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City to appoint new group to help with rail redesign

Original post made on Jun 24, 2018

As Palo Alto moves closer toward selecting new designs for its four rail crossings, the city is preparing to ramp up its community outreach efforts and appoint a new citizen panel to help guide the complex process.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Sunday, June 24, 2018, 8:26 AM

Comments (103)

22 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 24, 2018 at 9:51 am

They want a 12 member community advisory panel. Hmmmm.
The city of Palo Alto has 13 neighborhoods (plus the Stanford campus), each with distinctive character and charm. Shouldn't it be a 14 member community panel, with a member from each part of Palo Alto neighborhood??!!

Who decided on just 12 members being on the panel? And is it a free for all?

Just watch this member panel be disproportionately represented by Old Palo Alto neighborhood who takes the NIMBY perspective for Churchill crossing, but YIMBY for everywhere else.

SMH.


18 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 24, 2018 at 10:10 am

Online Name is a registered user.

"Apex and staff will also hold meetings with stakeholders, including Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce, Stanford University and neighborhood leaders."

"Just watch this member panel be disproportionately represented by Old Palo Alto neighborhood who takes the NIMBY perspective for Churchill crossing, but YIMBY for everywhere else."

So glad Wolbach's ensured the pro-development statekeholders will dominate. The only group he forgot was pro-growth Casti contingent,


31 people like this
Posted by Eileen
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 24, 2018 at 10:37 am

Apex is the contractor who was involved in the over budget debacle for high speed rail bids/estimates in the central valley. Why is the city council even thinking of hiring an outfit that has been publicly discredited.


15 people like this
Posted by PASZ supported this online naame
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 24, 2018 at 11:00 am

"So glad Wolbach's ensured the pro-development statekeholders will dominate. The only group he forgot was pro-growth Casti contingent,"

As usual, we have the anti-wolbach contingent making up stuff as they continue their uncivil attacks on him.
Hey, online name-- the vote was unanimous . Which means the PASZ gang- kuo, holman and dubois voted a for it. And filseth did not vote for it because he recused himself.
In fact your beloved PASZ members could have blocked this by all voting no.

However, IMHO, this is all more delaying and typical of the PA proc3ss . Let's point a new committee and talk and talk and talk.


18 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 24, 2018 at 11:14 am

Online Name is a registered user.

Wolbach chairs the rail committee which is why I mentioned him. Yes, other could have opposed this but that doesn't change who's disproportionately represented in the the stakeholder group.

Do you really think Stanford -- with its aggressive growth plans -- cares how residents will be impacted by this?


7 people like this
Posted by PASZ supported this online naame
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 24, 2018 at 11:32 am

ONLINE NAME- No, you did not just mention wolbach. You claimed that he
Ensured that prodevelopemnt stakeholders will dominate. That is not based on any facts whatsoever. AND SO far there is no one on the citizen panel yet, so you do not know if there is disproportionate representation. [Portion removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Jun 24, 2018 at 11:49 am

No wonder this process has gotten nowhere, people discussing completely unrelated topics like growth or "distinctive character", some still arguing for the tracks to be tunneled...

Simply put, you have two options with each grade crossing: raised tracks (the Berlin wall boogeyman) which may involve property takings, or closing the road once rail traffic increases to the point where at grade crossings are infeasible.


16 people like this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 24, 2018 at 1:11 pm

"No wonder this process has gotten nowhere, people discussing completely unrelated topics like growth or "distinctive character", some still arguing for the tracks to be tunneled..."

Good grief, another "community input" committee? And another consulting firm? How many "citizens' committees" have there been so far? I've lost count. And how many consultants do there need to be?

Is Apex a design firm (we already have AECOM, a design/engineering firm after tossing out Mott MacDonald) or is the purpose of Apex to help brainwash the local citizens, performing essentially a public-relations function? That's my interpretation of the article.

Whatever happened to "Context Sensitive Solutions" (CSS)? CSS was touted as the be-all and end-all of this process. Is CSS out the window now?

I am still dumbfounded that PACC is even considering taking private residences. That plan will be D.O.A. for two reasons: 1. when it comes time to vote on a bond measure, the bond measure will likely fall flat on its face at the ballot box. 2. If CPA starts taking residences there is likely to be litigation which will be expensive and tie up the process for an indefinite period.

I'll ask yet again: Has there been any outreach to Caltrain/PCJPB by the City of Palo Alto? It is their right-of-way that we are making these grandiose plans for.

Maybe Elon Musk can come up with something.


14 people like this
Posted by Matt
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 24, 2018 at 4:47 pm

"Maybe Elon Musk can come up with something"

LMAO.

There's no tech solution for obstructionist citizens and pandering, do-nothing leaders.

There's too many cars and not enough road. To solve the problem it will take sacrifice and conviction.

Which is why we'll still be having this faux debate many moons from now.


32 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 24, 2018 at 5:27 pm

On the APEX Strategies home page the "APEX" logo has the tag line "Powerful Government Marketing Solutions". I think that tells us everything we need to know about APEX Strategies and why they were selected.

The stakeholder meetings, the community-wide meetings, and the convening of a 12-member Community Advisory Panel... are all just part of sophisticated marketing campaign.

www.apexstrategies.biz Web Link


4 people like this
Posted by Clem
a resident of another community
on Jun 24, 2018 at 5:31 pm

@ODB: in Palo Alto, VTA would carry out any property acquisition process on behalf of PCJPB. It’s a well oiled machine, and the idea that it would take forever and cost too much is hopeful but mistaken.


7 people like this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 24, 2018 at 6:28 pm

"On the APEX Strategies home page the "APEX" logo has the tag line "Powerful Government Marketing Solutions". I think that tells us everything we need to know about APEX Strategies and why they were selected.

The stakeholder meetings, the community-wide meetings, and the convening of a 12-member Community Advisory Panel... are all just part of sophisticated marketing campaign."

As I said, brainwashing the citizenry, as if we need to pay yet another consultant.

One wonders if this hand-picked "12-member community advisory panel" will be on the up-and-up and if Apex is there to grease the skids. This whole thing is starting to smell pretty fishy. My intuition tells me there are more behind-the-scenes machinations than are being made public. This might be their strategy for ramrodding a plan that calls for property taking.

"in Palo Alto, VTA would carry out any property acquisition process on behalf of PCJPB."

Still, PCJPB owns the ROW, not VTA. I don't understand why VTA needs to get involved. I believe other municipalities on the peninsula are dealing directly with PCJPB. They are outside the VTA jusrisdiction, so I'm a little skeptical of your statement. If CPA reaches out to Caltrain, only to be told that they have to go through VTA, then that settles that, but I doubt CPA has gotten that far.

"It’s a well oiled machine, and the idea that it would take forever and cost too much is hopeful but mistaken."

No part of this process is well oiled.


18 people like this
Posted by Red
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 24, 2018 at 7:03 pm

My experience with the previous rounds of 'stake holder meetings' was apparently a complete waste of time, why will these be any different? Each of those meetings hosted by the city, was started with the premiss that the city had no idea what to do, and then proceeded to steer conversation repeatedly to the so-called 'quad-gate' solution or the rail over or rail under grade separation solution. At each meeting, attendees repeatedly expressed a clear preference for a trench or tunnel solution, which was dismissed. It was pretty clear after attending several of these meetings that that a trench or tunnel was not what the city was interested in hearing about, and again, the 'quad-gate' solution or the rail over or rail under grade separation solutions dominated the presentation by the city staff facilitating the meetings.

