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Where the Palo Alto City Council candidates stand on rail crossings

Which designs do this year's political hopefuls support?

Traffic waits on Churchill Avenue for a southbound Caltrain at the Churchill train crossing on March 21, 2019. Photo by Veronica Weber.

Election season is in full swing across Palo Alto, where campaign signs are becoming more noticeable across town.

To assist local voters in their decision at the ballot box, the Weekly asked this year's seven City Council candidates to fill out questionnaires about their qualifications, vision for the city and priorities if elected. They also explained where they stand on housing, climate change, rail crossings and policing and crime, among other topics.

The candidates' answers on all these topics will be published as separate articles, one per day, through Sept. 19. Here's what they had to say to the following question: Which designs do you support for Palo Alto's rail crossings? How can we actually get this work done?

Doria Summa. Courtesy Doria Summa.

Doria Summa

I currently support the following overall approach:

• Palo Alto Avenue and the Transit Center crossings need to be coordinated and part of the Downtown Area Plan to ensure consistency.

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• Churchill will be best served by a partial underpass to reduce impacts on nearby streets and neighborhoods and should include a bike/ped crossing near Seale.

• East Meadow and Charleston need to be treated identically and at the same time due to their proximity to each other. I support an underpass for both.

• There should be additional bike/ped crossings in the vicinity of Loma Verde/Matadero Creek and near Adobe Creek.

However, before final decisions are made, we need to evaluate the results of geotechnical tests that are underway, and work with Caltrain to address the issue of modernizing their technical requirements and dealing with the issue of passing tracks.

Given the scope, cost, and complexity of the project, the three bike/ped crossings should be constructed first. This is consistent with the bicycle/pedestrian Master Plan and will provide additional crossing options during the lengthy construction period.

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I support the business tax in order to have local funding available to access the 2016 Measure B money and pursue State and Federal funding opportunities. Throughout the development of these projects, we must have robust communication and resident engagement.

Vicki Veenker

Vicki Veenker. Courtesy Vicki Veenker.

Palo Alto's at-grade (street level) rail crossings are a threat to public safety and cause traffic back-ups, which will worsen when Caltrain electrification increases the number of trains. To address this, we should eliminate at-grade crossings and separate trains from other modes of transportation, such as cars, bikes, and pedestrians. Whether trains go up or down, other modes go under the tracks, or roads get closed, there are different tradeoffs in different neighborhoods.

At the Churchill crossing next to Palo Alto High School, I support pursuing the community-generated partial underpass option, where turning lanes onto Churchill from Alma would go under the tracks and a separate bike/pedestrian crossing would be constructed nearby. To further evaluate this option, we need the results of the geotechnical assessment, and we should continue to engage with key stakeholders including the School District, the Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee, and Stanford.

At the Meadow and Charleston crossings, I prefer exploring underground options instead of elevating trains, if the geotechnical analysis supports this. I lean toward the vehicle underpass designs under review because of the expense of trenching to put trains below grade and the dewatering required. However, we need to refine and integrate the associated bike/pedestrian designs. Like Churchill, we need continued community outreach and to work with Caltrain to review how updated technical standards could help improve the designs being considered.

The Palo Alto Avenue crossing is close enough to the University Avenue Station that it should be reviewed as part of a coordinated area plan.

To make this happen, in addition to the above, we need to access funding from the proposed business tax, earmarked Measure B dollars, and state and federal dollars dependent on local dollars and having a plan.

Julie Lythcott-Haims

Julie Lythcott-Haims. Courtesy photo.

It's a fact that the CalTrain will be electrified throughout the corridor before Palo Alto gets its grade separations completed, bringing more trains per hour through our city which will result in outright gridlock at our four crossings, as well as harmful emissions and public safety hazards.

Alas, that horse has left the barn!

Of 113 crossings in the corridor, at least 71 are done. Clearly, other cities have made their hard choices. Why haven't we? As an outsider this strikes me as a clear example of trying to serve many masters accustomed to local control, and failing to lead.

We need to take immediate action to start the construction of the Partial Underpass Alternative at the Churchill intersection, where traffic could back up to increased lines of 10-12 minutes without grade separation. At the Charleston and Meadow intersections, City Council has narrowed down the options to Hybrid, Underpass, and Trench. I worry about what the trench will do to creeks/water flow. I believe the visual barrier created by Hybrid will further segment and separate the east of the city from the west. Therefore I prefer the Underpass. It keeps the train where it is and allows cars, bikes, and pedestrians to go under in well-designed routes with

proven roundabouts that are logical and safe. Before Charleston and Meadow construction begins, however, we need to put in bike/pedestrian crossings at Seale and Matadero/Loma Verde so that students can get to Gunn.

