News

Report recommends closing Churchill Avenue at Caltrain tracks

Citizen advisory group also calls for dropping tunnels in south Palo Alto from consideration

The proposal to close Churchill Avenue includes a pedestrian and bike tunnel. The rendering shows the view of the tunnel looking east. Courtesy city of Palo Alto.

After numerous detours, Palo Alto is preparing to advance its most complex, expensive and potentially divisive public infrastructure project in decades: a reconfiguration of the city's rail corridor so that the tracks no longer intersect with streets.

The effort, which the City Council is preparing to discuss next week, hit a major milestone earlier this month when a specially appointed citizens committee released a 171-page report evaluating possible design alternatives for the rail crossings at Churchill Avenue, East Meadow Drive and Charleston Road. After exploring dozens of options over several years, the Expanded Community Advisory Committee recommended closing Churchill to traffic and eliminating the possibility of tunnels in south Palo Alto.

The committee's recommendations for the rail corridor, which the council would need to approve, would cost roughly $60 million to implement. In closing the Churchill vehicle crossing, a tunnel would be constructed for bicyclists and pedestrians underneath the tracks and Alma Street. Concurrently, the city would proceed with a wide range of traffic improvements at Embarcadero Road and Oregon Expressway — modifications designed to keep traffic at these busy arteries from getting worse once the Churchill intersection is reconfigured.

In voting 6-3 to support the closure of Churchill, the panel picked that option over two other alternatives: a viaduct for trains and what's known as a "partial underpass" that would send eastbound cars under the tracks and to a new T-intersection at Alma.

At the same time, the panel hit a stalemate when it came to picking the best design options for the two south Palo Alto crossings — East Meadow and Charleston — ultimately concluding that it needs more information before it can make a decision. None of the four options on the table for the East Meadow and Charleston crossings — a trench, a viaduct, an underpass and a "hybrid" design in which the tracks are raised and the road is lowered — were able to secure support from a majority of the committee members.

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The panel did, however, agree to eliminate from consideration a south Palo Alto train tunnel, a popular option that city leaders and the panel concluded is infeasible for numerous reasons, not the least of which is a price tag exceeding $1 billion.

The new report comes at a time when Palo Alto and other cities along the Peninsula are taking a fresh look at their rail crossings and making plans for change to accommodate an expected growth in trains as Caltrain moves ahead with electrifying its fleet. Measure B, which Santa Clara County voters approved in 2016, allocates about $700 million to Palo Alto, Mountain View and Sunnyvale for grade separations, though the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority has yet to determine how to distribute these funds.

Concurrently, both the California High Speed Rail Authority and Caltrain are advancing their own plans for, respectively, introducing and expanding train service on the rail corridor. Caltrain is also preparing to launch a grade separation study that considers all 41 of its at-grade rail crossings between San Francisco and San Jose.

Adding to the complexity is Caltrain's rail corridor use policy, which states that grade separation alternatives must not preclude the agency from installing a four-track segment somewhere between north Palo Alto and Mountain View sometime in the future.

Given the various limitations and the high costs of all the other engineering alternatives, XCAP concluded that the closure of Churchill is the most viable option, notwithstanding concerns from neighbors about the impact on traffic. Compared to the underpass and the viaduct, the closure would be the "least disruptive alternative," the report concluded, and would have only minor noise impacts during the construction period, which is expected to last about two years.

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Costs were a major factor in XCAP's decision. Closing Churchill and adding a pedestrian/bike tunnel along with various traffic improvements on Embarcadero and Oregon would cost between $50 million and $65 million, according to the report. A partial underpass would cost between $160 million and $200 million, while the viaduct comes with a price tag of between $300 million and $400 million.

The panel is also recommending a list of mitigations to improve traffic flow around Embarcadero and Alma Street. These include reconstructing the Alma overpass at Embarcadero and adding a right-turn lane from eastbound Embarcadero to Kingsley Avenue, as well as a left-turn lane from southbound Alma to Kingsley. New traffic signals would be installed at the Alma overpass at Embarcadero and at Kinglsey.

The menu of traffic improvements proposed by the city's traffic consultant, Aecom, also includes traffic signals at the Alma Street ramps on Oregon Expressway, as well as a northbound right-turn lane from Oregon to El Camino Real.

A key element in the plan is the Churchill tunnel, which would allow Palo Alto High students and other pedestrians and bicyclists to safely cross the tracks and Alma Street without stopping. The panel preferred a longer tunnel, which crosses under Alma Street, over a separate alternative, which called for a shorter tunnel that would end before Alma and require pedestrians and bicyclists to wait for a green light to cross Alma.

Not everyone, however, is thrilled about the potential of Churchill closing. The proposal to close the street to traffic has polarized the Southgate neighborhood, which lies across Churchill from Palo Alto High School. Some residents have argued that shutting off Churchill to traffic would eliminate a critical access point for their part of the neighborhood. At the same time, some residents of Professorville, which lies north of Embarcadero, have charged that the move would drive more cars to the historically congested Embarcadero.

While some residents, particularly those who live farther from the rail corridor, favored designs that keep Churchill open, the panel concluded that the viaduct would pose construction challenges (including the need for temporary "shoo-fly" tracks) and create an eyesore. The panel also decided that additional expenditure to study the underpass alternative is not justified and that it is "unlikely to be improved with additional design iteration."

Despite the recommendation, some members of XCAP remained concerned about the traffic impacts of the Churchill closure. The panel voted 6-3 to adopt the recommendation, with the dissenting members all supporting conducting further analysis and gathering more information before committing to this option. Nadia Naik, chair of XCAP, said she and two of her colleagues — Keith Reckdahl and Phil Burton — wanted further traffic analysis and additional evaluation of the partial underpass. They also wanted the city to consider retrofitting the existing Embarcadero grade separation, which dates back to 1936 and which could be redesigned to facilitate smoother traffic flow and more turning movement.

Naik noted, however, that the changes proposed in this alternative to ease traffic — including traffic lights at the Alma ramps at Oregon Expressway and new turn lanes on Oregon and Embarcadero — would be worth pursuing even if Churchill were to remain open.

"One thing we really agree on is that a lot of mitigations Aecom proposed — if they did them tomorrow, they would significantly improve the city," Naik said in a recent interview.

Larry Klein, a former Palo Alto mayor and vice chair of XCAP, said members of the panel disagreed from time to time about the degree of certainty that is needed before a council selects a preferred alternative. Six members, including himself, concluded that they had all the information they needed about the three Churchill alternatives to recommend closure.

"You can't proceed down the line on a full basis with every possible alternative, unless you have unlimited funds and unlimited time, which neither one was the case here," Klein said.

The Charleston Dilemma

The proposed underpass at Charleston Road would include a separated pathway for bikes and pedestrians. Rendering courtesy city of Palo Alto

The feeling of uncertainty was even more pronounced in considering reconfigurations for south Palo Alto, where the committee confronted a menu of high-priced options: hybrid design (estimated price tag: $190 million to $230 million), an underpass for cars and bikes and pedestrians ($340 million to $420 million), a viaduct ($400 million to $500 million) and a trench ($800 million to $950 million). It also considered — and eliminated — the idea of a south Palo Alto tunnel, which would cost between $1.2 billion and $1.8 billion, according to Aecom estimates.

"Because of this high cost, significant construction time and other drawbacks, XCAP unanimously decided to remove the tunnel alternatives from further deliberation," the report states.

When evaluating the remaining alternatives, the committee confronted a major design challenge: Each of these options was envisioned as a two-track alternative and, as such, may not meet Caltrain's requirements. That, Naik said, led the panel to decide unanimously that it needed more information before a majority could support any alternative.