So, now the city has hired Apex, a consulting firm that appears to be a part of the problematic HSR project, to sort it out, really? It has also been my experience that consulting firms are hired by the city when the city council and the city manager want cover for an unpopular 'solution' that they can blame the consultant for, but still stick with what ever they recommend. The recent bike route 'improvements' all over town come to mind. This begs the question why we even have a planning department since they don't seem to actually plan anything, but rather hire consultants for just about everything?

I reluctantly predict that 'quad-gate's' will be recommend all around because they are the absolute cheapest solution available, and despite a decade of advanced warning (since the HSR bond was passed), our civic leaders have done much to complain about it, but practically nothing to prepare for the inevitable increase in rail traffic, regardless of the source of the traffic, and time has now run out. Those of us near the rail lines will be assaulted by an ever increasing cacophony of train horn and gate crossing gate bell noise as rail traffic increases, a direct consequence of the 'quad gate' solution. The city council will be tone deaf and dismiss complaints because the 'expert' over paid consultant recommended that solution after a round of BS stake holder meetings where the fix was in from the start.

It is so disappointing to live in a town full of talented residents, but being 'led' by a city council and civic employees who appear to be on a trajectory of bungling what may be one the most important infrastructure projects that will result in dire consequences, or benefits if done right, for generations to come.


10 people like this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 24, 2018 at 8:12 pm

"It is so disappointing to live in a town full of talented residents, but being 'led' by a city council and civic employees who appear to be on a trajectory of bungling"

I know what you mean. I was outraged when one of the city councilpersons recently suggested selling development rights on the rail right of way to help finance grade separation.

OK, so you have a city official who is dealing with issues concerning the trains as well as a project of enormous magnitude for Palo Alto, who is ignorant of the fact that CPA does not own the right of way (Caltrain does).

Does anyone else see the disconnect here?


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Posted by Clem
a resident of another community
on Jun 24, 2018 at 8:17 pm

@ODB: PCJPB does not have the power to take property. This is commonly done by each county’s transportation agency: SFCTA, SamTrans, and VTA, all three of which do have the power of eminent domain. Dozens of parcels (or parts thereof) are being acquired right now for the electrification project. It is a well worn process and lawsuits are only a small obstacle.


1 person likes this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 24, 2018 at 8:37 pm

"SFCTA, SamTrans, and VTA, all three of which do have the power of eminent domain."

So does the City of Palo Alto.

Who's to say people won't sue CPA if their homes are threatened?


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Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Jun 24, 2018 at 9:54 pm

Reality Check is a registered user.

It’s important to note, eminent domain proceedings to force a sale at full and fair market value are generally only used after the parties are unable to negotiate a voluntary sale. So it is unknowable if an alternative which requires property acquisitions will in fact ever actually require the use if eminent domain. The acquiring agency could offer a reluctant property owner something more than full and fair market value to incent voluntary agreement ... the propert owner going to the courts would risk receiving a lower sale price.


4 people like this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Jun 24, 2018 at 10:00 pm

Reality Check is a registered user.

Viaducts, fully open underneath, avoid the “wall” effect and probably minimize or eliminate need for private home property acquisitions. Problem solved. San Bruno has berms ... but could’ve used viaducts. Easy to visualize when you look over what San Bruno station looks like today ... and it skreafy has the poles for electrification installed today.


1 person likes this
Posted by Train Neighbor
a resident of Ventura
on Jun 24, 2018 at 10:33 pm

Train Neighbor is a registered user.

If eminent domain is required for separating any of the four crossings in Palo Alto, it would be decided by Palo Alto's City Council.

VTA is managing the Measure B funds of which $700 million has been designated to help pay for grade separation projects in Palo Alto, Mountain View and Sunnyvale.

Electrifying Caltrain does not mandate grade separations, but it will increase traffic when they run more trains and the crossings gates will be frequently closed during commute peak hours.


10 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 24, 2018 at 11:40 pm

@Reality Check,

Viaducts avoid the use of eminent domain by leaving the property owner with title to the property, but instead taking the value of the property through blight. The viaduct is just a way of taking property without compensating the property owner.


4 people like this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 24, 2018 at 11:53 pm

"The viaduct is just a way of taking property without compensating the property owner."

What kind of mumbo-jumbo is that? In the sentence just prior to this one you said "Viaducts avoid the use of eminent domain by leaving the property owner with title to the property".

Another example of personal agendas muddying the discussion.


2 people like this
Posted by brian
a resident of another community
on Jun 25, 2018 at 1:02 am

>>> "If CPA starts taking residences there is likely to be litigation which will be expensive and tie up the process for an indefinite period."

The whole point of having an Eminent Domain law is that property can be acquired without indefinite litigation. The government just needs to show a judge a "resolution of necessity".

In order to adopt a resolution of necessity, the government agency must find (1) that the project for which the property is to be acquired is necessary; (2) that the property is necessary for the public project; (3) that the project is located in such a manner as to offer the greatest public benefit with the least private detriment; and (4) that an offer to purchase the property has been made.

The condemning agency may ask the court for possession of the property even before judgment has been entered in the eminent domain proceeding. Arguments over just compensation can continue in court indefinitely, long after the property has been bulldozed and the grade separation project completed.


15 people like this
Posted by Patrick Burt
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 25, 2018 at 1:44 am

Patrick Burt is a registered user.

It's important for the community to know that the "resident advisory group" now proposed by city staff and consultants would be substantially different and have a significantly less important role than what would have been the backbone multi-stakeholder group of a Context Sensitive Solution (CSS) process. To clarify, although the staff and the previous consultants claimed the moniker of CSS for the public outreach they did over the past year and a quarter, they declined to create the key stakeholder group. Among other reasons, they and some of the council claimed that a design decision had to be made by the end of last year which would not provide adequate time for such a group. They were sure that the decisions would be relatively straight forward and best left for technocrats to decide along with city council approval.
The latest engagement process now includes two groups, one with resident/neighborhood representatives and another composed of other stakeholders from business and other interests. Each of these would only be advisory to staff and not directly to the city council. Neither of them would have responsibility for the real and difficult challenge, to reconcile competing interests and recommend to the council one or two consensus design alternatives. Under CSS the residents, business interests and domain exerts would have to struggle to arrive at a consensus recommendation. As hard as this sounds, it has been been the widely successful "best practice" for resolving large transportation projects throughout the U.S. and California. That process could include early limitations on alternatives, such as not allowing taking of private residences or other constraints.
Staff has at last recognized that whatever design the council selects will likely go to the voters due to its monumental impacts. A separate ballot measure would be needed to bridge the cost beyond Measure B and other state/regional/Stanford funding we can get. Critically, voter support would need to come from not only those directly impacted by the project, but mostly from the broader community in north and south Palo Alto. As a result, the hard job of hammering out a consensus is essential to obtain a majority or super majority (for a dedicated purpose tax) of the electorate. Despite the attitude of some of the council, that's the real end game rather than a council vote. Unfortunately, the current staff/consultant driven process will likely reduce the chance of success with the voters.


