posted by Morris
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 13, 2019 at 7:08 pm

"14 feet for the train
04 feet for the pantagraph
02 feet for the height of the poles above the pantograph,

Total height = 20 + 14 + 04 + 02 = 40 feet."

Palo Alto Online had better buy extra bandwidth for when the electrification crew comes to Palo Alto and people come here crying "waah, waah, waah, those ugly overhead wires are so ugly!". Guess what folks, privileged Palo Alto won't be able to do a darn thing about it!


4 people like this
Posted by 2 feet away from the property line of Mariposa backyard to Viaduct
a resident of Southgate
on Nov 13, 2019 at 8:19 pm

@TBM

Here is the drawing "2 feet away from the property line of Mariposa backyard to Viaduct".

Please look at the "November 7, 2019 Community Meeting Meeting Presentation: Churchill Viaduct", page 2 (Railroad Grade Separation Typical Sections).

Web Link


9 people like this
Posted by Live on Churchill
a resident of Southgate
on Nov 13, 2019 at 9:21 pm

To comments above about Churchill. So Churchill homes are cheap - really? I bought 20 years ago, it was not cheap then and it is not cheap now. No mention of high speed rail coming soon when I bought so not sure why you think i would know. I have been really happy here but 2 of my cats were killed by cars who didn't bother to stop and one of my kids was almost hit. I did buy on a busy street and accept a busy but I dont like unsafe. The Viaduct is a terrible idea and will make Churchill even more unsafe. I know its not fair to the neighbors close to the train. Drive a few more minutes, Palo Alto has plenty of crossings.


6 people like this
Posted by to: Live on Churchill
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 14, 2019 at 8:00 pm

Yes Churchill homes are notoriously cheaper than other communities in Palo Alto. Similar to homes on Alma ... given Cal Train and highspeed rail coming in.. .churchill homes are cheaper than other Palo Alto homes.

When you look at homes that are under the 1 million dollar mark in the last 10 years... (that are not townhomes, or condos but are single family homes with decent sized lots)... they are always near busy intersections or roadways, and that includes homes on Churchill.

I suppose it is relative. But price per square foot for Churchill homes have always been lower than Professorville, or College Terrace, or North Downtown, or Crescent Park etc.


11 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 14, 2019 at 8:13 pm

What is wrong with keeping Churchill exactly as it is? Diverting traffic from Churchill to Embarcadero and Oregon is unreasonable. It works just as it is. Lately the city is hell bent on "fixing" things that they perceive to be "broken" and the moment they "fix" it the end result is horrendous.

Is someone who is doing granting the contract bids for road construction and landscaping also connected in some way (i.e. have friends in the construction or landscaping business)?

I think there must be a vested interested given all this (really gawd awful construction) that is going on for years around town (and never does it look better or make traffic better).

Traffic gets immensely backlogged and worse once they are done.
The lack of transparency seems to hint there is some sort of backend deals going on here with the construction companies.. .and creation of "problems" such that they need to be fixed.

Imagine the contract and profits from creating the viaduct or closing down Churchill to traffic. Oh the monies that will be made instead of keeping things the same as it has worked the past 150 years.

The reality is the highspeed rail likely won't be coming through... this is just an excuse to reinvent Churchill avenue and "fix" it by throwing money at a project to line someone's pockets that have greased the city's pockets.

The only folks happy will the people who live on Churchill.

I think perhaps that any money thrown at Churchill should be billed to the taxpayers of Churchill avenue who live there. The folks who own the properties. Bill them the whole bill.

The percentage of the city budget to be spent on a minor piece of road (compared to the entire city), when we have power lines that are not buried, and lead leaching into the schools of Palo Alto.... you have to question the sanity of the people in charge of the city purse strings. Oh. Forgot that their palms have been greased.


4 people like this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Nov 14, 2019 at 8:42 pm

Reality Check is a registered user.

@Ahem: who told you space under viaducts are "a useless wasteland" and that the Ohlone Greeway (Web Link) is "mostly used as a place to let dogs do their business" ... and why did you believe them?

Browsing through a video of it (Web Link) or going for a site visit clearly shows that's yet another ridiculous example of more made-up "alternative facts" in this forum.

Playground: Web Link
Interactive art: Web Link

@Morris: easily bulldozed paths and/or plantings hardly constitute a "permanent encumbrance" ... and why do you imagine Caltrain would strenuoulsy object to a long term lease or other terms permitting otherwise wasted/fallow space under a viaduct to be used until the unlikely time that they might need it. Since they already have and allow bike/ped paths to punch through berms, then why not paths crossing under viaducts? And what motivates your cynical gloomy and doomy propensity to such seemingly unfounded and illogical negative assumptions and imaginings?


