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Rail/Road Grade Separation Public Mtg Tonight 11/28 6-8pm

Original post made by Cedric de La Beaujardiere, Barron Park, on Nov 28, 2018

The city is on track to put the city and everyone inside it into debt by about $700M to $1.4B+. Is your household prepared to pay an extra $1000+/year for the next 30 years? If you would like the city to seriously consider more affordable options, it is time to get informed and get vocal, before the highest cost option is locked in.

A community meeting on separating train tracks from roads is happening TONIGHT, Wednesday November 28 at 6-8pm at the Mitchell Park Community Center, in the El Palo Alto Room, 3700 Middlefield Road. This meeting will focus on the options still on the table for the Charleston Road and Meadow Drive crossings. The options for this stretch are:
1) Trench: Lower the train about 25' into a trench to go under the road;
2) Hybrid: Raise the train about 11' and lower the road about 5' to go under the tracks;
3) Viaduct: Raise the train about 16' to go over the road
Charleston and Meadow are close enough together that whatever is done at one crossing will be done at both. A future meeting on Wednesday January 23rd will discuss options for the other crossings at Churchill and Palo Alto Ave, as well as the (non) possibility of a Citywide Tunnel.

At the meeting tonight, rough cost estimates will be presented for the three options listed above, as well as pros and cons, possible barriers to constructibility, impacts to traffic during construction (likely loss of two lanes of Alma for 1-2 years), and 2D and 3D model visualizations of these options.

A common Palo Alto dream this past decade has been to put the train in a trench or better yet a tunnel: out of sight, out of mind. Unfortunately, paying for this dream would be a nightmare, as a white paper earlier this year showed these options to be astronomically expensive, literally billions of dollars. One council member estimated that to pay for the tunnel through development fees, the City would need to allow for 7 Sales Force Towers worth of development in our city, obviously way more development than residents are prepared to swallow. (The costs are shown on page 27 of the paper, which you can find at Web Link This White Paper listed the cost of trenching only under Meadow and Charleston at between $750M to $1 Billion. Even this "reduced" cost is enormous. To put it in context, in the past 23 years, the city's largest bonds where the 2010 and 2013 Libraries and Mitchell Community Center bonds, together worth $76M. So the low-estimate trenching cost is ten times more than the most we've borrowed in over 20 years!

There are two things to note on cost:
1) The city is expected to receive about $350M in 2016 Measure B funds to offset some of its grade separation costs. So whichever options are chosen for the four currently-at-grade crossings, the total cost will be reduced by that sum.
2) However much money we need to borrow to pay for the rest of the cost typically ends up costing the taxpayers about twice the sum received due to paying off interest. So if we need to borrow $400M, we'll end up paying about $800M at the end of the 30 or 50 year period.

All the options are expensive, but Trenching is the most expensive, and it is not necessarily the best option from a usage and aesthetic perspective. A pretty major downside of the Trenching option that was recently revealed is that homeowners next to the trench would likely need to lose all of their trees near the trench. The reason is that the Trench's retaining walls need ground anchors which extend into the soil about as far as the wall is tall, to keep the walls from getting pushed over by the soil they hold back. They need to keep deep-rooted trees away from damaging the anchors. At the last Council Rail Committee meeting I asked how far back would this tree exclusion zone extend and was assured this information would be shared at tonight's community meeting. Personally, I'd rather keep my trees! The Trench will need to be pumped free of water, given the water table is nearer to the surface than the full depth of the trench. How many hundreds of gallons of water will we be pumping out of our groundwater each year? How noisy will these pumps be? The Trench crosses two creeks, with potentially serious implications to our flood protection ability, as well as ecological impacts if we want to restore our creeks. It is not possible to cross the Trench, except by building a bridge over it. The Meadow and Charleston crossings would be bridges basically level with the ground, but north of Meadow and South of Charleston, if we wanted to add a bike or pedestrian crossing, it would need to be a bridge that went up and over, because the trench starts to rise to the surface, and the train needs 24.5' of vertical clearance.

I have been advocating for the Viaduct option, where the train is elevated basically on pillars, with open space between the pillars. This option has many advantages over the Trench:
1) It is more affordable, exactly how much more so has not yet been fully evaluated, but quite possibly half the cost of the Trench.
2) There is the possibility that the Viaduct can be constructed between the existing western track and Alma, leaving the track open through construction, and possibly for freight after, and thus avoid the cost and traffic impacts of building temporary tracks down Alma during construction (temporary tracks are required by the Trench and Hybrid options).
3) With the viaduct east of the western track, it pushes the train as far away as possible from the houses on Park Blvd.
4) No ground water pumping is required, no underground utilities are impacted, the creeks run free of obstruction.
5) People can potentially cross under the viaduct anywhere they have about 6'-8' of clearance (if there is no rail traffic on the western track)
6) Residents near the Viaduct can keep their backyard trees.