Lisa Forssell

Lisa Forssell. Courtesy Lisa Forssell.

One of the most urgent things Palo Alto needs to do is create plans for grade separations at Palo Alto's four Caltrain crossings at Meadow, Charleston, Churchill, and Palo Alto Ave. I favor the designs that increase bicycle and pedestrian safety and convenience - ideally with completely separate paths - while still offering vehicle access.

City Council needs to approve a specific design ASAP and allocate funding.

I support the proposed business tax which will provide funds for these grade separations. Palo Alto can then tap into its $350M allocation from Santa Clara County's 2016 Measure B. With a shovel-ready project the City can apply for additional state and federal funds as well.

With a design and funding, we have what we need to begin construction.

Ed Lauing

Ed Lauing. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

I support continuing the refinement of the Partial Underpass for Churchill because it addresses the vehicular needs without moving cars into another neighborhood. The bicycle/pedestrian portion specifically needs further refinement, and I support a robust outreach process working closely with stakeholders including PAUSD, PABAC and Stanford.

Caltrain is upgrading its technical standards, and the geotechnical work underway will help continue to inform the alternatives for Meadow/Charleston. In the meantime, we must prepare for years of construction. That's why I support additional bike/pedestrian rail crossings in the area of Loma Verde/Matadero Creek, near Adobe Creek/Alma and at Seale/Alma, before the grade separations are built, to provide safe passage during the expected years of construction. This has been a priority for years in the Comprehensive Plan, the Bicycle Transportation Plan and the Rail Corridor Study as well as XCAP.

How can we actually get this work done?

+ We need to ensure that Caltrain updates itsr technical and operating standards ASAP. Modernizing the standards can help LOWER costs and improve the design of all grade separations along the line. For certain city decisions and process, including construction cost estimates, we remain dependent on what they eventually decide.

+ For the Palo Alto Ave./Alma crossing we need to fund the work needed for a Downtown Coordinated Area Plan to consider transportation and land use in a cohesive and cost-efficient manner.

+ Funding

Palo Alto will receive $350 Million from Measure B. That money requires a local match.

An approved business tax by voters would provide an estimated $3.3M per year for 35 years =$115M.

Together, these funding sources would allow us to pursue significant State and Federal funding opportunities to complete these critical projects.

Brian Hamachek. Courtesy Brian Hamachek.

Brian Hamachek

This is a very simple issue to me. We need to underground the train tracks. I realize that Council has already ruled out this option, but I feel that was a mistake. All other options either divide the city in two or create an unreasonable traffic burden. Undergrounding the train is without a doubt an expensive proposition, but I feel it is well worth the expense.

Alex Comsa

Alex Comsa. Courtesy Alex Comsa.

Palo Alto Ave crossing has not been studied at all, and it should be part of the downtown plan which means looking at the land use and transportation issues together.

Churchill crossing: the closure of Churchill may not be practical since the Embarcadero one needs to be studied too, and not sure if Embarcadero can handle the additional traffic that would be routed from Churchill. We need to know a bit more about the status of Embarcadero: historical status, the lifetime of that underpass, etc. The partial underpass for Churchill may be a good compromise for now and it looks like the current City Council approved this concept.

East Meadow and Charleston: More work needs to be done on the bike and pedestrian portion of the underpass. This one interests me as a father, in that it completely separates the bikes and pedestrians from the cars and trains, so it is safe for kids. I believe we need more details on cost and further refinement on the design/flow. The hybrid solution could be an option and it is the cheapest, although I am a bit skeptical since the cost is shown as $190M to $230M versus the underpass at $340M to $420M.

Particularly, we should work with Caltrain and neighboring cities to re-evaluate the technical standards to improve the design and reduce costs. Business tax dollars will help us get access to county and State/Fed funds: $3.3M per year, over 35 years, plus $350M from Measure B, then we apply to State funding. Overall, we need about $300M/crossing, so a total of $1.2B.

Although the tunnel option would be my first preference (less intrusive for residential neighborhoods), due to the high cost and also environmental limitations too, I'm going with the above options/designs.