1 person likes this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 25, 2018 at 2:00 am

"Arguments over just compensation can continue in court indefinitely"

Right, and that's where the protracted and expensive litigation can occur.

This raises another question: What will CPA do with the properties once the homes have been bulldozed ? It's hard to say not having seen what kind of edifice they envision building.


8 people like this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Jun 25, 2018 at 3:09 am

Reality Check is a registered user.

Just like "partial birth" (for some abortions) or "death tax" (for estate tax), the ongoing and common/popular use of the word "taking" (instead of "purchase") is loaded language ... wrongly implying or suggesting that private property is taken (stolen even) away without the legally-required, court-mandated full fair market value compensation.

True, it's a mandatory or non-optional sale ... so one could argue it's a "taking" only in the sense that the right to continue owning a particular property (or portion thereof) is being "taken."

As we're seeing with the ongoing property acquisitions associated with Caltrain electrification and the 25th Ave. Grade Separation projects, now underway, out of the two dozen or so properties acquired so far, eminent domain has only been used in a handful of cases ... the rest voluntarily accepted offers to buy.

As of the April 30 Caltrain electrification status report (Table 14-1 Real Estate Acquisition Overview):

59 = parcels needed
46 = appraisals completed
41 = offers presented
28 = offers accepted
20 = escrow closed
4 = eminent domain action filed
21 = parcels in possession


2 people like this
Posted by brian
a resident of another community
on Jun 25, 2018 at 3:33 am

>>>> "Arguments over just compensation can continue in court indefinitely,
.... and that's where the protracted and expensive litigation can occur."

For the home owner, legal costs could quickly overtake any theoretical increase in compensation. California only allows the court to grant the recovery of litigation costs for property owners if they find the government’s offer “unreasonable” and the property owner’s offer “reasonable”.


2 people like this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 25, 2018 at 3:46 am

"of the two dozen or so properties acquired so far, eminent domain has only been used in a handful of cases ... the rest voluntarily accepted offers to buy"

Interesting. Sell your $3 million home in Palo Alto abd buy a $6 million home in Woodside, or a $750K home in East Palo Alto.

If a willing seller accepts an offer from a willing buyer then it's just like any real estate transaction.

I doubt the PACC has any idea these figures exist. Thank you for sharing.


3 people like this
Posted by brian
a resident of another community
on Jun 25, 2018 at 3:48 am

>>> "In order to adopt a resolution of necessity, the government agency must find (2) that the property is necessary for the public project; (3) that the project is located in such a manner as to offer the greatest public benefit with the least private detriment" <<<

The property owner could contest the necessity of acquiring their property by showing that the city could elevate the rail instead.
The city would then need to prove that elevating the rail would cause "greater private determent"
A jury would decide who is right.

Other cities have concluded that elevating the rail caused the least private determent, so if Palo Alto has not adequately studied the actual private determent of elevating the rail, that could be problematic.


Like this comment
Posted by @ODB
a resident of another community
on Jun 25, 2018 at 5:22 am

"If a willing seller accepts an offer from a willing buyer then it's just like any real estate transaction."

The government would "prefer" to acquire property through negotiation, because then they can do with it as they please, whereas property acquired through eminent domain should, in principle, remain in public ownership in perpetuity.

This can be a significant consideration if, for example, a property is just losing driveway access. If purchased through eminent domain, the property may become a miniature public green space that the taxpayer has to maintain forever, whereas if purchased through negotiation, the property can be merged with neighboring properties or otherwise be sold to private ownership.

This was such a big problem in the central valley, where the High Speed Rail project was cutting through agricultural fields at an angle, creating many awkward left-over slivers of fields with no road access, that the Legislature updated the law to permit the High Speed Rail Authority to sell unused property back into private ownership: Web Link

Could PA take advantage of this law by claiming the High Speed Rail Authority made them do grade separations?


9 people like this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Jun 25, 2018 at 8:44 am

Reality Check is a registered user.


Viaducts, which are fully open underneath, satisfy all the engineering constraints, get the job done without a "wall" (and so allow nearly unlimited new cross-connectivity and/or other uses alongside and underneath and parallel trails, landscaping, linear parks, other community-serving amenities, etc. and can likely completely (or nearly so) avoid private property acquisitions.

So why don't residents and councilmembers who oppose or dread property acquisitions speak out in favor of at least fully studying well-designed, aesthetically pleasing viaducts?

Do they secretly really prefer trains continuing to pass at today's ground-level in the collision-with-humans-zone (suicides, accidents, train vs. vehicle crashes) copious horn-blowing (4x per xing per federal regulations), increasingly blocked crossings & traffic, and/or private property acquisitions for the so-called "hybrid" designs?

It seems too many wish to defer reality and continue wallowing in fevered fantasies of other people's money paying billions or so EXTRA for flooding-prone tunnels or trenches (with exactly ZERO added transportation benefit) which the right-of-way owner (Caltrain) actively opposes.



2 people like this
Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on Jun 25, 2018 at 12:33 pm

It is hard to see how a quiet electrified viaduct would be a degradation from the current ground level noisy diesels.

I don’t know why people would be against employing marketing consultants. The main priority is to convince enough Palo Altans to vote for a practical alternative and give up their pie in the sky dreams of trenching and tunneling.

At this point , there are still too many dreamers to be convinced.


3 people like this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 25, 2018 at 12:53 pm

So why don't residents and councilmembers who oppose or dread property acquisitions speak out in favor of at least fully studying well-designed, aesthetically pleasing viaducts?

Because it's Palo Alto?

I've been trying to introduce the concept of a GREENWAY to Palo Alto but it hasn't gained traction. What's on the surface of the ROW now? Rails, ties and ballast. Is this more pleasing than open green space with a bike path/dog run/whatever? The hitch is that CPA would have to lease or otherwise acquire the rights to this land from PCJPB to do anything with this land. Maybe a 99-year lease?

Or close Churchill and possibly other roads and make gridlock even worse, or do nothing and make people wait in their hulking SUV's to cross the tracks while the trains pass?

"It seems too many wish to defer reality and continue wallowing in fevered fantasies of other people's money paying billions or so EXTRA for flooding-prone tunnels or trenches"

It certainly seems that way.

I've looked at the plans and it seems many of these so-called "property takings" simply means that the property loses driveway access due to depression of the nearby roadway. This apparently means that the property is "taken" and is no longer habitable.

Please do not use my member name with an @ in front of it as your member name, e.g. @ODB. This is very confusing. Make up your own unique member name, please. Put @ODB in the message body if you wish to address me. Thank you.


3 people like this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 25, 2018 at 1:08 pm

"I don’t know why people would be against employing marketing consultants. The main priority is to convince enough Palo Altans to vote for a practical alternative and give up their pie in the sky dreams of trenching and tunneling."

Well Chris, it depends what your idea of a "practical alternative" is.

Apparently Apex and contractor AECOM have some kind or working relationship or partnership. There might be a benefit to having Apex in the picture. They may provide leadership and vision which city officials are clearly incompetent to do.

Trenching/tunneling may be the most popular idea now, but wait until they try to fund it and see if they still think it's a good idea.

A viaduct has some practical benefits, lack of flood risk and lack of pumps requiring continuous maintenance among them, as well as no need to take residential parcels at $3 million + and displace families.