One reason people like the Trench and not the Viaduct is because of sound, so let me address that here. It is my understanding that dropping the train in a trench will reduce the sound of the train by 10dB, which is equivalent to halving its sound (each 10dB drop halves the perceived sound, and each 10dB increase doubles it). Raising the train on a structure increases the sound by about 4dB so an increase of about 40%. However, there are proven viaduct designs, for trains of the same speed as planned for Palo Alto (80mph max), which reduce the vibration and sound by 20dB compared to an elevated structure without these design features. Therefore, a viaduct so designed could actually be as quiet or quieter than one in a trench. In all options, the overall sound of the train will be reduced because the trains will be using more quiet electric motors instead of the loud diesel engines, and because without grade crossings, the train doesn't need to ring its bells and blare its horns.

The other reason people say they like the Trench more than the Viaduct is the visual impact of having an elevated structure behind their fences. But frankly, lots of people have elevated structures behind their fences, they are called 2- and 3-story houses, and are often much closer. The viaduct could be about 45' away from their back fences, about 15' clear above the ground closest to the crossings, and with a full-height sound wall they might be a total of ~40' from the ground, reducing in height beyond the crossings. The viaduct would be obscured by trees and with savings of potentially 100's of millions of dollars, surely we can make it aesthetically pleasing, cladding with wood or living walls, and obscuring with trees.

I am greatly concerned that this decision is being considered in a vacuum without taking into account what else we as a city may need to invest in, with climate change and sea level rise looming around the corner, and a 12-year deadline to get off fossil fuels else bake in a hell scape. Is blowing all of our money and borrowing half a billion dollars for this one project the best use of our resources? However you may feel about this project, I encourage you to attend the meeting tonight, to learn more about the project at the website Web Link and to let your city council members know how you feel, before they make a decision without your input.

(The attached image is based on a model I made in April. "Official" visualizations by the city's project consultants and cool movies from their 3D models will be shown at the meeting tonight.)

Comments (36)

Posted by Susan Stansbury
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 28, 2018 at 10:41 am

Thank you for this write up, Cedric. You state, "How many hundreds of gallons of water will we be pumping out of our groundwater each year?" My hunch is "hundreds of gallons of water each year" is off by several orders of magnitude, and this point alone should be evaluated carefully. We should be protecting our groundwater; especially with more prolonged droughts anticipated in our future.

Posted by Paly Grad
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Nov 28, 2018 at 11:14 am

The Churchill crossing is just fine as is. If people need to wait a while longer for a green light, that's completely up to them. They can always choose an alternate route if they want.

Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 28, 2018 at 11:24 am

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

@PalyGrad FYI The current option on the table for Churchill is to close the crossing, or possibly to close it during commute hours but that might have legal issues (because maps may direct people to the crossing when it's closed). Residents near Embarcadero and its approaches are concerned about this plan. That intersection will be discussed Jan 23 6-8, I think also at Mitchell Community Center.

Here's the flyer for these meetings: Web Link

Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 28, 2018 at 12:22 pm

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

I should clarify in regards to the heights and depths of the options, and should consistently refer to the top of the rail for all options. Top of the rail is where the wheels of the train come in contact with the rail. The structure is estimated to be about 5' thick. The required vertical clearance above the rail is 24.5', and the required vertical clearance above the road is 15.5' (Trains are taller than trucks, it seems.)

1) Trench: Lower the top-of-rail to 29.5' into a trench to go under the road;
2) Hybrid: Raise the top-of-rail to 14' and lower the road about 6'-7' to go under the tracks;
3) Viaduct: Raise the top-of-rail to 20.5' to go over the road

These details are given in this report from Nov 7th 2018: Web Link search for "Permanent Railroad Geometry"

Posted by Clem
a resident of another community
on Nov 28, 2018 at 12:35 pm

You will want to design for at least a 3rd track. It’s not likely that Caltrain (or the non-CPA funding agencies) will ever allow a design that permanently constrains the throughput of this valuable rail corridor to just 2 tracks.

Fun fact: in the late 1930s University Ave was designed for 4 tracks. Walk through and look up: 4 sets of bridge girders!

Posted by Elevated freight trains
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 28, 2018 at 1:04 pm

Elevated freight trains is a registered user.

@Cedric: You say that "the overall sound of the train will be reduced because the trains will be using more quiet electric motors instead of the loud diesel engines". How are you accounting for freight trains?

Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 28, 2018 at 1:38 pm

I hate underpasses like the Page Mill/Oregon and Embarcadero underpasses, but, I would prefer a few more underpasses to a city-long viaduct. Go look at San Carlos -- NOT what I want.

Posted by Not Paying 1 Cent Towards This
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Nov 28, 2018 at 1:58 pm

> from the PA Weekly..."Is your household prepared to pay an extra $1000+/year for the next 30 years?"

I'm not paying an extra $1K per annum towards a train service that I don't even use.
This is someone else's problem/concern and they can pay for it out of their own pockets.

Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 28, 2018 at 2:28 pm

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

@Clem: If the Western track is kept open through construction to avoid the need for a temporary track (and the consultants are looking at this possibility) then this could be that 3rd track.

@ElevatedFreightTrains: Note that there are very few (only about 3-4?) freight trains per day, compared to maybe 100+ passenger trains. The freight trains will continue to be diesel powered, as far as I know. So the component of noise from their engines would be the same, but if they are on the viaduct and the viaduct has sound walls, then their sound would be nearly halved by full-height walls. On the viaduct as well there would not be the horns and bells. If the freight were kept at grade on the western track, then it would not be elevated, but there would be the bells and horns.

In searching again for my reference on sound reduction by noise barriers, I found this quote in Web Link on page 8 which states "[High Speed Train (HST)] operations on aerial structures could be 1 to 2 dBA higher than at ground level and if in a trench could be 5 to 7 dBA lower than at ground level. Sound barriers would further improve these sound levels." So this source, at least for high speed trains, indicates less sound decrease in the trench than what i indicated above, and less sound increase on the viaduct. It also indicates (on p.6) that sound is reduced by 3 dBA to 4.5 dBA for every doubling of the distance from the source to the receiver.

On page 10 it says, "The dominant source of HST sound at speeds of 160 mph or less is the wheel-rail interaction and traction power equipment. To shield this effectively, relatively low barriers located close to the track are usually sufficient and serve as a natural safety barrier for passengers in emergency evacuation situations. In accordance with the FRA Guidance Manual, Detailed Noise Analysis, a barrier with a height of 6 to 12 feet will reduce wheel-rail noise by 5 to 9 dBA."

@Anon, San Carlos trains are elevated on a berm mostly, not a viaduct, though there is a viaduct structure at the station and crossing the roads. This is more like the Hybrid option, since the road goes down. These sections do not have sound walls. Here is an example of a BART viaduct (with no sound barriers): Web Link

Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 28, 2018 at 2:38 pm

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

@NotPaying1CentTowardsThis: You may not have a choice. If the the city votes to purchase bonds and otherwise tax itself, its businesses, and/or its workers, you may vote against it but you may not win. Note that you are not paying for train service for this grade separation, you are paying for ROAD service, that is, the ability to cross the tracks at any time without getting stuck in traffic with the crossing arms down while more frequent trains zoom by. Caltrain electrification is happening whether you ride it or not (and many thousands of others do ride it every day, keeping cars and traffic off the roads). With electrified trains, Caltrain can and intends to run more frequent trains, which, during commute times, will make these at-grade crossings virtually impassable. The grade separation effort in which the city is engaged is trying to address and eliminate this soon-to-be-increased traffic problem. More details on why is the city engaged in this process are available at Web Link

Posted by Elevated freight trains
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 28, 2018 at 3:12 pm

Elevated freight trains is a registered user.

@Cedric -- You do realize that the noise article you are quoting from is from HSR itself? It is important to get data from independent third parties, as opposed to the organization that is trying to build the train. I realize those are hard to come by, but I have a very difficult time putting much credence into HSR's claims about noise.

Near Sydney, they found that the noise from the elevated freight trains was so bad, despite many protections they built in, that they finally allocated tens of millions of dollars to give to nearby homes so they could add insulation. I guess that doesn't help when they open their windows, though. Web Link Whole articles have been written just on wheel squeak: Web Link

People often mention the noise of horns and bells for at-grade trains, but that can be reduced, we just haven't invested in it. See directional horns and similar. It is misleading at best when people assert that the only way to reduce that noise is to grade-separate.

Elevated freight trains occur at night, and they take many minutes to pass. If you look at passing time instead of number of trains, they are probably equivalent to the passenger trains. I find it hard to contemplate elevating them.

Posted by Bill
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 28, 2018 at 3:54 pm

Cedric, I don't see how an elevated viaduct for freight trains is realizable. Do you have an example of one of similar length that exists today? The BART viaduct in Richmond uses a single pier, but that structure only needs to support light rail.

Overall, preserving freight traffic on the Caltrain line seems like non-starter. It's a driving the requirement for 1% grades, which is limiting a lot of good options. With less than a half dozen freight trains per-day, that's not an freight corridor worth preserving.