"So instead, as a group, we decided to go through all the pros and cons to be able to really teach the council, in a way, what we learned about what really matters in the various alternatives, to at least help them be able to then continue to narrow it down," Naik said.

The trench alternative, for all of its popularity, poses particular challenges. To construct the trench for the train tracks, the city would need to build pump stations and divert Adobe and Barron creeks; gain Caltrain's permission for a 2% grade on the rail corridor (the agency's standard is 1% grade); and build shoo-fly tracks for trains to use during the construction period, which would last between five and six years. Supporters of this alternative observed that the trench would remove trains entirely from view and improve neighborhood aesthetics without requiring any acquisition of private property. Opponents noted that this is the most expensive alternative and raised concerns about how the structure would affect creeks and groundwater.

The viaduct also proved polarizing, with proponents noting that it could be built most quickly and that the land under the raised structure could be used for other purposes as a public benefit. Opponents pointed at the high visual impact of the elevated structure in a residential neighborhood — a criticism that they also extended to the "hybrid" alternative.

The underpass, which was only recently added to the menu, is the only option that would fully separate bikes and pedestrians from Alma Street, and its cost is expected to be lower than for the tunnel, trench and viaduct. But the underpass, which also includes a traffic circle on Charleston Road, would require more private properties to be acquired than any other option under consideration — a key factor for a council that has been reluctant to invoke eminent domain for grade separations.

The report recommends that the council selects Churchill closure as its preferred alternative; explore new bike and pedestrian crossings on Alma Street at Seale and Loma Verde avenues; and formalize outreach to the Palo Alto Unified School District, the bike community and other major stakeholders. XCAP is also recommending that the council launch a geotechnical and hydrology analysis, explore further road mitigations and engage with Menlo Park and Caltrain to explore a grade separation at Palo Alto Avenue, the city's northernmost rail crossing and one that it hopes to analyze as part of a future downtown study.

Partnerships, clear communication and strong advocacy are particularly critical given uncertainty over funding. Klein noted that unless the city comes up with the huge sums of money to pay for grade separations, the council's role in the process will be that of an advocate rather than a decision-maker.

Naik concurred.

"What's become more urgent is the need to be able to think about both the needs of Palo Alto and reach out to our neighboring cities and regionally to be able to figure out how to tackle problems together," Naik said. "It's not just Palo Alto. All 41 remaining grade separations would need to be completed for Caltrain to reach its goal. … If we band together, we have the best chance for attracting dollars and getting things done."

View the full report:

The report can also be viewed here.

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Report recommends closing Churchill Avenue at Caltrain tracks

Citizen advisory group also calls for dropping tunnels in south Palo Alto from consideration

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, Mar 16, 2021, 9:29 am

After numerous detours, Palo Alto is preparing to advance its most complex, expensive and potentially divisive public infrastructure project in decades: a reconfiguration of the city's rail corridor so that the tracks no longer intersect with streets.

The effort, which the City Council is preparing to discuss next week, hit a major milestone earlier this month when a specially appointed citizens committee released a 171-page report evaluating possible design alternatives for the rail crossings at Churchill Avenue, East Meadow Drive and Charleston Road. After exploring dozens of options over several years, the Expanded Community Advisory Committee recommended closing Churchill to traffic and eliminating the possibility of tunnels in south Palo Alto.

The committee's recommendations for the rail corridor, which the council would need to approve, would cost roughly $60 million to implement. In closing the Churchill vehicle crossing, a tunnel would be constructed for bicyclists and pedestrians underneath the tracks and Alma Street. Concurrently, the city would proceed with a wide range of traffic improvements at Embarcadero Road and Oregon Expressway — modifications designed to keep traffic at these busy arteries from getting worse once the Churchill intersection is reconfigured.

In voting 6-3 to support the closure of Churchill, the panel picked that option over two other alternatives: a viaduct for trains and what's known as a "partial underpass" that would send eastbound cars under the tracks and to a new T-intersection at Alma.

At the same time, the panel hit a stalemate when it came to picking the best design options for the two south Palo Alto crossings — East Meadow and Charleston — ultimately concluding that it needs more information before it can make a decision. None of the four options on the table for the East Meadow and Charleston crossings — a trench, a viaduct, an underpass and a "hybrid" design in which the tracks are raised and the road is lowered — were able to secure support from a majority of the committee members.

The panel did, however, agree to eliminate from consideration a south Palo Alto train tunnel, a popular option that city leaders and the panel concluded is infeasible for numerous reasons, not the least of which is a price tag exceeding $1 billion.

The new report comes at a time when Palo Alto and other cities along the Peninsula are taking a fresh look at their rail crossings and making plans for change to accommodate an expected growth in trains as Caltrain moves ahead with electrifying its fleet. Measure B, which Santa Clara County voters approved in 2016, allocates about $700 million to Palo Alto, Mountain View and Sunnyvale for grade separations, though the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority has yet to determine how to distribute these funds.

Concurrently, both the California High Speed Rail Authority and Caltrain are advancing their own plans for, respectively, introducing and expanding train service on the rail corridor. Caltrain is also preparing to launch a grade separation study that considers all 41 of its at-grade rail crossings between San Francisco and San Jose.

Adding to the complexity is Caltrain's rail corridor use policy, which states that grade separation alternatives must not preclude the agency from installing a four-track segment somewhere between north Palo Alto and Mountain View sometime in the future.

Given the various limitations and the high costs of all the other engineering alternatives, XCAP concluded that the closure of Churchill is the most viable option, notwithstanding concerns from neighbors about the impact on traffic. Compared to the underpass and the viaduct, the closure would be the "least disruptive alternative," the report concluded, and would have only minor noise impacts during the construction period, which is expected to last about two years.

Costs were a major factor in XCAP's decision. Closing Churchill and adding a pedestrian/bike tunnel along with various traffic improvements on Embarcadero and Oregon would cost between $50 million and $65 million, according to the report. A partial underpass would cost between $160 million and $200 million, while the viaduct comes with a price tag of between $300 million and $400 million.

The panel is also recommending a list of mitigations to improve traffic flow around Embarcadero and Alma Street. These include reconstructing the Alma overpass at Embarcadero and adding a right-turn lane from eastbound Embarcadero to Kingsley Avenue, as well as a left-turn lane from southbound Alma to Kingsley. New traffic signals would be installed at the Alma overpass at Embarcadero and at Kinglsey.

The menu of traffic improvements proposed by the city's traffic consultant, Aecom, also includes traffic signals at the Alma Street ramps on Oregon Expressway, as well as a northbound right-turn lane from Oregon to El Camino Real.

A key element in the plan is the Churchill tunnel, which would allow Palo Alto High students and other pedestrians and bicyclists to safely cross the tracks and Alma Street without stopping. The panel preferred a longer tunnel, which crosses under Alma Street, over a separate alternative, which called for a shorter tunnel that would end before Alma and require pedestrians and bicyclists to wait for a green light to cross Alma.

Not everyone, however, is thrilled about the potential of Churchill closing. The proposal to close the street to traffic has polarized the Southgate neighborhood, which lies across Churchill from Palo Alto High School. Some residents have argued that shutting off Churchill to traffic would eliminate a critical access point for their part of the neighborhood. At the same time, some residents of Professorville, which lies north of Embarcadero, have charged that the move would drive more cars to the historically congested Embarcadero.

While some residents, particularly those who live farther from the rail corridor, favored designs that keep Churchill open, the panel concluded that the viaduct would pose construction challenges (including the need for temporary "shoo-fly" tracks) and create an eyesore. The panel also decided that additional expenditure to study the underpass alternative is not justified and that it is "unlikely to be improved with additional design iteration."