Or leave all the crossings at grade as they have been for 150 years.


6 people like this
Posted by Thomas Paine IV
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 25, 2018 at 6:18 pm

The Cal Train and High Speed Rail boards are correct in their decision to ignore this madman Musk who insists that his boring machine and electric pods are a better solution. You simply can't take seriously someone believes he can launch a rocket into space and then land it on a barge in the ocean so it can be reused.


7 people like this
Posted by Juan
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 25, 2018 at 7:53 pm

Viaducts are not aesthetically pleasing, they are elevated freeways for trains, as another poster elegantly put it. There is absolutely no need for additional crossings, there are already multiple grade separated crossings within a few miles of each other. People can drive a few extra minutes to cross the train tracks at crossings that already exists. There is no need to take away people's homes so that you can cross the tracks a few minutes faster.


2 people like this
Posted by Giraffe
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 25, 2018 at 7:55 pm

Giraffe is a registered user.

I guess I haven't paid much attention to this rail system issue
- who says it has to go thru Palo Alto? If someone is forcing this, shouldn't they pay for it?
- I wonder ... if I was living in a place that would be eminent domained, but was not because some other solution was used, wouldn't it be a horrible place to live with a noisy train going by every 3 mins? Would be even worse than the airplane noise.


8 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 25, 2018 at 11:34 pm

Hard to think of anything more emblematic of the direction the transportation industry is heading than this:

"Inside the Detroit train station Ford is transforming to take on Silicon Valley" Web Link




3 people like this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Jun 26, 2018 at 2:29 am

Reality Check is a registered user.

While it might be a nice sound bite, a fully open and landscaped underneath 28-foot-wide viaduct with an electrified double-track rail line on top is not even as much like an “elevated freeway for trains” as today's constantly-roaring soundwall-enclosed 10-lane Hwy 101 freeway is like today's well-screened-by-trees-and-foliage Caltrain track through old Palo Alto that you don't even notice is there until a train briefly sails by.

Which is to say they're not much alike at all. Anyone claiming they're alike needs to check (or visit) with someone living next to an elevated freeway ... they would kill to have a relatively slender and unobtrusive well-screened electric rail line with a landscaped parkway under a viaduct instead. Web Link


12 people like this
Posted by Juan
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 26, 2018 at 7:19 am

Anyone who claims that a 28-foot-wide viaduct with an electrified double-track rail line on top is "relatively slender and unobtrusive" needs to get a "reality check". You're proposing to destroy people's homes so that you can build a 28-foot-wide elevated freeway through the middle of town, just so you can get across the train tracks a few minutes faster. NO. Drive less than a mile to the nearest existing crossing instead. You might have to leave a few minutes early (the horror).


2 people like this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 26, 2018 at 12:39 pm

"You're proposing to destroy people's homes so that you can build a 28-foot-wide elevated freeway"

No, Juan. The viaduct is the option that DOESN'T require property takings. Please pay attention to the facts before you make erroneous posts such as this.

A viaduct may require a shoofly track but that is a far, far cry from taking residential property. Even your tunnel/trench will require a shoofly track and two cutoffs from the main line.

Public ignorance is one of many reasons Palo Alto is moving so slowly on grade separation.


11 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 26, 2018 at 6:26 pm

ODB,

You don't have to take a home to destroy it.

You can leave the homeowner with title to the property and blight it with a elevated freeway for trains.


1 person likes this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Jun 26, 2018 at 8:26 pm

Reality Check is a registered user.

If the viaduct is an "elevated freeway" for state-of-the-art Swiss electric trains quietly swooshing by every so often, then at least it will be significantly quieter for those living alongside it than the "at-grade freeway" for the lumbering, clanking, horn-blowing, suicide-enabling diesel trains we have now.

You know, the one that has trains passing by at eye-level where the fully-fenced and well-screened but off-limits to the public tracks cut the community in half ... instead of up, and completely out of the way, with beautiful linear parks, landscaping, and new bike/ped or even road crossings possible wherever the community desires ... with little or none of that nasty much-feared private property acquisition associated with all so-called hybrid alternatives.


12 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 26, 2018 at 10:06 pm

An elevated freeway is an elevated freeway, regardless of what is "swooshing" around in top of it.

I'm pretty sure a 100,000 pound rail car going 50mph on steel wheels and dragging an electrical pick-up along an overhead power line makes a lot more noise than a "swoosh" but I'm not sure what a "swoosh" is. How many decibels is a "swoosh"?

Also, what type of sound does a diesel power locomotive pulling a freight train make as it lumbers along an elevated freeway at 3:00am? Is it more than a "swoosh"?




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Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Jun 27, 2018 at 1:29 am

Reality Check is a registered user.


@Ahem: whip out your passport and visit Switzerland ... land of electric trains swooshing through and past some of the most picturesque, beautiful (and affluent) villages and landscapes on the planet: Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by brian
a resident of another community
on Jun 27, 2018 at 3:27 am

>>>> Also, what type of sound does a diesel power locomotive pulling a freight train make as it lumbers along an elevated freeway at 3:00am? Is it more than a "swoosh"?

Probably less nuisance noise than it does today as it won't be blowing it's horn.
Do some scientific research and tell us what the real public determent will be.


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Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 27, 2018 at 11:21 am

"You don't have to take a home to destroy it.

You can leave the homeowner with title to the property and blight it with a elevated freeway for trains."

Or a nice-looking viaduct with a greenway underneath it, but those semantics don't fit into your red-herring argument.

You'll have title to a multimillion-dollar Palo Alto property. Cry me a river.


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Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 27, 2018 at 11:33 am

"Probably less nuisance noise than it does today as it won't be blowing it's horn."

The noise from a freeway is continuous. Here you have a train every few minutes, making this "elevated freeway" cunard specious.

If you build acoustical insulation into it, probably less noise than those same trains traveling at grade with no acoustical insulation.

CPA could also pay for the acoustical insulation of the surrounding homes. $10,000 or $20,000 per home is much cheaper than taking those properties at $3 million+ each. Throw in solar panels for each of those homes as a bonus.


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Posted by Elevated freight trains
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 27, 2018 at 1:49 pm

Elevated freight trains is a registered user.

Elevating freight trains will make the noise travel farther. This is due to wind effects and possible temperature effects relating from the elevation, as well as from the elevation itself and the increased vibration.

This is not a monorail, folks.

This is not Switzerland, and these are not Swiss trains. The underpass will quickly be filled with trash (see real-life underpasses -- just head over to San Antonio), and we will continue to see large and noisy freight trains.

Do. Not. Elevate.


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Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Jun 28, 2018 at 1:32 am

Reality Check is a registered user.


Let's try to avoid uninformed fear-mongering rubbish.

Properly-built viaducts do not "increase vibration" ... and everything underneath stays at-grade (current ground level), so there are no "underpasses" to become any more "dirty" than anywhere else. Sound from occasional passing trains on a properly-built viaduct radiates laterally upward ... so less than at today's ground level for nearby homes and attenuated for homes further away.

And, yes, Caltrain's new 100% green-energy-powered fleet is 100% Swiss-engineered:

Web Link
Web Link

Photos of the new fleet under construction in Stadler's Swiss factory: Web Link

Elevating satisfies all engineering constraints, avoids private property takings while providing new cross-town connectivity better than Palo Alto ever had (since the RR's opening in 1863) and community-benefiting linear public landscaped and other open (or developed) spaces underneath.