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Where the Palo Alto City Council candidates stand on rail crossings

Which designs do this year's political hopefuls support?

by Palo Alto Weekly staff / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Sun, Sep 18, 2022, 8:39 am
Updated: Tue, Sep 20, 2022, 8:44 am

Election season is in full swing across Palo Alto, where campaign signs are becoming more noticeable across town.

To assist local voters in their decision at the ballot box, the Weekly asked this year's seven City Council candidates to fill out questionnaires about their qualifications, vision for the city and priorities if elected. They also explained where they stand on housing, climate change, rail crossings and policing and crime, among other topics.

The candidates' answers on all these topics will be published as separate articles, one per day, through Sept. 19. Here's what they had to say to the following question: Which designs do you support for Palo Alto's rail crossings? How can we actually get this work done?

Doria Summa

I currently support the following overall approach:

• Palo Alto Avenue and the Transit Center crossings need to be coordinated and part of the Downtown Area Plan to ensure consistency.

• Churchill will be best served by a partial underpass to reduce impacts on nearby streets and neighborhoods and should include a bike/ped crossing near Seale.

• East Meadow and Charleston need to be treated identically and at the same time due to their proximity to each other. I support an underpass for both.

• There should be additional bike/ped crossings in the vicinity of Loma Verde/Matadero Creek and near Adobe Creek.

However, before final decisions are made, we need to evaluate the results of geotechnical tests that are underway, and work with Caltrain to address the issue of modernizing their technical requirements and dealing with the issue of passing tracks.

Given the scope, cost, and complexity of the project, the three bike/ped crossings should be constructed first. This is consistent with the bicycle/pedestrian Master Plan and will provide additional crossing options during the lengthy construction period.

I support the business tax in order to have local funding available to access the 2016 Measure B money and pursue State and Federal funding opportunities. Throughout the development of these projects, we must have robust communication and resident engagement.

Vicki Veenker

Palo Alto's at-grade (street level) rail crossings are a threat to public safety and cause traffic back-ups, which will worsen when Caltrain electrification increases the number of trains. To address this, we should eliminate at-grade crossings and separate trains from other modes of transportation, such as cars, bikes, and pedestrians. Whether trains go up or down, other modes go under the tracks, or roads get closed, there are different tradeoffs in different neighborhoods.

At the Churchill crossing next to Palo Alto High School, I support pursuing the community-generated partial underpass option, where turning lanes onto Churchill from Alma would go under the tracks and a separate bike/pedestrian crossing would be constructed nearby. To further evaluate this option, we need the results of the geotechnical assessment, and we should continue to engage with key stakeholders including the School District, the Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee, and Stanford.

At the Meadow and Charleston crossings, I prefer exploring underground options instead of elevating trains, if the geotechnical analysis supports this. I lean toward the vehicle underpass designs under review because of the expense of trenching to put trains below grade and the dewatering required. However, we need to refine and integrate the associated bike/pedestrian designs. Like Churchill, we need continued community outreach and to work with Caltrain to review how updated technical standards could help improve the designs being considered.

The Palo Alto Avenue crossing is close enough to the University Avenue Station that it should be reviewed as part of a coordinated area plan.

To make this happen, in addition to the above, we need to access funding from the proposed business tax, earmarked Measure B dollars, and state and federal dollars dependent on local dollars and having a plan.

Julie Lythcott-Haims

It's a fact that the CalTrain will be electrified throughout the corridor before Palo Alto gets its grade separations completed, bringing more trains per hour through our city which will result in outright gridlock at our four crossings, as well as harmful emissions and public safety hazards.

Alas, that horse has left the barn!

Of 113 crossings in the corridor, at least 71 are done. Clearly, other cities have made their hard choices. Why haven't we? As an outsider this strikes me as a clear example of trying to serve many masters accustomed to local control, and failing to lead.

We need to take immediate action to start the construction of the Partial Underpass Alternative at the Churchill intersection, where traffic could back up to increased lines of 10-12 minutes without grade separation. At the Charleston and Meadow intersections, City Council has narrowed down the options to Hybrid, Underpass, and Trench. I worry about what the trench will do to creeks/water flow. I believe the visual barrier created by Hybrid will further segment and separate the east of the city from the west. Therefore I prefer the Underpass. It keeps the train where it is and allows cars, bikes, and pedestrians to go under in well-designed routes with

proven roundabouts that are logical and safe. Before Charleston and Meadow construction begins, however, we need to put in bike/pedestrian crossings at Seale and Matadero/Loma Verde so that students can get to Gunn.