4 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Walter Hays School
on Nov 14, 2019 at 8:59 pm

I would prefer Churchill close and we upgrade Oregon and embarco. To me that would be money better spent.


1 person likes this
Posted by Morris
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 14, 2019 at 9:19 pm

"what motivates your cynical gloomy and doomy propensity to such seemingly unfounded and illogical negative assumptions and imaginings?"

For starters, JPB has practically no involvement in the planning process for grade separation in Palo Alto. Doesn't that strike you as a little odd? All of these grandiose plans for trenches and tunnels are subject to the approval of JPB which can scotch these plans by just saying "no".

That's just the beginning.


7 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 14, 2019 at 10:53 pm

I think we should also close down Stanford avenue to all traffic. Make it pedestrian and bicycle path only. WHY? Because we have one of the largest elementary schools there (Escondido Elementary) as well as Nixon Elementary (TWO elementary schools who use Stanford avenue), as well 3 preschools right on Stanford (Bing Nursery, Amigos De Palo Alto, and Children's Center of Stanford Community) as well as numerous preschools close by (blocks) PACCC College Terrace Children's Center etc) as well as numerous parks filled with children.

Stanford avenue, also has numerous bicyclists going up and down this street, as well as pedestrians. The cyclists are biking to elementary school, but also this is the path many children living in Stanford areas that use this path to bike to Fletcher Middle school.

CLOSE DOWN STANFORD AVENUE TO TRAFFIC and divert it to Page Mill road (while we are closing down churchill avenue) and divert it as well.


3 people like this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Nov 14, 2019 at 10:55 pm

Reality Check is a registered user.

@Morris: yes, you make a fair point regarding the apparent lack of communication between Caltrain and cities such as Palo Alto and Menlo Park who have long been stuck in seemingly endless study and community debate/indecision over where and how to grade separate.

Has Palo Alto formally (or informally) checked with Caltrain which alternatives — if any — they would likley oppose/veto, and which they would be more open to? If not, why? And if so, what did Caltrain say?

In response to the recent SMCo. Grand Jury report (Web Link) faulting Caltrain for not developing a corridor-wide grade separation master plan, Caltrain CEO Jim Hartnett said in his response (PDF page 25 of Web Link) that they've already budgeted $5m for just such a study:

"... the approved Fiscal Year 2020 Caltrain Capital Budget includes $5 million for a corridor-wide grade separation study. This corridor-wide grade separation study is yet-to-be scoped, but is envisioned as a multi-phased, comprehensive study that will address grade separation construction; prioritization and phasing; funding strategies; and other topics related to the potential and planned grade separation of the Caltrain corridor.

"The success of a corridor-wide study related to this extraordinarily sensitive topic depends on the appropriate participation and buy-in of both regional and state partner agencies as well as local jurisdictions. Developing an agreed-to approach regarding the structure and oversight of the study will be a foundational step in developing the overall scope.

"... Caltrain agrees with the assertions of R1-R3 that 1) any grade separation strategy must account for a prioritization that takes into account the special circumstances of each crossing while also considering their respective functions as one in a system of crossings; 2) peer corridor work and best practices must be elements of the study; and 3) all of the cities along the Caltrain right of way must be engaged in this process."


7 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 14, 2019 at 11:03 pm

CLose down Stanford Avenue to Traffic and divert it to Page Mill Street and Serra Street and Galvez Street.
There are too many small children and youth (preschools x 3 are RIGHT ON Stanford Avenue) and 2 PAUSD elementary schools on the corner of Stanford Avenue as well. If you factor in how many toddlers and children under grade 6 are exposed to traffic, noise and cars.. it's unsafe.
Make it only bike and pedestrian traffic.

Why just look at Churchill for closing it to car traffic. Close down Stanford Avenue to traffic as well.
Nevermind all the Stanford students whose dorms are lining Stanford avenue, and they also bike and walk on Stanford. The pedestrian and biker traffic is nonstop on Stanford avenue, night and day, all around the clock (unlike Churchill), that you will find children, parents, toddlers, university students all walking, running, jogging, biking along Stanford avenue. Meanwhile, cars are zipping along at high and dangerous speeds.

CLOSE DOWN STANFORD AVENUE to traffic. Why stop at just Churchill.
Let's make PageMill and Escondido the only streets with traffic. And 101 and 280. Close down California avenue too. Close all those streets down from car traffic.


2 people like this
Posted by TBM
a resident of another community
on Nov 14, 2019 at 11:59 pm

@Reality Check "easily bulldozed paths and/or plantings hardly constitute a permanent encumbrance"

The viaduct itself is the "permanent encumbrance". Under Caltrain's 2040 vision policy, at a minimum Palo Alto would need to show Caltrain how a 4 track upgrade would work.
● Demolish viaduct and build a new wider one, shoofly on Alma.
● Build a parallel 2 track viaduct partially above Alma.
● If Caltrain is paying, maybe they will build a solid berm next to the viaduct.