Despite the recommendation, some members of XCAP remained concerned about the traffic impacts of the Churchill closure. The panel voted 6-3 to adopt the recommendation, with the dissenting members all supporting conducting further analysis and gathering more information before committing to this option. Nadia Naik, chair of XCAP, said she and two of her colleagues — Keith Reckdahl and Phil Burton — wanted further traffic analysis and additional evaluation of the partial underpass. They also wanted the city to consider retrofitting the existing Embarcadero grade separation, which dates back to 1936 and which could be redesigned to facilitate smoother traffic flow and more turning movement.

Naik noted, however, that the changes proposed in this alternative to ease traffic — including traffic lights at the Alma ramps at Oregon Expressway and new turn lanes on Oregon and Embarcadero — would be worth pursuing even if Churchill were to remain open.

"One thing we really agree on is that a lot of mitigations Aecom proposed — if they did them tomorrow, they would significantly improve the city," Naik said in a recent interview.

Larry Klein, a former Palo Alto mayor and vice chair of XCAP, said members of the panel disagreed from time to time about the degree of certainty that is needed before a council selects a preferred alternative. Six members, including himself, concluded that they had all the information they needed about the three Churchill alternatives to recommend closure.

"You can't proceed down the line on a full basis with every possible alternative, unless you have unlimited funds and unlimited time, which neither one was the case here," Klein said.

The feeling of uncertainty was even more pronounced in considering reconfigurations for south Palo Alto, where the committee confronted a menu of high-priced options: hybrid design (estimated price tag: $190 million to $230 million), an underpass for cars and bikes and pedestrians ($340 million to $420 million), a viaduct ($400 million to $500 million) and a trench ($800 million to $950 million). It also considered — and eliminated — the idea of a south Palo Alto tunnel, which would cost between $1.2 billion and $1.8 billion, according to Aecom estimates.

"Because of this high cost, significant construction time and other drawbacks, XCAP unanimously decided to remove the tunnel alternatives from further deliberation," the report states.

When evaluating the remaining alternatives, the committee confronted a major design challenge: Each of these options was envisioned as a two-track alternative and, as such, may not meet Caltrain's requirements. That, Naik said, led the panel to decide unanimously that it needed more information before a majority could support any alternative.

"So instead, as a group, we decided to go through all the pros and cons to be able to really teach the council, in a way, what we learned about what really matters in the various alternatives, to at least help them be able to then continue to narrow it down," Naik said.

The trench alternative, for all of its popularity, poses particular challenges. To construct the trench for the train tracks, the city would need to build pump stations and divert Adobe and Barron creeks; gain Caltrain's permission for a 2% grade on the rail corridor (the agency's standard is 1% grade); and build shoo-fly tracks for trains to use during the construction period, which would last between five and six years. Supporters of this alternative observed that the trench would remove trains entirely from view and improve neighborhood aesthetics without requiring any acquisition of private property. Opponents noted that this is the most expensive alternative and raised concerns about how the structure would affect creeks and groundwater.

The viaduct also proved polarizing, with proponents noting that it could be built most quickly and that the land under the raised structure could be used for other purposes as a public benefit. Opponents pointed at the high visual impact of the elevated structure in a residential neighborhood — a criticism that they also extended to the "hybrid" alternative.

The underpass, which was only recently added to the menu, is the only option that would fully separate bikes and pedestrians from Alma Street, and its cost is expected to be lower than for the tunnel, trench and viaduct. But the underpass, which also includes a traffic circle on Charleston Road, would require more private properties to be acquired than any other option under consideration — a key factor for a council that has been reluctant to invoke eminent domain for grade separations.

The report recommends that the council selects Churchill closure as its preferred alternative; explore new bike and pedestrian crossings on Alma Street at Seale and Loma Verde avenues; and formalize outreach to the Palo Alto Unified School District, the bike community and other major stakeholders. XCAP is also recommending that the council launch a geotechnical and hydrology analysis, explore further road mitigations and engage with Menlo Park and Caltrain to explore a grade separation at Palo Alto Avenue, the city's northernmost rail crossing and one that it hopes to analyze as part of a future downtown study.

Partnerships, clear communication and strong advocacy are particularly critical given uncertainty over funding. Klein noted that unless the city comes up with the huge sums of money to pay for grade separations, the council's role in the process will be that of an advocate rather than a decision-maker.

Naik concurred.

"What's become more urgent is the need to be able to think about both the needs of Palo Alto and reach out to our neighboring cities and regionally to be able to figure out how to tackle problems together," Naik said. "It's not just Palo Alto. All 41 remaining grade separations would need to be completed for Caltrain to reach its goal. … If we band together, we have the best chance for attracting dollars and getting things done."

View the full report:

The report can also be viewed here.

Comments

Since_1978
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Mar 16, 2021 at 10:09 am
Since_1978, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Mar 16, 2021 at 10:09 am

There's a typo: "Measure B, which Santa Clara County voters approved in 2016, allocates about $700 billion (BILLION?) to Palo Alto, Mountain View and Sunnyvale for grade separations, though the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority has yet to determine how to distribute these funds."


Gennady Sheyner
Registered user
Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
on Mar 16, 2021 at 10:11 am
Gennady Sheyner, Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
Registered user
on Mar 16, 2021 at 10:11 am

Thanks you, @Since_1978. Sorry for the error. It's been corrected.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 16, 2021 at 11:21 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Mar 16, 2021 at 11:21 am

Why aren't all of us living near Embarcadero considered "major stakeholders" given how many of us will be effected by the likely increase in Embarcadero traffic if Churchill is closed??


Sorry to hear this
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Mar 16, 2021 at 12:38 pm
Sorry to hear this, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Mar 16, 2021 at 12:38 pm

I don't understand. If we close Churchill to traffic, then it automatically becomes safer. Why do we need to build a tunnel for pedestrian and bike safety? I don't recall any bicyclists getting hit by a train? And no pedestrians who were merely walking from one side to the other getting hit by a train? Genuine question: Why do we need to spend money for a tunnel that is solving for a problem that doesn't exist?


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2021 at 1:13 pm
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Mar 16, 2021 at 1:13 pm

There's a lot of reading here and a lot to take in and digest. I'm not sure of my opinion on this.

But, and this is an important but, if this were to be done, the only sensible thing would be to ensure that Alma traffic can reach Sand Hill by directly crossing ECR without obstruction and the need for U turns on ECR.

My preferred route to Stanford if using Alma is Churchill. It makes sense to me to avoid many traffic lights and other problems if coming from South Palo Alto. If Churchill is closed, I would need to use congested routes to cross the tracks and a closure of Churchill would add much more traffic to the other routes. Through traffic is prevented from crossing ECR at Alma and all traffic is forced to turn right and then U turn. This makes for traffic having to avoid that intersection and use Churchill!

So please put that ECR bottleneck into the mix. We want efficient traffic flow, not forced U turns.


Neighbor 600 ft from Castilleja
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Mar 16, 2021 at 1:35 pm
Neighbor 600 ft from Castilleja, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Mar 16, 2021 at 1:35 pm

Thank you XCAP for spending hours and hours meeting and deliberating on all the possible options for grade separations. I come away (after attending monthly meetings) with the feeling that because of safety and having to grade separate trains from roads, that closing Churchill with mitigations is a solution that we can "LIVE WITH". Of course Larry Klein stated that with unlimited money and time there could be another option, but at some point (which is now) a decision needs to be made. More trains and mass transit is coming! No more suicides on the train track in Palo Alto! We need to start the heavy lifting now. Get the proposals out, line up the final design criteria, hopefully get infrastructure $$$ from Congress, and start building it. Doing nothing and getting stuck in the Palo Alto process just delays the inevitable. XCAP has spoken, City Council needs to back up their hard work and proceed with the grade separations.


cmarg
Registered user
Palo Alto High School
on Mar 16, 2021 at 3:09 pm
cmarg, Palo Alto High School
Registered user
on Mar 16, 2021 at 3:09 pm

I do hope that the proposal by Castilleja is put on hold until a decision is made about Churchill. Clearly the traffic on Embarcadero would be overwhelming if both proposals are voted forward!