Lisa Forssell

One of the most urgent things Palo Alto needs to do is create plans for grade separations at Palo Alto's four Caltrain crossings at Meadow, Charleston, Churchill, and Palo Alto Ave. I favor the designs that increase bicycle and pedestrian safety and convenience - ideally with completely separate paths - while still offering vehicle access.

City Council needs to approve a specific design ASAP and allocate funding.

I support the proposed business tax which will provide funds for these grade separations. Palo Alto can then tap into its $350M allocation from Santa Clara County's 2016 Measure B. With a shovel-ready project the City can apply for additional state and federal funds as well.

With a design and funding, we have what we need to begin construction.

Ed Lauing

I support continuing the refinement of the Partial Underpass for Churchill because it addresses the vehicular needs without moving cars into another neighborhood. The bicycle/pedestrian portion specifically needs further refinement, and I support a robust outreach process working closely with stakeholders including PAUSD, PABAC and Stanford.

Caltrain is upgrading its technical standards, and the geotechnical work underway will help continue to inform the alternatives for Meadow/Charleston. In the meantime, we must prepare for years of construction. That's why I support additional bike/pedestrian rail crossings in the area of Loma Verde/Matadero Creek, near Adobe Creek/Alma and at Seale/Alma, before the grade separations are built, to provide safe passage during the expected years of construction. This has been a priority for years in the Comprehensive Plan, the Bicycle Transportation Plan and the Rail Corridor Study as well as XCAP.

How can we actually get this work done?

+ We need to ensure that Caltrain updates itsr technical and operating standards ASAP. Modernizing the standards can help LOWER costs and improve the design of all grade separations along the line. For certain city decisions and process, including construction cost estimates, we remain dependent on what they eventually decide.

+ For the Palo Alto Ave./Alma crossing we need to fund the work needed for a Downtown Coordinated Area Plan to consider transportation and land use in a cohesive and cost-efficient manner.

+ Funding

Palo Alto will receive $350 Million from Measure B. That money requires a local match.

An approved business tax by voters would provide an estimated $3.3M per year for 35 years =$115M.

Together, these funding sources would allow us to pursue significant State and Federal funding opportunities to complete these critical projects.

Brian Hamachek

This is a very simple issue to me. We need to underground the train tracks. I realize that Council has already ruled out this option, but I feel that was a mistake. All other options either divide the city in two or create an unreasonable traffic burden. Undergrounding the train is without a doubt an expensive proposition, but I feel it is well worth the expense.

Alex Comsa

Palo Alto Ave crossing has not been studied at all, and it should be part of the downtown plan which means looking at the land use and transportation issues together.

Churchill crossing: the closure of Churchill may not be practical since the Embarcadero one needs to be studied too, and not sure if Embarcadero can handle the additional traffic that would be routed from Churchill. We need to know a bit more about the status of Embarcadero: historical status, the lifetime of that underpass, etc. The partial underpass for Churchill may be a good compromise for now and it looks like the current City Council approved this concept.

East Meadow and Charleston: More work needs to be done on the bike and pedestrian portion of the underpass. This one interests me as a father, in that it completely separates the bikes and pedestrians from the cars and trains, so it is safe for kids. I believe we need more details on cost and further refinement on the design/flow. The hybrid solution could be an option and it is the cheapest, although I am a bit skeptical since the cost is shown as $190M to $230M versus the underpass at $340M to $420M.

Particularly, we should work with Caltrain and neighboring cities to re-evaluate the technical standards to improve the design and reduce costs. Business tax dollars will help us get access to county and State/Fed funds: $3.3M per year, over 35 years, plus $350M from Measure B, then we apply to State funding. Overall, we need about $300M/crossing, so a total of $1.2B.

Although the tunnel option would be my first preference (less intrusive for residential neighborhoods), due to the high cost and also environmental limitations too, I'm going with the above options/designs.

Comments

Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 18, 2022 at 10:58 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Sep 18, 2022 at 10:58 am

Thank you Doria Summa, Ed Lauing and Alex Comsa for saying that the Churchill crossing needs more study to avoid pushing additional traffic into the neighborhood.

"Churchill crossing: the closure of Churchill may not be practical since the Embarcadero one needs to be studied too, and not sure if Embarcadero can handle the additional traffic that would be routed from Churchill."