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Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 28, 2018 at 5:42 am

"Properly-built viaducts do not 'increase vibration'"

A properly-built viaduct will have sound insulation, as opposed to the current configuration which has none. There may actually be less sound radiated laterally if there are acoustical barriers.

"Elevating satisfies all engineering constraints, avoids private property takings while providing new cross-town connectivity better than Palo Alto ever had (since the RR's opening in 1863) and community-benefiting linear public landscaped and other open (or developed) spaces underneath."

It also eliminates the flood risk and pumping of a trench/tunnel.

If a viaduct can be built without a shoofly track it would be a huge advantage. Put Caltrain on a single track during construction.

A properly-maintained greenway will be no different from any of the many parks in Palo Alto which do not fill up with heroin addicts and doggie-doo.

Enough of the "uninformed fear-mongering rubbish". It's worse than uninformed, it's a paranoid delusion.


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Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 28, 2018 at 6:27 am

"Staff has at last recognized that whatever design the council selects will likely go to the voters"

It is disturbing to learn that some on the PACC were proposing the sale of development rights on property CPA does not even own. I hope that city councilperson has since been enlightened.

It is also disturbing that a viaduct, which has several advantages over trenching/tunneling/hybrids, apparently has not even been considered by AECOM or the PACC. It is likewise disturbing that the PACC is considering options which call for the taking of so many residences.

Most disturbing of all was the suggestion by one city councilperson that Elon Musk might be able to solve Palo Alto's grade-separation problems.


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Posted by Midnight Express
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 28, 2018 at 7:47 am

Why in the world did you people buy your property anywhere near a train track? It is clear you cannot stand them and are so obsessed with noise that even the quietest solution will infuriate you.
Your constant bickering is tiresome to the point that I no longer care about this issue. You will never be happy.


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Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 28, 2018 at 8:41 am

"And, yes, Caltrain's new 100% green-energy-powered fleet is 100% Swiss-engineered"

I don't think those Union Pacific is looking to the Swiss to redesign their cargo trains.

"If a viaduct can be built without a shoofly track it would be a huge advantage. Put Caltrain on a single track during construction."

Still dreaming? Anything other than a tunnel will require shoofly tracks.


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Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 28, 2018 at 9:25 am

"Anything other than a tunnel will require shoofly tracks."

You are quite wrong.

A tunnel requires a portal on each end for entrance and exit. Caltrain will need to be diverted while these portals are being constructed and the displaced earth carried away. There will need to be a shoofly track from north of the northern portal and south of the southern portal, extending the entire length of the tunnel. In addition, there will need to be two cutoffs so the trains can move between the main line and the shoofly. The cutoffs will need to travel through whatever is between the main line and the shoofly which will likely run down Alma. There may even need to be access roads if the earth is hauled away by truck.

If you're worried about noise, don't forget that there will be pumping stations at intervals along the tunnel. The pumps are required to pump out accumulated water during a storm.


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Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 28, 2018 at 10:12 am

Ok fine. My point is that your dream of no shoofly tracks with a viaduct is just that - a dream.


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Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Jun 28, 2018 at 10:45 am

Reality Check is a registered user.

Regarding Menlo Park's ongoing grade separation design deliberation process, it may interest folks here to know that at their May 8, 2018 meeting, the Menlo Park City Council directed their staff to increase the scope of work and appropriation request to have their grade separation consultant AECOM prepare (1) a financial assessment of a trench/tunnel; (2) a conceptual design, noise, tree, and visual impact assessment of "a fully elevated alternative" (i.e. viaduct).

[Menlo Park also has a few councilmembers suffering Muskian tunnel fantasy delusions ... so, like Palo Alto, they had to leave tunneling in there for purely political reasons.]

City staff will also request a bike/ped path adjacent to the tracks within the Caltrain right-of-way.

The Menlo Park viaduct alternative would fully elevate the tracks across their downtown (Ravenswood, Oak Grove and maybe also Glenwood). Of course, this, like their hybrid Alternative C, would include a new center-platform elevated station since their current outside platform station is tucked between Ravenswood and Oak Grove. While it would also require a shoofly, a viaduct provides a fully-usable space (vs. an earthen berm or concrete wall) across the station area in the heart of their downtown and avoids the need to massively disrupt the street grid (and traffic) while excavating and lowering Ravenswood, Alma, Merrill, Oak Grove, Garwood and Glenwood (and cutting off driveways of private properties). The viaduct would allow the public (bikes, peds and other traffic) to continue enjoying use of existing crossings at ground level while providing lots of new community-benefitting space where the off-limits tracks used to be.

See Menlo Park's Ravenswood Avenue railroad crossing project page here: Web Link


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Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 28, 2018 at 11:37 am

"My point is that your dream of no shoofly tracks with a viaduct is just that - a dream."

Are you a railroad construction engineer?

I thought not.


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Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 28, 2018 at 11:44 am

Has the city of Menlo Park run any of these plans by Caltrain/PCJPB)? They would have to strike a deal with PCJPB to modify the station and to have a bike path along the ROW on PCJPB property.

I hope their CC is aware that the city does not own the ROW.


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Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 28, 2018 at 12:22 pm

"Are *you* a railroad construction engineer?"

I thought not.


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Posted by bob.smith
a resident of another community
on Jun 28, 2018 at 2:29 pm

@Me 2 >>>> "Are *you* a railroad construction engineer?" <<<<<

Caltrain are doing 3 grade separations and an elevated station in Hillsdale without a shoofly, but they have the advantage that the ROW is 150 feet wide at that point: Web Link

A tunnel portal construction site is a big structure that caltrain would need to divert around, a trench 60 feet deep big enough to assemble a tunnel boring machine plus a muck processing plant and tunneling support facilities: Web Link
Please explain where in Palo Alto these large structures would be located, and don't wriggle out it by saying that you are just the visionary and people more intelligent than you will figure out the details.


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Posted by Elevated freight trains
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 28, 2018 at 2:57 pm

Elevated freight trains is a registered user.

"Properly-built viaducts do not "increase vibration""

Can you point me to an image or document describing a viaduct that carries Union-Pacific-style freight trains that does not vibrate? That sounds magical.


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Posted by bob.smith
a resident of another community
on Jun 28, 2018 at 3:43 pm

>>>> Can you point me to an image or document describing a viaduct that carries Union-Pacific-style freight trains that does not vibrate? That sounds magical.

The new train crossing London passed under a theater, they invented floating slab track to kill vibrations: Web Link


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Posted by Elevated freight trains
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 28, 2018 at 4:49 pm

Elevated freight trains is a registered user.

OMG, they felt the need to install that IN A TUNNEL. Just think if it were elevated 20+ feet above our head. And who knows if springs would even work -- they just transmit the force into the viaduct, right? It's different when the train is on/in the ground.


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Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 28, 2018 at 6:08 pm

"A tunnel portal construction site is a big structure that caltrain would need to divert around, a trench 60 feet deep big enough to assemble a tunnel boring machine plus a muck processing plant and tunneling support facilities"

Times two, one north and one south. Plus you need to cut a swath from the main line to the shoofly on Alma street, times two. Add K rails between the track and the rest of Alma so the trains don't mingle with auto traffic.