Be realistic
Registered user
Charleston Meadows
on Mar 16, 2021 at 3:10 pm
Be realistic, Charleston Meadows
Registered user
on Mar 16, 2021 at 3:10 pm

Look how the city is being messed up again. Isn't it obvious that closing streets like that makes traffic congestion even WORSE than it is now? With Churchill closed, you have to either go downtown, or try to make it from Alma into Page Mill. Good luck with both.

Someone above: "If we close Churchill to traffic, then it automatically becomes safer."
Yeah ... right. Let us close more streets and be safe and sit at home not going to work, or anywhere. Why? Because the roads are closed, genius.
In normal cities they try to facilitate the flow of traffic by making over- and under-passes. If they do not have money for that, they do not build new police headquarters and bike overpasses for +$20 M (in 2019).


Osman Hossain
Registered user
Community Center
on Mar 16, 2021 at 4:50 pm
Osman Hossain, Community Center
Registered user
on Mar 16, 2021 at 4:50 pm

When is going to be completed?


Osman Hossain
Registered user
Community Center
on Mar 16, 2021 at 4:51 pm
Osman Hossain, Community Center
Registered user
on Mar 16, 2021 at 4:51 pm

What year is going to be completed?


Staying Young Through Kids
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Mar 16, 2021 at 5:30 pm
Staying Young Through Kids, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Mar 16, 2021 at 5:30 pm

The idea that we must avoid the use of private residential lots are hard to comprehend. Taking a lot by eminent domain should be avoided, but simply buying the land at a "make me move" price is always an option!

The city or rail authority could offer 2-3x the current value of the perhaps 20-30 private residential lots needed in Palo Alto and it wouldn't even hit $80 million.

With that extra space many different (more creative), and potentially far less expensive ideas could have been explored. Sometimes you have to spend a little to save a lot.


Staying Young Through Kids
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Mar 16, 2021 at 5:56 pm
Staying Young Through Kids, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Mar 16, 2021 at 5:56 pm

I am grateful for the efforts of the committee and thank every one of them for their time and dedication to this study. What a chore!

While I heartily disagree with the idea of closing Churchill, I really appreciate that they see the need to revamp the 100 year old Embarcadero underpass at Alma. Even if Churchill stays open that needs to happen.

The city currently has only 7 roads crossing the tracks. Eliminating Churchill represents a loss of 14% of our vehicle crossings. It's a decision to close a crossing in a city that needs MORE crossings, not fewer...I don't get it.

All of this makes me quite eager to hear how the Alma crossing going to ECR in North Palo Alto will be handled. Closure there would mean really insane traffic on University and Embarcadero. The city must let us know those plans before committing to the closure of Churchill.

Many people, including me, complained about the idea of a raised berm / wall for the trains. It would be "a big ugly wall dividing the city" we complained. At this point I'd gladly take that wall with 7-12 crossings (easy to add more) over any of these plans.


Hanky
Registered user
Southgate
on Mar 16, 2021 at 5:58 pm
Hanky, Southgate
Registered user
on Mar 16, 2021 at 5:58 pm

I grew up in Southgate; I've been a part of it's history as well as PA's. Perhaps, y'all need a West PA/Mayfield? Admittedly; "You can never go back". CalTrans/BART seem your only solution to N-S BA Mass-Transit desires. What other routes/courses are available? The Bay via a Ferry System - seems too slow? Closure of Churchhill, to me is DA (Dumb-Ass); it's the tail leading the dog.
No longer a Californian - I've seen/saw the handwriting on the wall and am now a Texan. Check out the "Apple Dome" - what a waste of space?


It.is.what.it.is
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2021 at 6:00 pm
It.is.what.it.is, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Mar 16, 2021 at 6:00 pm

This is a win for Paly students who bike and walk to school. That intersection is a disaster in the mornings. Plus, drivers come very close to hitting students each morning while the students are crossing Churchill to the Paly parking lot and there have indeed over the years been instances where cars have hit students. Churchill is also unsafe for the Paly bikers because the road is so narrow that cars are about 12 inches from the bicycles in the bike lanes. Meanwhile, cars on Alma are turning onto Churchill. After school is dangerous too for bicyclists on Churchill, as they have to sit in traffic with the cars in order to cross Alma.


Elementary Parent
Registered user
another community
on Mar 16, 2021 at 6:06 pm
Elementary Parent , another community
Registered user
on Mar 16, 2021 at 6:06 pm

I wish they would do something about the speeding on Alma between Meadow and Churchill. It's like a 65 mile zone somedays. For folks wanting to turn left on Alma south from Loma Verde or El Dorado it's a nightmare. Requests for looking into a traffic light or some sort of traffic speed regulation have gone on deaf ears. The traffic light near Grocery outlet is a total waste.


Mary Ruth Leen
Registered user
Midtown
on Mar 16, 2021 at 10:14 pm
Mary Ruth Leen, Midtown
Registered user
on Mar 16, 2021 at 10:14 pm

I am sure of my opinion. Do not close Churchill as it affects so many of us who live in Midtown as well as those on Embarcadero! It affects those who live south of Midtown as well!!
Do not do this.


Robert Neff
Registered user
Midtown
on Mar 16, 2021 at 10:28 pm
Robert Neff, Midtown
Registered user
on Mar 16, 2021 at 10:28 pm

Thank you to the XCAP committee for their work on this report. It's an enormous service to our community, requiring dedication, thought, and a lengthy time commitment. When I have attended your meetings I have seen this dedication and thoughtfulness. Thank you to:
Nadia Naik (Chair)
Larry Klein (Vice Chair)
Gregory Brail
Phil Burton
Tony Carrasco
Inyoung Cho
David Shen
Keith Reckdahl
Cari Templeton

20 months, and more than 1500 volunteer hours! Wow!

I hope our city council can take this report and finally make some decisions about grade separations.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 17, 2021 at 8:01 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Mar 17, 2021 at 8:01 am

The time spent by the volunteers, the 3 different city RR committee chairs and millions spent by the city on all those different traffic consultants producing studies with conflicting results doesn't necessarily get the what the community wants or needs -- as we've seen from many PA "studies" over the years where residents had to hire their own consultants to fight city hall's findings.

Recent case in point is what's happening with the proposed Casti expansion where re repeatedly heard "OH, we didn't look into THAT when considering traffic" and "Oh, we didn't think putting the Bryant driveway on Bryant might cause backups into Embarcadero."

Sid this latest committee consider what will happen if Churchill's closed while 5 years of Casti construction disrupts traffic on and near Embarcadero?


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2021 at 9:34 am
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Mar 17, 2021 at 9:34 am

Another question I wonder if they thought through.

How will closing the crossing affect parking on the residential streets near Alma/Churchill? All those Paly students, staff, parents, who need to visit the school will probably park and walk through the tunnel/bridge. I suspect parking will annoy residents on school days and particularly on Football days.


TimR
Registered user
Downtown North
on Mar 17, 2021 at 11:01 am
TimR, Downtown North
Registered user
on Mar 17, 2021 at 11:01 am

I use the par course on Alma in Menlo Park, which is right next the to tracks, giving me a good view of the trains as they pass. When they do, I stop too look at how many people are riding these days. Turns out, among all the cars, there's at most one person (mid-morning). How many millions are being wasted on all these empty trains? And isn't it time to start dealing with facts here about ridership, rather than relying on utopian-based myths about public transportation?