Under the "moderate growth" plan, California Avenue station is the leading candidate to become a four track passing station Web Link , The proximity to a two track viaduct could thwart these plans.

Why would Caltrain agree to having it's property damaged in this way, what is in it for them?


3 people like this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Nov 15, 2019 at 1:30 am

Reality Check is a registered user.

@TBM, as Sebastian Petty, the senior Caltrain planner heading up the 2040 business plan/service vision development, has confirmed: for the "moderate" service scenario _without HSR, Caltrain only needs one additional mid-line 4-track section adjacent to and through the Redwood City station (Web Link). Once HSR ever makes it onto the Caltrain line, they get up to 4 express (maximum of one stop at Millbrae/SFO) schedule "slots" per direction per hour, only then would they also need a quad track in the California Ave. to Mountain view vicinity.

While it's possible to shoehorn a 4-track segment between University and Cal Ave. (and not over Alma!) ... since there's flexibility in precisely where to put it, why bother when the ROW is significantly wider south of Cal Ave.?

Note that quad-tracking is far cheaper/easier than building a grade sep since the 2 extra tracks can be built (whether at grade or elevated) to one side or the other (or one per side) of the existing 2 with little or no impact on existing service. At grade existing tracks on ballast can even be incrementally shifted to make room ... sort of like how braces or Invisalign™ slowly moves teeth in slow increments.


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Posted by TBM
a resident of another community
on Nov 15, 2019 at 3:44 am

@ "why bother when the ROW is significantly wider south of Cal Ave.?"

The ROW won't be wider south of Cal Ave after PA proposes its 2 track hybrid grade separation for Meadow and Charleston.

Operationally it should be better to quad-track a station. It is more efficient to overtake a stopped train.


1 person likes this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Nov 15, 2019 at 4:18 am

Reality Check is a registered user.

@Morris: nonsense! ROW width is not changed by a “hybrid” sloped berm .... or vertical MSE and/or retaining walls, which is what gets used when there isn’t enough width for a sloped berm. So the essentially the entire ROW width remains available for future quad tracking along a 2-track hybrid berm/wall ... see the vertical space-saving (“Berlin”) MSE concrete walls along parts of the Old County Road side of the San Carlos berm ... and then imagine how much nicer it’d have been for everyone if instead of MSE walls and soil, it was open with a linear park and/or multi-use bike/ped path running underneath the tracks. Much nicer & safer than biking or walking in full sun, darkness or rain along with with cars and trucks on ECR or Old County Road — neither of which has a bike lane.


2 people like this
Posted by Bill Bucy
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 15, 2019 at 8:26 am

Bill Bucy is a registered user.

We all love compromise, right?

So how about Stanford agrees to finance a CalTrain tunnel through Palo Alto in return for approval of its latest expansion plan.


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Posted by TBM
a resident of another community
on Nov 15, 2019 at 9:27 am

@"ROW width is not changed by a “hybrid” sloped berm"

But the ROW will have become "encumbered", which is against Caltrain policy.

To encumber: "restrict or burden (someone or something) in such a way that free action or movement is difficult".


7 people like this
Posted by Family Friendly
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 15, 2019 at 10:04 am

You should be looking in a legal dictionary, instead. "A claim, lien, charge, or liability attached to and binding real property; e.g. a mortgage; judgment lien; mechanics' lien; lease; security interest; easement or right of way; accrued and unpaid taxes."


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

Reality Check is a registered user.

@TBM: shhhhh ... don’t tell Caltrain, because in your worldview, a bunch of their past, current and planned projects are “encumbering” their own right of way! Good grief.

OK, so can we please stop with such disingenuous and/or sophomoric time-wasting and unproductive trolling now, please? Thanks!


3 people like this
Posted by Morris
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 15, 2019 at 2:27 pm

"Has Palo Alto formally (or informally) checked with Caltrain which alternatives — if any — they would likley oppose/veto, and which they would be more open to? If not, why? And if so, what did Caltrain say?"

Actually, it has. Liz Kniss wrote a letter to Caltrain asking about design exceptions for grades exceeding 1%. You'll have to look for that letter and the response from Caltrain on the connectingpaloalto web site.

She did not ask specifically about tunnels or trenches or developing the land along the ROW. I don't know if other cities are thinking of developing the ROW, but they would have to relocate the tracks to do so, and I'm not aware of any such plans from any city.

Since Ms. Kniss's correspondence, I am not aware of any further communication between Caltrain and CPA, or AECOM for that matter.

Trenching/tunneling is a complex issue as it would likely require quite a bit of hydrological study as there are Barron and Adobe creeks to cross as well as various aquifers, and the looming issue of storm flooding. As we know, Palo Alto has a difficult time controlling flooding at Oregon expwy. I understand Burlingame gave up on a trench/tunnel because it would be too costly and too much trouble to keep dry all year.