Construction of the shoofly and access thereto will cost millions. There goes your Measure B money.

Maybe Elon Musk has a way around this and the soil will simply disintegrate by magic.


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Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 28, 2018 at 6:14 pm

"Can you point me to an image or document describing a viaduct that carries Union-Pacific-style freight trains that does not vibrate?"

I would think the noise is laterally-propagated airborne, rather than structure borne vibration.


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Posted by Elevated freight trains
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 28, 2018 at 6:33 pm

Elevated freight trains is a registered user.

Yes, I agree, the vibration will be airborne. Apologies for being confusing. I was trying to make the point that the vibration will be greater on an elevated structure (not accounting for the effect of elevation on dispersal of the noise).

Elevating freight trains -- and night-time ones to boot -- is a very noisy proposition.


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Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 28, 2018 at 8:21 pm

"Elevating freight trains -- and night-time ones to boot -- is a very noisy proposition."

The trains won't make any more noise than they do on the ground, but the common belief is that noise will carry further from the higher platform. I haven't seen any figures to substantiate this, but if acoustical insulation is added to the structure then you could actually have less lateral airborne noise than presently with no acoustical barriers.


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Posted by Elevated freight trains
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 28, 2018 at 8:56 pm

Elevated freight trains is a registered user.

I fully agree that sound barriers are a requirement for elevated trains.

U Chicago built this one a few years back. Like it? Web Link

More recently, Singapore is trying to address a big problem with noise from its elevated trains. I've seen a schematic of a design for train station barriers there, but not the real thing. Anyone have photos? I'm wondering how they will age. I expect Singapore will be cleaning the outsides of them monthly...


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Posted by bob.smith
a resident of another community
on Jun 29, 2018 at 1:35 am

>>>> "And who knows if springs would even work -- they just transmit the force into the viaduct, right?"

Wrong, the floating slab is made from very dense concrete Web Link that absorbs the kinetic energy, we know it works because smart people called engineers know what they are doing Web Link

For airborne sound, the latest tech is called Sonic Crystals, here is an idiots guide to how it works Web Link . If only Elon Musk would claim that he has just invented it, everyone would love it.


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Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Jun 29, 2018 at 3:50 am

Reality Check is a registered user.

Viaduct in Munich, Germany: Web Link
Trains on old steel Berlin viaduct: Web Link
Trains on another Berlin viaduct: Web Link


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Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Jun 29, 2018 at 3:51 am

Reality Check is a registered user.

Trains on Zurich viaduct: Web Link
Various trains on iconic old Bietigheim viaduct (built 1853): Web Link
German HSR (ICE) on viaduct: Web Link


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Posted by Juan
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 29, 2018 at 7:24 am

Viaduct in Fresno, just a few counties away:

Web Link

Elevated freeway for trains is accurate. This should not be built in the bay area.


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Posted by ODN
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 29, 2018 at 9:38 am

"Elevated freeway for trains is accurate. This should not be built in the bay area."

It depends how you design it.


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Posted by bob.smith
a resident of another community
on Jun 29, 2018 at 10:06 am

>>> "Viaduct in Fresno, just a few counties away" <<

In PA the height would be more like this: Web Link
For maximum fear-mungering, refer to this image: Web Link


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Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 29, 2018 at 2:19 pm

bob.smith:

No one is denying (outside my brain fart) that shoofly tracks would be needed for tunnel at the ends. ODB -- who presupposes to have more railroad engineering skill than everyone on this thread -- has been claiming that you can do a viaduct on the Palo Alto ROW without shoofly tracks. That's what she/he is hanging her/his hat on. Given the narrowness of our ROW (vs. Hillsdale) and what goes for rail viaducts in California these days, it is not clear how you could build any pillars of required earthquake-proofing without requiring shoofly tracks to make sure there's enough space to put a viaduct up.


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Posted by bob.smith
a resident of another community
on Jun 29, 2018 at 3:29 pm

Me 2:

The rails currently go down the middle of the ROW, so raising or lowering the rails on a structure would start by moving the rails over to the one side of the ROW, or even beyond the ROW and onto Alma. The exception would be to build a pergola Web Link over the existing rails, but that would be prohibitively expensive, and a shoofly would still be required at end ramps.

My money is on an earth berm between San Antonio and California Avenue.
Earth berms are quick and cheap to build, resistant to earthquakes and cheap to maintain. Alma already crates a barrier in that area so a solid berm does not cause much new public degradation.
An earth berm between concrete block walls can be build from the'inside' with small construction equipment, so it could be built close to live tracks, possibly within the existing ROW width. Web Link


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Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 29, 2018 at 5:26 pm

"ODB -- who presupposes to have more railroad engineering skill than everyone on this thread -- has been claiming that you can do a viaduct on the Palo Alto ROW without shoofly tracks. That's what she/he is hanging her/his hat on."

NO I HAVE NOT! Not being a railroad construction engineer I have not adopted that position here. Go back and read my posts and see for yourself. It's something that needs to be looked into.

I'll thank you not to misrepresent my posts or intentionally misquote me [portion removed.]


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Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 29, 2018 at 5:47 pm

"My money is on an earth berm between San Antonio and California Avenue.
Earth berms are quick and cheap to build, resistant to earthquakes and cheap to maintain."

It also lacks the flooding risk and pumping requirement of a trench or tunnel.

Could it be built to provide enough clearance (14 - 15 feet) for auto traffic at Charleston and Meadow with no more than a 1.5 or 2 percent grade? Would it come back to grade by Oregon Expwy which is already grade separated?

"An earth berm between concrete block walls can be built from the 'inside' with small construction equipment, so it could be built close to live tracks, possibly within the existing ROW width."

A shoofly track would be highly disruptive and expensive. If this could be built without a shoofly then it would be a huge win.

Is this idea on the radar screen of the rail committee or the PACC, or have they already considered and discarded it?


3 people like this
Posted by bob.smith
a resident of another community
on Jun 30, 2018 at 1:18 am

^^^^^ "Is this idea on the radar screen of the rail committee"

Well it is the solution chosen by many other cities when faced with the same set of challenges, Web Link and also what HSR suggested 10 years ago. Maybe part of the problem is that Palo Alto think it is their duty to the world to re-invent and re-imagine everything and its embarrassing to admit failure in that regard.

The ROW between San Antonia and California Avenue is 100 feet wide, so if the existing rail line was moved over to the West, it could fit in a width of 35 feet, that leaves 65 feet of space to build a berm. A 55 feet wide berm could be built with one wall on the edge of the ROW next to Alma and the other 10 feet from the working rail line. During construction one or two lanes of Alma would be coned off for worker access.

To reduce height or cost or grade, the optimal solution may involve lowering the road a few feet as has been seen in other projects. In this case the berm would be build first and the resulting low underpass could not be used by trucks. After the rails have been moved onto the berm, the road would be lowered to the legally required 16 feet.

In the future the berm can be easily widened to the West to support 4 rails.


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Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 30, 2018 at 7:32 am

Berms are also freeway construction. A typical freeway flyover is a combination of berm and reinforced concrete "viaduct". Smith and ODB are two guys arguing about what style of freeway to build through the middle of Palo Alto.