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 17, 2021 at 1:36 pm
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Mar 17, 2021 at 1:36 pm

Bystander - that is why RV's do not belong on ECR in a school zone. The educational systems are the big budget issue in this city and state. Transportation relative to educational institutions needs to be planned out and protected so that the overflow does not fall into the residential locations. Parking on ECR on game days needs to ne open and available to the participants and their families. That is what our city is paying taxes for.


Jon Claerbout
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 17, 2021 at 6:35 pm
Jon Claerbout, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Mar 17, 2021 at 6:35 pm

City Hall drove many of us onto Churchill Street when they foolishly failed to connect the end of Alma St to the end of Sand Hill Road. Didn't they ever notice us South Palo Alto residents going to the hospital complex and going to the Stanford Shopping Center?


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 17, 2021 at 6:53 pm
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Mar 17, 2021 at 6:53 pm

If you close Churchill Road then the normal cross town traffic on Alma going to PAHS and SU will be pushed down to ECR. That will result in a lot of traffic on ECR which would normally be on Alma. the ECR traffic will now be more than double - all the more reason that all lanes must be available for auto traffic in that section accessing PAHS via Churchill from ECR. The parking lot for the PA Education Building and fields is off Churchill.


jlanders
Registered user
Barron Park
on Mar 17, 2021 at 7:18 pm
jlanders, Barron Park
Registered user
on Mar 17, 2021 at 7:18 pm

> City Hall drove many of us onto Churchill Street when they foolishly failed to connect the end of Alma St to the end of Sand Hill Road.

Thanks for the reminder! Sand Hill used be known as Willow Road. The route between 101 to 280 was once proposed as a new state highway. Then it wasn't. Then, again, it was. Then, finally, it wasn't. Here's part of the story from almost 25 years ago:

Web Link

Somewhere in the history of that intersection is a lesson that applies to our current grade separation project.


Nayeli
Registered user
Midtown
on Mar 17, 2021 at 7:19 pm
Nayeli, Midtown
Registered user
on Mar 17, 2021 at 7:19 pm

This will undoubtedly result in terrible traffic congestion at the other crossings. I still think that the T-crossing on Alma was the most logical option.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 19, 2021 at 12:41 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Mar 19, 2021 at 12:41 am

""If you want to facilitate movement, you don't close a crossing that gives you 10,000 crossings a day, because you would dump those, we would guess, 5,000 north to Embarcadero and 5,000 south to Oregon," Rob Levitsky, who lives on Emerson Street, told the committee Wednesday. "No mitigation or traffic study shows that you can just swallow those cars. That's ridiculous."

From comments on an earlier article here from January, Web Link

Do we have any hard numbers on how many cars would be diverted into the neighborhoods if traffic is diverted from Churchill??


Leslie York
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Mar 19, 2021 at 10:51 am
Leslie York, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Mar 19, 2021 at 10:51 am

"If you want to facilitate movement, you don't close a crossing that gives you 10,000 crossings a day"

Right.

The idea behind grade separation is to eliminate the contention between automobile and train traffic. As it stands, cars cannot traverse the crossing a small percentage of the time when the gates are down for passing trains. The gates are down a few minutes total per hour. By closing Churchill the crossing would be impassable 100% of the time, reducing the throughput of the crossing from maybe 70% to ZERO while surrounding streets become clogged with diverted traffic.

Have they thought about how emergency vehicles will be affected, or school district vehicles (they cross that intersection A LOT).

In my years at Paly there was never, repeat, never a car vs. ped or car vs. bike accident — or train vs. car, bike or ped. The bulk of the suicides do not occur at Churchill. Closing the intersection will be no panacea. Suicides will simply take place elsewhere.

I'm not buying Caltain's blue-sky projections of so many trains per hour, even when the pandemic subsides. There isn't that much off-peak demand and those trains will be largely empty, and who knows if CAHSR will ever materialize on the peninsula. Right now it's vaporware.

This is what happens when city planning is left to amateurs. Regardless of how much time and effort the committee has put in, if this plan is implemented, I predict you're going to have a lot of unhappy residents.

IMO the best solution is the do-nothing solution. Install quad gates but otherwise leave the crossing as it has been for decades. So you have to stop for trains every once in a while. It's not the end of the world.


Me 2
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Mar 19, 2021 at 3:22 pm
Me 2, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Mar 19, 2021 at 3:22 pm

This is what happens when the council prevented XCAP for considering the only option that could address everything except for cost, but it would have been an investment that would transform Palo Alto for the better - tunneling.



William Hitchens
Registered user
Mountain View
on Mar 19, 2021 at 3:53 pm
William Hitchens, Mountain View
Registered user
on Mar 19, 2021 at 3:53 pm

This is total madness. Next they'll want to close the Alma railroad crossing where it reaches El Camino Real. Just WHAT are they thinking??? Are they even thinking?


eileen
Registered user
College Terrace
on Mar 19, 2021 at 5:08 pm
eileen , College Terrace
Registered user
on Mar 19, 2021 at 5:08 pm

Tunneling could have turned Palo Alto into a world-class city. I wish we could put the train underground with beautiful parks, bike paths, apartments, offices, and retail above.
As usual, we are just doing a patchwork fix and not looking ahead 50 years!
If we could get funding from all the big stakeholders (Large Corporations) we could do this!


Citizen
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2021 at 5:36 pm
Citizen , Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Mar 19, 2021 at 5:36 pm

@eileen,
I am 1000% in agreement with you. People are being pennywise and pound foolish above.

Even if the project costs $1 billion, they're usually financed over 30 years or through bonds. Divided by 30, then by the tens of thousands of parcels, it's not much more than a typical school bond.

Additionally, it's about time we had a business tax to help pay for it, since the businesses have been benefiting and will again. It doesn't have to be odious, but between a large-business tax and already-voted-in state funds, we should be able to afford this. It would be well worth it.

The committee clearly wasn't thinking at all about emergency-event SAFETY. In the event of a major fire, accident, earthquake + inevitable fires, terrorism, school shooting (heaven forbid, but we know they can happen), the missing crossing will equate to lives lost as emergency crews navigate clogged streets and no crossings, and those trying to evacuate have clogged streets nowhere to get across. A crossing that can be opened in an emergency only is an accident waiting to happen -- whenever emergency planners say "in the event of an emergency, WE CAN ALWAYS ..." (fill in the blank with whatever numbskull thing will result in lives lost because it doesn't work out when bad things actually happen), anyone who cares about safety needs to stop them because it's guaranteed loss of life if they don't.

(Just an example, Oakland Firestorm destroyed 3000 homes in Oakland only a few hundred in Berkeley, because Oakland had a different hose fitting than all surround communities and mutual aid couldn't plug in until they had adapters. Some numbskull decided WE CAN ALWAYS hand out adapters. 25 people would be alive today and thousands of homes saved if someone had the smarts to recognize that inclination as the enemy of safety.)

A tunnel would be worth it. It's expensive, but not more than we can afford if we decide to do it. A capital campaign could also help.


community member
Registered user
University South
on Mar 19, 2021 at 6:49 pm
community member, University South
Registered user
on Mar 19, 2021 at 6:49 pm

The over-representation of development interests (Klein, Carrasco, Templeton) could account for the outcome. Nearby residents are overwhelmingly against closure.

Nadia Naik (Chair)
Larry Klein (Vice Chair)
Gregory Brail
Phil Burton
Tony Carrasco
Inyoung Cho
David Shen
Keith Reckdahl
Cari Templeton


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 19, 2021 at 7:30 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Mar 19, 2021 at 7:30 pm

The City Council is meeting on the Churchill closure on Monday so PLEASE write to them and tell them how this makes NO sense and will hurt the community by diverting 7,000 NEW vehicle trips onto Embarcadero and Oregon which are already jammed.