Embarcadero has long been a mess and traffic now backs up PAST Casti and that's before Casti's multi-year construction at Embarcadero and Bryant has even started. In the 6 years of Casti hearings did our "planners" ever consider the impact of closing Churchill?

Maybe all the "stakeholders" could finally get out of their offices and look at what's happening with 2 closely spaced traffic lights at Paly and Town & Country and that only 4 cars maximum can turn onto El Camino further compounding this mess?

Back in the days of Jaime Rodriquez we've been hearing about the need for the stakeholders to meet and work things out. That's 10 years ago! Maybe now's the right time? Just a thought.




Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 18, 2022 at 11:24 am
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Sep 18, 2022 at 11:24 am

I think the undergrounding of the tracks is too late now that the electrification work is so close to being done. Therefore the undergrounding of the crossings is the only option that is now viable. I do like the suggestion of making roundabouts with pedestrian/bicycle tunnels as being the safest option.

However, Palo Altans don't like roundabouts. They work safely in all other countries and most importantly they don't top working in a power outage as there are no lights to go out.


Donald
Registered user
South of Midtown
on Sep 18, 2022 at 11:27 am
Donald, South of Midtown
Registered user
on Sep 18, 2022 at 11:27 am

The current underpass designs for Charleston and Meadow do NOT separate pedestrian and bicycle traffic from auto traffic. They both have bidirectional paths on one side of the road, forcing those going in one direction to cross Charleston or Meadow twice at extremely dangerous crosswalks with no traffic controls at all to get to that path. This is not safe at all and is not separating non-motorized users from auto traffic. It is forcing them to cross right in front of cars with no assistance or protection. All parents of young children should be objecting.


MyFeelz
Registered user
JLS Middle School
on Sep 18, 2022 at 12:43 pm
MyFeelz, JLS Middle School
Registered user
on Sep 18, 2022 at 12:43 pm

How long will this City Council (old and newly elected) be sitting in their chairs when it's time to start digging? I lived in the Chicagoland area many moons ago and in the suburbs, there were underpasses below almost every set of train tracks. In the city the "L" trains are all "el"evated as the nickname suggests. We could have done it like Chicago did but we didn't. It's a little bit (a lotta bit) late to start elevating the tracks. In the 1800's would have been a good time, since there were no such things as cars and the population was lower. Doing a study to find out what's the best way to correct a colossal blunder is a waste of money. Roundabouts are a scourge on humanity, especially anywhere near a railroad crossing. I predict (but trust me, I will have expired before this prediction comes to fruition) that street cars will be completely phased out before the first underpass starts construction. Like the underestimation of the cost of a waste water treatment plant in our backyard, whatever study is paid for to estimate the cost of building underpasses will have the 2090 City Council crying "we didn't calculate for inflation" and the project will never get off the ground. Or go unerground. We will have vacated Earth by then, and the few who will survive whatever cataclysm awaits us will be living in oxygenated domes on Mars. PS to Bystander -- imagine an electrical outage when the trains are electrified and stopped dead in the middle of an intersection. A roundabout won't help much but it sure will have people driving in circles trying to figure out how to get across the tracks!


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 18, 2022 at 1:33 pm
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Sep 18, 2022 at 1:33 pm

MF, the roundabout I was thinking of would be on Alma and completely separate from the tracks. I think the trains electrical supply would be separate from the City supply from what we have been told. If there is an outage in the area, the gates still work and so do the flashing lights even if the traffic light has no power. I don't think Caltrain comes to a stop when Palo Alto has an outage, but if someone knows better, please correct me on that.


Fredericka Halsted
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 18, 2022 at 2:06 pm
Fredericka Halsted, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Sep 18, 2022 at 2:06 pm

Instead of creating an underpass, wouldn't it be far simpler to build an overpass that runs above the tracks?

Exercising Emininent Domain would provide the necessary acreage for such an undertaking.