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Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 30, 2018 at 9:00 am

Some rough-and-ready numbers from Google maps:

Approximate distance from San Antonio road to Charleston: 3748 feet

Approximate distance from Meadow to Oregon expwy: 6072 feet

Structure height: 16 feet

If my calculations are correct, the required height could be achieved with a grade of apx. 0.4% on the San Antonio span and 0.3% on the Oregon side, so this is doable without objection from Caltrain. The berm could be even shorter if the grade were increased to 1%, still to Caltrain's liking.

It would be impractical to build a berm all the way to California Avenue due to the Oregon expwy crossing and the Calif. Ave. station.

"if the existing rail line were moved over to the West"

Could this be done without a shoofly? You're essentailly adding a third track to the west and taking up the east track. In other words, you're putting the shoofly up on the ROW. Do you envision building the berm in two halves?

"During construction one or two lanes of Alma would be coned off for worker access."

Better than building dual cutoffs and having Caltrains rumble down Alma.

"To reduce height or cost or grade, the optimal solution may involve lowering the road a few feet"

Now you're talking about a hybrid crossing. This idea was nixed at Churchill due to restricted residential driveway access. Lowering the streets would entail additional expense and might not be necessary.

Don't let's forget that a shoofly track on Alma would create new grade crossings at whatever streets it crosses. Those crossings would have to be re-engineered and equipped with crossing hardware, likely crossing gates, red lights and bells. At minimum this would be the case at Charleston and Meadow. So the idea of putting a third passing track on the existing ROW is golden provided the ROW is wide enough for a third track.


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Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 30, 2018 at 9:12 am

One Hatch, Mott, MacDonald plan from 2014 called for a 2% trench from San Antonio to Matadero creek. It would have reqired a shoofly and would require crossing various creeks and aquifers below the surface. It would also pose a flooding risk and would require pumping stations which require ongoing maintenance.

On the plus side it called for no properties to be taken.

So the many advantages of an above-ground solution are apparent.


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Posted by Pat Burt
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 30, 2018 at 9:20 am

Pat Burt is a registered user.

The trench studied by HMM in 2014 for Charleston
/East Meadow begins and ends between the creeks rather than having to cross them. My understanding is that is the option that is now back on the table as an alternative after having been largely rejected by staff last year.


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Posted by ODN
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 30, 2018 at 9:47 am

"The trench studied by HMM in 2014 for Charleston
/East Meadow begins and ends between the creeks rather than having to cross them."

It would have to cross Barron and Adobe creeks as well as various aquifers. IIRC it stopped just south of Matadero creek.

"My understanding is that is the option that is now back on the table as an alternative after having been largely rejected by staff last year."

They can take it back off the table if this plan to build berms is feasible.

In addition to the flooding and pumping issues, I don't think people fully understand the disruption a shoofly track would cause, in addition to the expense and the need to cut two swaths for cutoff tracks to get from the main line to the shoofly.

A trench or tunnel may be the most popular among uninformed citizens but when you drill down to practical matters it loses its luster in a hurry.


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Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 30, 2018 at 10:05 am

Here is a direct quote from the H.M.M. study of 2014:

"Two scenarios were studied for the rail trench alternative. In the first scenario, a maximum grade of 2% is used to minimize the length of the trench while avoiding impacts to the creeks.
Using this alternative, the trench will begin just south of the Matadero Creek. It will pass under Baron Creek, Meadow Dr, Charleston Rd, and Adobe Creek, and will return to grade just
north of San Antonio Rd. The depth and grade of the trench is controlled by the 32.5’ clearance required under the two creeks (Baron Creek and Adobe Creek) and the constraints at either end (Matadero Creek and San Antonio Rd). Both the 1.75% grade into the trench and the 2% grade coming out of the trench will require design exceptions [from PCJPB]."

The 1% trench was even worse. It ran all the way to Rengstorff Ave. in Mountain View and called for raising San Antonio Road.


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Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 30, 2018 at 12:40 pm

"Well it is the solution chosen by many other cities when faced with the same set of challenges"

bob.smith - you keep pointing to examples in more commercial areas and/or places with a wider ROW. I'd love to see how you can build half a berm, which is basically a pile of dirt.

What's interesting is that this project involves changing Hillsdale station. I thought touching stations was verboten for grade separation projects.

Apparently not.


1 person likes this
Posted by bob.smith
a resident of another community
on Jun 30, 2018 at 3:24 pm

>>>> "you keep pointing to examples in more commercial areas"
A berm is chosen because, reluctantly, it is the only option that is affordable.

>>>>> "I'd love to see how you can build half a berm, which is basically a pile of dirt."
The row is 100 foot wide which is easily enough for 4 tracks. Two tracks on the ground and two on a berm. The berm has vertical walls. Caltrain has no problem building the berm on one side of the ROW, they can use Alma for maintenance access.

There are relatively few driveway accesses on Alma/Charleston/East Meadow that would be cut off by road lowering. Properties would not be 'taken', the city would make the property owner an offer they can't refuse, like twice the fair market value, and it would still be way less expensive than a trench.


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Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 30, 2018 at 4:43 pm

"There are relatively few driveway accesses on Alma/Charleston/East Meadow that would be cut off by road lowering. Properties would not be 'taken', the city would make the property owner an offer they can't refuse, like twice the fair market value, and it would still be way less expensive than a trench."

Double FMV in Palo Alto is getting close to $10 million.

You don't need additional clearance. I've given the distances; if the design height is 16 feet you can easily figure it out yourself. You can make clearance with a less than 1% grade so why bother lowering the cross streets and why spend the extra millions? You're going to need that money to cover the "cost overruns".

"The row is 100 feet wide which is easily enough for 4 tracks."

The original plan for HSR was to add two tracks to the Caltrain ROW for a total of four tracks.


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Posted by Kohlson
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 30, 2018 at 7:03 pm

This doesn't have to be a forgone conclusion.Take a look at google maps for the City of South Pasadena. The 710 freeway would cut the city in two; instead, they have successfully fought this for 60 years. Web Link


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Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 30, 2018 at 7:24 pm

"This doesn't have to be a forgone conclusion.Take a look at google maps for the City of South Pasadena. The 710 freeway would cut the city in two; instead, they have successfully fought this for 60 years."

I'm not sure what you mean by "this".

Palo Alto was built around the trains which have been here for over 150 years. It is unrealistic to think they will ever go away. It boils down to a question of whether Palo Altans want grade separation or would rather wait at the RR crossings for tains to pass, particularly during rush hour.

At some point there could be a bond measure or something similar, and Palo Altans could make their preferences known at the ballot box.


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Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 30, 2018 at 9:00 pm

Palo alto as NOT built around the train. Palo Alto was built around the horse and buggy which evolved into, and was replaced by, the automobile. Around 1950 passenger rail hit a technological dead end from which it has never recovered.

When considering which rail infrastructure to build we should consider the whole lifecycle cost. How much will it cost to build. How much will it cost to maintain. How much will it cost to tear down and remediate the blight when autonomous vehicles kill passenger rail.


6 people like this
Posted by Clem
a resident of another community
on Jun 30, 2018 at 11:10 pm

Oh please. Autonomous vehicles won’t kill heavy rail because they just can’t touch the massive passenger throughput of rail. Do the math! This isn’t a matter of technology; it is a matter of geometry!