Write them at [email protected]

Re this group representing developer interests, this new City Council is beginning to fight back against what Pat Burt called "putting one's thumb on the scale" when staff ignores reality to bias its findings. Maybe they're just going through the motions to appease the community but maybe they really are finally growing a spine and fighting back, Let's hope so.

Please let them know what folly closing Churchill would be.


Leslie York
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Mar 19, 2021 at 10:34 pm
Leslie York, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Mar 19, 2021 at 10:34 pm

The concept of putting the trains in a tunnel has been discussed here many, many times over the years. It would face myriad obstacles, not the least of which is whether Caltrain would agree to have its trains and two stations submerged.

Do you even know who owns the land under the RR tracks? Hint: it isn't the City of Palo Alto. You can't build a park, shopping center, housing, dog run, bike path, etc. on land you don't own.


Me 2
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Mar 19, 2021 at 10:38 pm
Me 2, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Mar 19, 2021 at 10:38 pm

"The City Council is meeting on the Churchill closure on Monday so PLEASE write to them and tell them how this makes NO sense and will hurt the community by diverting 7,000 NEW vehicle trips onto Embarcadero and Oregon which are already jammed."

No, unless you support tunneling.

Then I might consider it.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Menlo Park
on Mar 20, 2021 at 7:58 am
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park
Registered user
on Mar 20, 2021 at 7:58 am

If this is done one crossing at a time it will be very expensive, take a long time and result in a dis-integrated design.

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

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

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

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

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

A piecemeal approach will be very expensive.

Do it once and do it right.


Hinrich
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Mar 20, 2021 at 9:32 am
Hinrich, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Mar 20, 2021 at 9:32 am

There are no easy answers but tunneling is the most sensible. Current congestion is not just one crossing but city wide and as others have commented, closing Churchill would shift unacceptable loads to other streets which are already overcrowded. Tunneling - putting the train below and more crossings, parks, parking and residential above is the best option. It's a big project but would definitely be a great benefit for PA's next hundred years


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 20, 2021 at 10:00 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Mar 20, 2021 at 10:00 am

Caltrain is a huge project from SF to Gilroy. In San Mateo County the city depots are already being updated. The train is on a elevated berm with road tunnels below. You can't make a decision for Palo Alto that conflicts with every other city that is already adjusting their city interface with the train. IF there is any tunneling than it would be specific to PA and you do not have the money for that. You can't sit in PA and make grandiose projections that only affect this city. You also have a county problem. There are three counties that use the train. The other counties have adjusted and are adjusting to the train interface.

The best bet for PA is to have a below track tunnel that is height adjusted for certain trucks and busses. Drive up ECR through San Mateo County. The major streets go under the tracks. It is very well done.


Leslie York
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Mar 20, 2021 at 11:12 am
Leslie York, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Mar 20, 2021 at 11:12 am

Peter Carpenter: you've been singing this same song for at least five years now and each time you tout your grandiose pipe dream, the myriad obstacles it faces are pointed out to you. Enough already!

It's been explained to you time and again that PCJPB (Caltrain) owns the right-of-way and are unlikely to relinquish it as I pointed out above. Again, you can't develop land you don't own or have the right to develop.

Palo Alto would be the only peninsula city considering a train tunnel. Burlingame considered it and they were smart enough to abandon the idea. If your idea applies only to PA then you have to deal with the issues of submerging two stations owned by PCJPB, as well as getting the trains above grade in Mountain View and Menlo Park and the non-trivial task of crossing San Francisquito creek, which has already been studied and discarded by CPA. If not confined to Palo Alto you'd have to convince how many municipalities in three counties to go along with your idea? San Carlos is already grade separated so cross it off the list.

The idea of a train tunnel is infeasible no matter how many times you bring it up. It's time to put the delusion aside.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Menlo Park
on Mar 20, 2021 at 12:10 pm
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park
Registered user
on Mar 20, 2021 at 12:10 pm

Leslie - please explain how BART can go for miles under the Bay and a tunnel could not go below tiny San Francisquito Creek.


Leslie York
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Mar 20, 2021 at 1:12 pm
Leslie York, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Mar 20, 2021 at 1:12 pm

"please explain how BART can go for miles under the Bay and a tunnel could not go below tiny San Francisquito Creek."

BART goes through a tube which sits on the floor of the bay. It doesn't go through a tunnel under the floor of the bay.

I'm no expert but I'm sure you'd find the water currents in S.F. creek are much stronger than those in the bay where the BART tube is located, especially during a heavy storm, so you wouldn't put a tube on the floor of S.F. creek.

If your tunnel idea is confined to Palo Alto, where are you going to bring the tracks back to the surface so they can service Menlo Park and points north, or Mountain View and points south?

This was analyzed and discussed in some detail by the former Palo Alto city manager. Google is your friend.

BTW, I believe there is already fiber embedded into the Caltrain ROW.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 20, 2021 at 2:52 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Mar 20, 2021 at 2:52 pm

According to the front-page article in another paper, "XCAP Chair Nadia Naik said she wished her committee had been given authority to study the Alma crossing, too."

Who denied the committee the authority to conduct a full and unbiased review and why?

The impact on our community of closing Churchill will be huge and even more infuriating knowing it was based on a biased, incomplete study!

Again, please tell City Council this is wrong and not to dump thousands of new car trips into our neighborhoods. [email protected]


Me 2
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Mar 20, 2021 at 3:02 pm
Me 2, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Mar 20, 2021 at 3:02 pm

"Who denied the committee the authority to conduct a full and unbiased review and why? "

City council set the boundaries on what could be evaluated.

"The impact on our community of closing Churchill will be huge and even more infuriating knowing it was based on a biased, incomplete study!"

Yep. Tunnel wasn't considered. Given that, it appears that Churchill closing is the next best alternative. That's what you get when you take the best option off the table.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Menlo Park
on Mar 20, 2021 at 3:28 pm
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park
Registered user
on Mar 20, 2021 at 3:28 pm

Here is a 5 mile tunnel that was bored under the South Bay:

Web Link


Leslie York
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Mar 20, 2021 at 4:04 pm
Leslie York, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Mar 20, 2021 at 4:04 pm

"Here is a 5 mile tunnel that was bored under the South Bay"

Caltrain doesn't run under the bay. How does this relate to Palo Alto or the peninsula on terra firma?


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Menlo Park
on Mar 20, 2021 at 5:34 pm
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park
Registered user
on Mar 20, 2021 at 5:34 pm

"How does this relate to Palo Alto or the peninsula on terra firma?"

Simple - it demonstrates that bored tunnels can easily go beneath little things like a creek.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 20, 2021 at 7:07 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Mar 20, 2021 at 7:07 pm

""Who denied the committee the authority to conduct a full and unbiased review and why? "

City council set the boundaries on what could be evaluated."

Thanks. Interesting. When? The current CC or the last more pro-development one that denied PA had/has traffic problems?


Leslie York
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Mar 20, 2021 at 7:59 pm
Leslie York, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Mar 20, 2021 at 7:59 pm

"it demonstrates that bored tunnels can easily go beneath little things like a creek."

That was never in dispute. Where and how are you going to bring it back to the surface? It's doubtful you could tunnel the entire peninsula. San Carlos is already grade separated and Burlingame has already rejected the idea.