MyFeelz
Registered user
JLS Middle School
on Sep 18, 2022 at 4:13 pm
MyFeelz, JLS Middle School
Registered user
on Sep 18, 2022 at 4:13 pm

Bystander, I have never seen a roundabout smaller than the area between Alma Street and the train tracks. There is no space between the two. Where exactly would you locate the roundabout? Are you talking about between Churchill and East Meadow? It's the only stretch where you could fit a roundabout that wouldn't interfere with the train crossing. If you want to see what a roundabout would do, just drive on Alma Street during the "will it ever end" construction along the street that acts as a de facto roundabout, slowing everyone down. All a roundabout would do is create more delay, which is the primary issue. Safety should be our first concern. I've seen lots of kids walking and on bikes trying to get across Alma when the arms come down signaling a train, which only makes drivers do impetuous things like try to get through the intersection before the bottleneck starts. The issue for me isn't even about the train, but about the drivers who don't want to get stuck in traffic and endanger the safety of people who only have a couple of spots along Alma where they can cross the street. Slow down, we'll all get there, maybe a few minutes later, but all in one piece if everybody cooperates. As for the power outage, I was thinking of something apocalyptic a la "The Day After" nuclear scenario. I'm in agreement with Fredericka Halsted, who recommends building an overpass instead of digging below the tracks. It's a lot more feasible in cost and construction time. Keep in mind I have no engineering or finance background. I'm just saying what comes off the top of my head, like a candidate for City Council member would ;)


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 18, 2022 at 6:00 pm
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Sep 18, 2022 at 6:00 pm

MF. Thanks for your thoughtful feedback.

I am no traffic expert, but I have used roundabouts of all sizes and some are fairly small. I agree space is very limited, but roundabouts do not need to have a large diameter to be efficient.

I think the thing that has to be remembered is that roundabouts are designed to move traffic efficiently, not to slow traffic or cause the same type of disruption as the traffic light sequences we see on Alma at present. I have often had to wait for the sequence to start over completely when a train comes and this type of thing would not happen with a roundabout and most of the roundabout being below the level of the tracks.

I am not saying this solution would be cheap. I am not even sure how much space something like that would need. I am just thinking that since it has been proposed it should have been given some bandwidth.

We are likely to end up with a mess because that is what happens in Palo Alto. I am not particularly optimistic that we will end up with any type of efficient or better intersection at any of the crossings we have. I would like to be proven wrong, but doubt it will happen.


WilliamR
Registered user
another community
on Sep 18, 2022 at 8:05 pm
WilliamR, another community
Registered user
on Sep 18, 2022 at 8:05 pm

According to the drawings that were published a while back, the roundabout for Charleston would be about a block east of the Alma intersection. Northbound traffic on Alma would turn right at Charleston, loop around and go down a ramp under the tracks to go west on Charleston. Northbound traffic on Alma would turn left, go around and down to go under the tracks. Eastbound traffic on Charleston would come under the tracks and up the ramp. I believe there was some uncertainty whether the same plan would work at Meadow, since it's a narrower street.


toransu
Registered user
Barron Park
on Sep 19, 2022 at 11:46 am
toransu, Barron Park
Registered user
on Sep 19, 2022 at 11:46 am

As usual, most of the candidates have no political backbone. Haven't we been studying this for over 10 years? When will enough evidence be gathered to make a darn decision? Shockingly enough, there comes a time when sticking your head in the sand and pretending there's no problem just isn't enough, as much as people like Doria Summa, Ed Lauing and Alex Comsa would like to continue doing it.


Priscilla Stephens
Registered user
Community Center
on Sep 19, 2022 at 12:13 pm
Priscilla Stephens, Community Center
Registered user
on Sep 19, 2022 at 12:13 pm

"Instead of creating an underpass, wouldn't it be far simpler to build an overpass that runs above the tracks?"

^ Yes, but the traffic engineers apparently cannot visualize such a basic concept.

"I'm in agreement with Fredericka Halsted, who recommends building an overpass instead of digging below the tracks. It's a lot more feasible in cost and construction time."

^ More costly studies (at taxpayer's expense) will be required before the PACC can tell the light of day in this ongoing matter.

And chances are that the newly elected PACC members will also deliberate on the progress of this issue.


Mondoman
Registered user
Green Acres
on Sep 19, 2022 at 1:25 pm
Mondoman, Green Acres
Registered user
on Sep 19, 2022 at 1:25 pm

There is an overpass for San Antonio Rd and I think any overpass at Charleston or Meadow would have to be of similar height and length to accommodate train and wire clearance, and have a small enough grade for vehicles. That doesn't seem realistic to me.

However, if eminent domain is chosen, PA should pay a 50-100% premium over prevailing prices to account for the extra locational value and to allow the owners to buy a new house in Palo Alto. It wouldn't be fair to kick them out of the city against their will.