If a trench/tunnel ended south of Matadero creek, there would be one less creek to cross and you wouldn't need to rebuild the Oregon overcrossing or submerge the Calif. Ave. station.

It's easy to conceptualize these things in your mind. It's when you drill down and examine the details that things aren't as easy as they seem. In the final analysis, PCJPB (Caltrain) would have to study and approve whatever plan CPA comes up with. Add that time to the time CPA and its myriad rail committees spend on spinning their wheels.


2 people like this
Posted by Morris
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 15, 2019 at 2:33 pm

"why bother when the ROW is significantly wider south of Cal Ave.?"

Yes but there is also the overpass at Oregon expwy to deal with. Did they factor that into their planning?


1 person likes this
Posted by Morris
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 15, 2019 at 2:45 pm

To be perfectly honest, the do-nothing plan at Churchill Ave. is looking better all the time.

Soundproofing the homes adjacent to the ROW is also a great idea but who would pick up the bill? The city? The homeowners? Caltrain?


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Posted by Morris
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 15, 2019 at 3:53 pm

Here is correspondence from Caltrain to CPA from December, 2018:

Web Link


5 people like this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Nov 16, 2019 at 1:08 am

Reality Check is a registered user.

@Morris: who will pay for "soundproofing" homes next to the 156-year-old continuously-operating railroad and its crossings whose trains and grade-separated crossings just keep getting quieter?

Easy. That would be the same people that pay to soundproof homes next to roads, expressways and highways. :-)

Did Caltrain planners "factor in" the bridge over Oregon Expressway? Seriously? Nah, they probably have no idea what their own ROW looks like. Quick, Morris! Better pick up the phone and warn them!


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Posted by Morris
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 16, 2019 at 2:14 am

"Quick, Morris! Better pick up the phone and warn them!"

We don't need your sarcasm.


2 people like this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Nov 16, 2019 at 4:08 am

Reality Check is a registered user.

@Morris: yes, and while "we" (you) may not "need" it ... the sarcasm was there to say that (by the same token), that we — and especially Caltrain planners — also don't "need" your laughably patronizing musings of whether Caltrain knows about major structures along — or dimensions or geometries of — its own right of way.


1 person likes this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Nov 16, 2019 at 4:42 am

Reality Check is a registered user.

The 10-mile "Underline" project (Web Link) to activate the space under and along Miami's MetroRail viaduct with linear parks, landscaping and trails looks pretty nice. See video: Web Link


9 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 16, 2019 at 11:36 am

@RC,

You can pit lipstick on the pig with landscaping but you can't make it into a place where people want to hang out. It all about the noise.

Nobody in their right mind wants to hangout under an elevated freeway for trains where the aural ambiance is shattered every 5-10 minutes by the 85dBA roar of a train passing overhead.

You can drive for miles alongside Berkeley/Albany's elevated freeway for BART and rarely see a person. All the other parks are full of people.


6 people like this
Posted by Family Friendly
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 16, 2019 at 11:57 am

Agreed that it’s a lousy place for a park. Good place for a bike path, though.

Nevertheless, I still think money for tunneling would have been money well spent.


4 people like this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Nov 16, 2019 at 1:11 pm

Reality Check is a registered user.

@Ahem, 85dBA under a U-shaped viaduct post-electrification!? Source? ... or more made-up "alternative facts"?

I have a digital decibel meter, so I'll go measure next time ... but I doubt the loudest diesel-hauled expresses passing Belmont's "Off the Grid" food trucks or Farmer's Market at 79 mph are even that loud ... and Caltrain's quieter new electric trains on a U-shaped viaduct would be even quieter vs. at grade or on a "hybrid" berm as shown in this photo (Web Link) Belmont's "Off the Grid."

And you know it's not a freeway when nobody in their right mind would volunteer to have a real freeway replace the Caltrain line through Palo Alto.


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Posted by Kerry55
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 16, 2019 at 7:26 pm

Kerry55 is a registered user.

Another car accident at the Churchill RR crossing, I think the 2nd car this year stuck on the tracks. Safety should be our main concern here. The entrance/exit to Paly on Churchill has been unsafe for many years. Now with the majority of students riding bikes to school, their safety should override the car accessibility, especially when 2 underpasses exist in close proximity. Students exiting Paly eastward on Churchill face oncoming car traffic head on. I will be getting accident statistics, but anyone who has teens going to Paly knows how unsafe this intersection is. I'm surprised that it is still open.


2 people like this
Posted by Family Friendly
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 17, 2019 at 3:02 pm

Regardless what happens with the train crossing, Churchill at Alma and Churchill at El Camino would be ideal places for bike tunnels.


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