Caltrain is equivalent to almost 3 freeway lanes through PA today, and will easily grow to 8 freeway lanes in the next decade or two.

This is regardless of whether or how PA decides to grade separate the rail corridor. Please carry on.


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Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 1, 2018 at 12:01 am

"When considering which rail infrastructure to build we should consider the whole lifecycle cost. How much will it cost to build. How much will it cost to maintain. How much will it cost to tear down and remediate the blight when autonomous vehicles kill passenger rail."

Naw man, flying trains. They are where it's at. Why clog the roadways with old-fashioned automobiles, even self-driving ones, when you can have flying trains?

It hasn't been reported in Palo Alto Online, but none other than Elon Musk not only has an office right there in city hall, he has a top-secret laboratory in the basement where he is developing flying trains. They use magnetism to run and thus require NO ENERGY! One city councilperson sort of spilled the beans when she brought up Elon Musk but it's true! He has an office and a top-secret laboratory right there in city hall. All the electrified catenary can be dismantled when Musk unveils his flying trains and sells them to Caltrain.


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Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 2, 2018 at 7:42 pm

"Oh please. Autonomous vehicles won’t kill heavy rail because they just can’t touch the massive passenger throughput of rail. Do the math! This isn’t a matter of technology; it is a matter of geometry"

Massive passenger throughput? For only 31K commuters (oh, sorry, 62K "boardings")?

Rail doesn't really work for the Peninsula given its density and how unbuilt up it is. In fact, the way that the Bay Area is laid out, it's closer in spirit to Houston, with housing and commercial properties mixed up along the peninsula. Caltrain is designed to funnel people to San Francisco for work. Given that some of the largest employers in our area are not even close to Caltrain shows how it doesn't work very well for many people.

Oh please. The Peninsula Laughs at your Massive Passenger Throughput.


1 person likes this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 2, 2018 at 8:00 pm

"Rail doesn't really work for the Peninsula"

Where were you and your prescience 150 years ago?

Do you ever have anything constructive to add? Or is your idea to put 30,000 more cars on the roads? Oh, but they'll be self-driving cars, so nobody will really notice.


4 people like this
Posted by Clem
a resident of another community
on Jul 2, 2018 at 9:46 pm

Caltrain today carries the equivalent peak hour capacity of 2.5 freeway lanes:
Web Link

How you reconcile this easily verifiable fact with however many people you imagine are actually using highway 101 is up to you. I'm sure the number you have in mind is quite large indeed, and you will no doubt provide detailed references and calculations to justify your disdain for Caltrain.

Your point about density is well taken. Every weekday morning, BART carries 28,000 people through the Transbay Tube in the peak hour, fully DOUBLE the capacity of I-80 over the Bay Bridge.
Web Link

That is indeed a lot more people than the 6,000 Caltrain passengers that were carried to, from or through Palo Alto every weekday morning in 2016, so you can see there is a LOT of room for Caltrain ridership to grow on the existing two tracks.

As I stated before, Caltrain can and will grow to ~8 freeway lanes equivalent. The autonomous vehicle revolution, which will likely come a decade or two later than many imagine, will only multiply the effectiveness of Caltrain by efficiently solving the last-mile problem. Rail = aorta, AVs = capillaries... it's a question of geometry, not technology.


2 people like this
Posted by brian
a resident of another community
on Jul 3, 2018 at 12:25 am

** "How much will it cost to tear down and remediate the blight when autonomous vehicles kill passenger rail."

A trench would not cost much to re-mediate, just disconnect the pumps and it will quickly become the municipal swimming pool.


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Posted by brian
a resident of another community
on Jul 3, 2018 at 12:50 am

@Clem: "The autonomous vehicle revolution ... will only multiply the effectiveness of Caltrain by efficiently solving the last-mile problem.

Yes, and Caltrain could get you from San Jose to San Francisco at 125 mph. Even if there were no other vehicles on the 101, it would not be economical to operate a single occupancy vehicle at that speed, fuel consumption and rubber tire wear increase exponentially with speed.


8 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 3, 2018 at 1:37 am

@Brian,

Caltrain cannot go 125mph on rails designed for, and shared with, freight trains. The practical limit is about 55mph. High speed tracks and rail cars are specially designed to handle the speed, and require a much higher level of inspection and maintenance than freight cars, to make sure they don't damage the tracks and create a safety hazard.




7 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 3, 2018 at 1:57 am

@Clem,

The problem for Caltrain is, the autonomous vehicle doesn't just solve the final mile problem. The autonomous vehicles also solves the first mile problem and the middle mile(s) problem.


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Posted by Clem
a resident of another community
on Jul 3, 2018 at 7:12 am

@Ahem: an AV stuck in traffic won’t get you to where you need to go, even if you do have a good book to read. That “middle mile” will be a long one if everyone tries to move in a 1.2-person pod. It’s geometry, not technology.

To make AVs work out on a large scale, you need to make them move a lot faster (100+ mph) and move many thousands of them per hour in a single lane. There are lots of challenges with maintaining sub-braking-distance headways of large vehicles at high speed and with low energy usage. These are elegantly solved by mechanically coupling the vehicles into “trains” and guiding them with low friction “rails.”

Also, for the record, today diesel Caltrain operates at 79 mph and expresses average about 50 mph (including stops). After electrification this will improve. The new trains accelerate and brake more quickly and are capable of 110 mph, once a few track and crossing improvements are made. These steps are already in the pipeline and not some far-off technological fantasy.


2 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 3, 2018 at 9:17 am

I'm going on the record here:

1. I'm a Caltrain commuter
2. Autonomous Vehicles are a long way from being ready for mass public use

That being said, the arguments against AV's are flawed. It presupposes that 1 commuter = 1 AV on the road. Most folks who think about AVs all the time do not believe that people will be owning as many vehicles. The other is the advent of pooling in ridesharing. I've done plenty of UberPools with 3+ riders.

Clem - again, you miss my (and Ahem's) point, which is rail doesn't solve the fundamental lack of coordinated urban planning on the peninsula (and the rest of the Bay Area). It just doesn't solve the commute for the majority of commuters. Neither does BART. Comparing BART and Caltrain is liking comparing who is the tallest midget.

But again, I'm not arguing for closing either one down (are you guys really that simple mindedly black-and-white?). Just that without fundamental rethink of how we're laid out *AND* for good public transit you need density (cue the gasps from the residentialists), improving Caltrain and BART is a complete waste of resources.

Even if Caltrain could shave off 15% of my commute by public transportation, it would still take me close to 1.5 hours door-to-door to San Francisco from Palo Alto. Fortunately, I am in a position where my schedule can be flexible. Otherwise, this time for most folks with children would be ridiculous.


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Posted by Oldster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 7, 2018 at 4:18 pm

Saw a video today of a Chinese train in Chongking running right through the middle of a high rise apartment house with a station in the middle of the building. Shades of the old Disney monorail running inside the first Disneyland hotel.

Anyone notice the proposed new Vallco Mall with roads running inside it deep under new grassy roof hills?

How about a Caltrain, BART, and high speed trains or pods running on a track enclosed within sound walls of the first levels of new housing and other buildings with roof top parks? The tracks could be above ground only at the creek crossings? Such a redevelopment would add enough tax revenue to build grade crossings of any type,

Who now owns the air and underground rights above and below the Caltrain tracks?


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