Be realistic
Registered user
Charleston Meadows
on Mar 21, 2021 at 12:23 am
Be realistic, Charleston Meadows
Registered user
on Mar 21, 2021 at 12:23 am

How long, do you think, a citizen of Japan, or China, or any more or less developed nation would laugh at this? They run a network of bullet trains 250 - 400 km/hr in the countryside and in the cities. In 50 years of its existence, the Japanese Shinkansen carried over 10 Billion (yes, with a "B") passengers.
Here a commission wasted two years and this is the result - close a street? What century is this? This is hopeless ...


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 21, 2021 at 2:50 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Mar 21, 2021 at 2:50 am

Since asking whether it was the old City Council or the present one, I've learned that it was the old one SO it's high time for the NEW City Council to just say no to XCAP's ridiculous recommendation to close Churchill and destroy traffic flow in much of PA and make it impossible to even cross El Camino.

Tell them NO.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Menlo Park
on Mar 21, 2021 at 8:59 am
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park
Registered user
on Mar 21, 2021 at 8:59 am

""it demonstrates that bored tunnels can easily go beneath little things like a creek."

York states "That was never in dispute."

However York previously stated:" If your idea applies only to PA then you have to deal with the issues of submerging two stations owned by PCJPB, as well as getting the trains above grade in Mountain View and Menlo Park and the non-trivial task of crossing San Francisquito creek,"


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 21, 2021 at 9:02 am
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Mar 21, 2021 at 9:02 am

Perhaps I am being selfish in this point of view. But as someone who has lived in Palo Alto for a long time and experienced long delays driving to various places in dreadful traffic hold-ups, this is a bad idea.

We need better traffic flow with efficient use of all crossings.

This has to be a bad idea.


Hinrich
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Mar 21, 2021 at 10:01 am
Hinrich, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Mar 21, 2021 at 10:01 am

The first problem to solve is to establish a broad powers peninsula authority with larger scale on longer planning than simply the parochial interests of PA. It's really a question of how people will navigate the peninsula long into the future - not just how do they cross Churchill. It would be a big leap to trust the neighbors to protect PAs interests even if PA could agree on what it wants to become and develop partnerships to get there. But the focus has to be broader. At present, everywhere that people want to go in town when they most want to go there is seriously congested with no easy fixes. The CC, busy giving away foothills and solving other global crises can't produce a good peninsula master plan by itself. But it could lead the way to forming the right regional authority.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 21, 2021 at 10:26 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Mar 21, 2021 at 10:26 am

People - the rest of the cities that have Caltrain have resolved their issues. San Mateo County - the rails are on a raised berm. The stations have been rebuilt with new parking lots. The crossings are under the berms. NO PROBLEM for them. Going south the MV station is co=located with the electrical rail system that goes to San Jose. Every one else has reconfigured their areas. RWC has massive new growth downtown directly next to the rails. All new building has been done and more in process.

PA has ended up with no changes because it keeps trying to drive a train for the whole system. Ideas which are not funded and have no agreement with other cities.
Problem with PA is that the rails are not on a raised berm but are on the flat land. Consider the underpass that limits the height of trucks - trucks which must then use The major crossings of San Antonio, Oregon, Embarcadero. That is probably the only option which you can get any agreement from Caltrain on. They own the system. They call the shots.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 21, 2021 at 11:22 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Mar 21, 2021 at 11:22 am

Side note on BART - the BART system goes next to the old coliseum in Oakland. They have rails and a freeway. But NO - does not count for them. Build a new coliseum at the port - a revenue generating location for the city with massive ship traffic, put in more freeway approaches, disrupt the whole port system, add a new BART stop. Look at the total disruption and money spent with all of the projected delays. If they simply torn down the old coliseum and built a new one on the same spot as the old system then they would have a transit available location with all of the new amenities they want.

Bottom line is that people keep thinking up all types of distractions which are used to delay a project. This project is a straight forward project using available rights of way at the least expense. It is an excellent idea and will help sustain the Amtrak system in the east bay as a connecting system.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 21, 2021 at 11:55 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Mar 21, 2021 at 11:55 am

This Staff report from the City Manager's office (Apr 2019) lays out parameters for Council's proposed role with XCAP where there's NOTHING about the need for accurate traffic counts and the likely impact on various areas. He's more concerned with MINIMIZING neighborhood CONCERNS rather than dealing with reasons for their/our JUSTIFIED concerns.

Web Link

Mr. Shikada ensures that big stakeholders -- Stanford Research Park, Stanford University, Stanford Medical, the Chamber of Commerce, etc. -- are named to XCAP but not the residents/taxpayers

I wonder if the last council even bothered to read Mr. Shikada's charge to XCAP before they approved it. Maybe the new council can finally get it right.

Details matter!


Leslie York
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Mar 21, 2021 at 11:58 am
Leslie York, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Mar 21, 2021 at 11:58 am

"The first problem to solve is to establish a broad powers peninsula authority"

One already exists. All you have to do is get a dozen and a half municipalities in three counties on the same page. And fund it.

"If your idea applies only to PA then you have to deal with the issues of submerging two stations owned by PCJPB, as well as getting the trains above grade in Mountain View and Menlo Park and the non-trivial task of crossing San Francisquito creek"

Peter Carpenter: you keep dodging the question of how to get the trains into and out of your tunnel, short of tunneling the entire peninsula.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Menlo Park
on Mar 21, 2021 at 12:05 pm
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park
Registered user
on Mar 21, 2021 at 12:05 pm

"Peter Carpenter: you keep dodging the question of how to get the trains into and out of your tunnel, short of tunneling the entire peninsula."

My proposal is clear:

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

We should think of this right of way as an integrated multi-modal communications spine FOR THE PENINSULA.

A piecemeal approach will be very expensive.

Do it once and do it right.


Leslie York
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Mar 21, 2021 at 12:48 pm
Leslie York, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Mar 21, 2021 at 12:48 pm

"My proposal is clear"

Peter Carpenter:

Same idea as five years ago and it's no more feasible now than it was then. What have you done in those 5 years to advance your grand vision?

How many times must it be explained to you that the chances of PCJPB allowing development on that land are just about zero.

As stated above, even if you can solve all the engineering issues, all you have to do is get a dozen and a half municipalities in three counties on the same page. And fund it. Once again, Burlingame has rejected a tunnel and San Carlos and Sunnyvale are already grade separated.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Menlo Park
on Mar 21, 2021 at 12:56 pm
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park
Registered user
on Mar 21, 2021 at 12:56 pm

"How many times must it be explained to you that the chances of PCJPB allowing development on that land are just about zero."

Air rights above transit corridors are a well established process and exceedingly beneficial to both the property owner and the lessee of such air rights.

"Railroads and air rights
Railroads were the first companies to realize the potential of making money from their air rights. A good example of this is Grand Central Terminal in New York City, where William J. Wilgus, chief engineer of the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad, devised a plan to earn profit from air rights. At first, the railroad simply constructed a platform above the rail yards to allow for the development of buildings overhead. By 1954, the railroad began to realize it could sell more air rights and Grand Central Terminal was proposed to be replaced by a 50-story tower. This is how the MetLife Building came to be built next to the station, after public protest regarding the demolition of Grand Central Terminal.[15] This approach has been used in Chicago since the construction of the Prudential Building in 1955 above active railroad tracks of the Illinois Central Railroad.[16] In 2017, to the west of the Chicago River, River Point and 150 North Riverside were built above tracks leading to the Amtrak station.

Building on platforms over railroad tracks is still potentially very profitable. In the mid-2000s, New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) attempted to sell air rights to the New York Jets so that they could build the West Side Stadium over Manhattan's West Side Yard, near Penn Station, as part of the Hudson Yards Redevelopment. The Hudson Yards mega-development was eventually built over the rail yard. In Brooklyn, the Barclays Center and Pacific Park have been constructed over Atlantic Yards."