William Hitchens
Registered user
Mountain View
on Sep 19, 2022 at 3:46 pm
William Hitchens, Mountain View
Registered user
on Sep 19, 2022 at 3:46 pm

Opinions still are all over the place and PA is dithering and getting nowhere fast. Why doesn't Palo Alto just go with below grade underpasses similar to that at Page Mill Rd, which seems to work pretty well. It's time to stop trying to please everyone and go with the best engineering solution to provide the best and least restrictive traffic, bike, and pedestrian flows. Electrification will wait for no city. And forget the HSR. It'll never come up the Peninsula along Caltrain tracks.


Bill Bucy
Registered user
Barron Park
on Sep 21, 2022 at 9:59 am
Bill Bucy, Barron Park
Registered user
on Sep 21, 2022 at 9:59 am

Frankly, we should have turned this whole issue over to the Castilleja folks. They seem quite adept at pushing aside objections to projects and bulling through a solution.

I'm only half kidding. Regardless of what 'solution' is chosen, many, many people are going to be angry. But a decision is needed A
SAP so planning and financing can be pulled together and work started.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 21, 2022 at 10:19 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Sep 21, 2022 at 10:19 am

@Bill Bucy, hah! Maybe Casti can fund some of the crossings, esp Churchill, given what they cost the city and its residents for 6+ years of hearings, consultants and dissension.


Leslie York
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Sep 21, 2022 at 10:37 am
Leslie York, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Sep 21, 2022 at 10:37 am

After studying the problem for over a decade, paying engineering firms and holding coffee klatsches at Mitchell Park, no solution has emerged which ticks all the boxes and pleases everyone. That should tell us something.

Palo Alto could spend another 10 years spinning its wheels and studying the problem to death, and it will still face the same obstacles to grade separation as now.

Caltrain's and HSR's fanciful ridership projections may never materialize. The more I read about all these infeasible non-solutions the more I think the do-nothing approach might be best.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 21, 2022 at 11:31 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Sep 21, 2022 at 11:31 am

Leslie York raises excellent points. We know ridership is down and we know that layoffs are up, especially at tech and real estate companies. We know -- or SHOULD know -- there have long been traffic chokepoints throughout Palo Alto contrary to former Mayor Kniss's claims we have no traffic problems and the city's having awarded multi-million dollar contracts to fix traffic light timing to a former city transportation czar who couldn't even fix ONE problematic traffic light for almost a decade!

As someone who lives near intersections that have long regularly regularly backed up so badly that cars regularly get stuck in intersections and frustrated drivers create their own lanes, I'm bemused by the concern about traffic backups at RR crossings.

For DECADES the transportation "planners" have ignored the idiocy they perpetuate by putting bus stops 3 car lengths away from major intersections that cars can no longer get around because they've put bollards at EVERY intersection to "increase visibility." More than 3 cars waiting at a light during rush hour?? Whooo could imagine.

Why are the backups at RR crossings be so much more dangerous than what we've long been experiencing where the problems so much easier and cheaper to fix??

I don't get it. But sure, let's keep wasting more money on lane reductions, road furniture, bollards at every corner ....


Leslie York
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Sep 23, 2022 at 5:33 am
Leslie York, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Sep 23, 2022 at 5:33 am

Taking residential properties for grade separation and building an overhead viaduct for trains are two concepts that are sure to face so much resistance from residents that they're non-starters.

Submerging the trains in a trench or tunnel involves crossing several creeks and we don't know how Caltrain would feel about having their trains submerged.

Overpasses over the tracks are infeasible due to the height involved and the slopes of the approaches.

Closing Churchill doesn't solve any problems; it only creates more.

What's left is to run auto traffic under the tracks like at Embarcadero.

I don't know why it's taking so many years to arrive at a decision when the options are fairly clear cut.

Now that the right-of-way is electrified, you can forget about a trench or tunnel. Construction would require a shoofly track likely on Alma Street and that would have to be electrified, too. You will still have diesel freight trains. Can you imagine a long freight train lumbering down Alma Street in the wee hours? I can't.

The do-nothing option seems more and more attractive.


William Hitchens
Registered user
Mountain View
on Sep 28, 2022 at 11:39 am
William Hitchens, Mountain View
Registered user
on Sep 28, 2022 at 11:39 am

Sounds like they're STILL in the middle of the talking phase. When will they come to unanimity and move to the planning & construction stages? I'm not holding my breath.


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