Web Link


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 21, 2021 at 1:34 pm
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Mar 21, 2021 at 1:34 pm

Peter - you forgot Amtrak. Those rails are Amtrak rails, Caltrain rails, and the Union Pacific rails. If we can get the Dumbarton Bridge rail line we can bring Amtrack over. That would be super - - Amtrack has a stop at AT&T park.


SEN
Registered user
Southgate
on Mar 21, 2021 at 1:58 pm
SEN, Southgate
Registered user
on Mar 21, 2021 at 1:58 pm

As a resident of Southgate, which would lose all but one route in and out of the neighborhood, I dearly hope folks who oppose closure of Churchill will show up to the City Council meeting this week. However, I want to alert you that THE MEETING IS SCHEDULED FOR TUESDAY, instead of the usual Monday. The date is March 23 and the meeting starts at 5 pm.

FYI, Tuesday's meeting is the first of two that will review the XCAP report. Stay tuned for the date of the second one, probably in late March or early April.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 21, 2021 at 2:34 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Mar 21, 2021 at 2:34 pm

Thanks, Sen. I thought the meeting was Monday, not Tuesday at 5PM.

Good point about not being able to get out of our neighborhoods. If they close Churchill, none of us will ever be able to cross El Camino.

Our dog will also be crushed because we'll never be able to get to the nice new Peers Park dog park to see his buddies.


Leslie York
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Mar 21, 2021 at 3:55 pm
Leslie York, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Mar 21, 2021 at 3:55 pm

Guess who owns the air rights on the Caltrain right of way. CALTRAIN! (Actually PCJPB)!

Amtrak has never used the peninsula route, ever, since its inception in 1971. The first thing Amtrak did in 1971was to divert the former S.P. long-distance trains from the peninsula up the east bay through Oakland.


Shameful conduct of PTC
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Mar 21, 2021 at 4:28 pm
Shameful conduct of PTC, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Mar 21, 2021 at 4:28 pm

To all the naysayers about Church of Churchhill closure with mitigations,I recommend that you go observe the hundreds of bicyclists riding bikes to Pali in the morning and returning home from Pali in the afternoon. There are a few bicyclists to try to out run the train arm to get across the tracks as the train arm is going down for a train to pass by. In exiting Paly, a large number of bicyclists ride their bikes directly into oncoming traffic going west, bicyclist going east. There are so many near misses every day, this is so unsafe and we are putting us kids at risk everyday for the convenience of a small no of motorists. We can all live with a small inconvenience for the greater good.


Be realistic
Registered user
Charleston Meadows
on Mar 21, 2021 at 5:11 pm
Be realistic, Charleston Meadows
Registered user
on Mar 21, 2021 at 5:11 pm

All crossings are potentially unsafe. Close all of them?


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Menlo Park
on Mar 21, 2021 at 5:17 pm
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park
Registered user
on Mar 21, 2021 at 5:17 pm

"All crossings are potentially unsafe. Close all of them?"

No, eliminate ALL grade level crossings entirely by either elevating the tracks or by putting the tracks underground.

Piecemeal solutions will be costly and have profound negative impacts on the adjacent circulation patterns.


Paly Grad
Registered user
Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 21, 2021 at 5:41 pm
Paly Grad, Leland Manor/Garland Drive
Registered user
on Mar 21, 2021 at 5:41 pm

Adding a new bicycle and pedestrian crossing on Alma Street at Seale is mentioned in the article and is a great idea which I hope will be thoroughly explored! The underground bicycle and pedestrian crossing at North California could also be updated!


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 21, 2021 at 7:04 pm
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Mar 21, 2021 at 7:04 pm

Yes - Amtrak goes through Oakland and then comes down by the bay through Alviso to a depot near the stadium and Great America. Then goes on through to SJ. If we are upgrading all of the transportation them having the Amtrak have a route through the Dumbarton Bridge then down the peninsula is another possibility for the people who use the Capital Corridor. The rails are there.


Palo Alto Res
Registered user
Downtown North
on Mar 22, 2021 at 6:29 am
Palo Alto Res, Downtown North
Registered user
on Mar 22, 2021 at 6:29 am

The XCAP committee made this recommendation. How many of the XCAP committee live near Churchill and have. a personal vested interest in shutting down Churchill car traffic?

Another commuter route is being closed off and congesting the remaining routes between 2 sections of the city. Not great disaster planning for available arteries for car movement.


Leslie York
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Mar 22, 2021 at 7:19 pm
Leslie York, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Mar 22, 2021 at 7:19 pm

"Costs were a major factor in XCAP's decision. Closing Churchill and adding a pedestrian/bike tunnel along with various traffic improvements on Embarcadero and Oregon would cost between $50 million and $65 million, according to the report. A partial underpass would cost between $160 million and $200 million, while the viaduct comes with a price tag of between $300 million and $400 million."

It looks like all XCAP did was to pick the cheapest option. One wonders how much consideration was given to the negative impacts that have been raised here. This is what happens when amateurs are involved.

You're going to have a lot of unhappy residents if this goes through.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 22, 2021 at 7:47 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Mar 22, 2021 at 7:47 pm

Tonight CC's meeting doesn't show Traffic as a major priority. Instead, they've made Wellness and Mindfulness a major priority. Perhaps they can cure our fury during the new Wellness Wednesday's which will of course require more tax dollars, more staffing and more resources. (YCMTSU)


Staying Young Through Kids
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Mar 23, 2021 at 2:13 pm
Staying Young Through Kids, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Mar 23, 2021 at 2:13 pm

Ironic that a new commuter rail line (Dumbarton) that might, possibly, perhaps serve 20,000 people a day is worth $3B, but a road that serves 10,000 vehicles a day isn't worth a dime.


JC
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Mar 23, 2021 at 5:21 pm
JC, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Mar 23, 2021 at 5:21 pm

There is a solution to elevated tracks as an eyesore.....Are you ready?????
LANDSCAPING!!!!!


Please Don't
Registered user
College Terrace
on Mar 24, 2021 at 3:33 pm
Please Don't, College Terrace
Registered user
on Mar 24, 2021 at 3:33 pm

How about you fix El Camino roads first? Pot hole city out there.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 25, 2021 at 5:06 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Mar 25, 2021 at 5:06 am

If you are going to go to the trouble of creating bike paths which in the picture is ugly then just expand the size for an underpass for a car or SUV. Note that the entrance to the garage at city hall on the Ramona side is limited to 6'6". This is not that hard to do. They figured out to do it in San Mateo so assume that someone out there is proficient in creating underpasses. of a limited size vehicle. WE are not going to run major busses or trucks on Churchill except for the fields which would approach from ECR..


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 25, 2021 at 5:31 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Mar 25, 2021 at 5:31 am

The Caltrain People are experts at what they do - have the big equipment. Get a meeting with them and find out what they think of limited underpasses. Recognize that the PA Transportation people are not trained for big projects and do not have the right equipment. We do not seem to be working with the right information. Get feed back from the people who are going to do the job.


Yuen Tsau
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 25, 2021 at 8:32 am
Yuen Tsau, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Mar 25, 2021 at 8:32 am

Simple solution.

Build elevated hydraulic-driven steel drawbridge over tracks.

When the tracks are clear, there is no need for the bridge to raise.

Steel readily available from China and the engineering is elementary.


Dick D.
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Mar 25, 2021 at 8:58 pm
Dick D., Crescent Park
Registered user
on Mar 25, 2021 at 8:58 pm

My thoughts boil down to the notion of raising the RR as they have successfully done in San Carlos. Was this considered? In looking at costs, was the financial impact on the rest of the community included or ignored?

Just asking


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