Generating public enthusiasm for a solution that includes freight traffic will be a big problem. Folks might vote for something that yields a cross town green corridor supporting bike and pedestrian traffic. But nobody is going to support a trail next to an active rail freight line walled off by a barbed wire fence.

Posted by Not On My Dime Either
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 28, 2018 at 5:10 pm

>> Note that you are not paying for train service for this grade separation, you are paying for ROAD service, that is, the ability to cross the tracks at any time without getting stuck in traffic with the crossing arms down while more frequent trains zoom by.

This is not my problem either as I rarely (if ever) use the RR crossings in PA. Let those who rely regularly on these crossings pay the cost of financing it.

Better yet, put a toll booth next to each crossing and pay as you go.

Posted by mahsm
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 28, 2018 at 5:32 pm

mahsm is a registered user.

Elevated train is great Thanks for introducing the well thought out plan. We are not a little town at the moment and in order to grow we need this plan. My concern is that we are not planning with Mountain View , Sunnyvale, menlo Park ,
atherton, and on up and down the area. If we do not work together I fear the train will go East of the bay along with industry, housing, and people who want to work.

Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 28, 2018 at 5:42 pm

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

@ElevatedFreightTrains: When researching sound several months ago, i looked at many sources, not just Caltrain and HSR. Here is another 3rd party source of information, Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design (CARRD): Web Link

where they quote a source titled 'Sound Walls: Absorptive versus reflective design and effectiveness' to say, “In general, the rules of thumb for sound barriers are easy to remember and fairly accurate: Up to 10 dB of sound reduction is fairly straightforward to obtain. A range of 15-17 dB is practical to obtain. But more than 20 dB of reduction is difficult to obtain, and more than 25 dB is impossible to obtain."

@Bill: Many people have advocated to have freight stopped on the line, but so far to no avail. It is not within Palo Alto's power to prevent this. I believe either JPB owns the rails and UP rents it, or vice versa, either way, UP (and possibly JPB) derives income from the freight service and so are not incentivized to give up that income for the sake of Palo Alto's convenience.

There is an existing Bike/Ped path along the tracks behind Paly, T&C and PAMF, and occasionally freight trains rumble by, with just a chain fence to separate us. They are loud and slow but fun to watch.

@NotOnMyDimeEither: A toll booth is highly unlikely and problematic in many ways. A tax will be broadly applied so you won't be able to escape it by saying you don't use the roads. If you want the most affordable option, advocate with the City Council for the Hybrid option, or for closure of crossings...

Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 28, 2018 at 5:57 pm

Don't be fooled. Viaduct is a is just a euphemism for an elevated freeway for trains.

The whole Caltrain electrification project is an overpriced boondoggle that only serves 1% of the Peninsula's 3,000,000 people. 1% that want to pretend they still live in the early 20th century. 1% that are still hanging on to the hippie generation's Quixotic neo-primitivist delusion that they can save the earth from its inhabitants by going back to a world before the automobile.

There is a reason Southern Pacific unloaded the unprofitable passenger rail service on the suckers in government 50 years ago. The smart money understood even 50 years ago that passenger rail was a dead-end one-dimensional technology unable to compete in an increasingly two dimensional world.

Posted by Clem
a resident of another community
on Nov 28, 2018 at 7:58 pm

@Ahem: In early 2016, Caltrain's peak hour was equivalent to 2.8 packed freeway lanes.
Web Link

As we approach 2019 the total is likely above 3 equivalent lanes, given ridership growth since 2016. Electrification is the first step for scaling this up to 8 equivalent lanes by 2040. Except without the gross pollution, blight, noise, delay, and peripheral detours that come with freeways, even those hypothetical 21st century freeways that are filled noise-wall-to-noise-wall with shiny "self-driving" 21st century horseless carriages, gridlocked bumper to bumper with nowhere to go. Caltrain is not kidding around:
Web Link

Regarding noise calculations: the federal government (FRA) sets the rules for how you quantify noise impacts. Their calculation methodology is well documented and accessible to anyone with the wherewithal to type "FRA train noise" into a search engine. A complete spreadsheet implementation of this calculation method is available here
Web Link

Posted by Kent Schneeveis
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 28, 2018 at 9:55 pm

Just putting my toe in the water on this topic. After reading many of the posts it's clear that folks, whether riding the train or not, will benefit from the eased traffic congestion. So the cost of the improvements will be improvements to our entire community regardless of patronage of rail system. The good folks in our community should take that into consideration. - Kent

Posted by Joel
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 29, 2018 at 3:41 pm

I been against this environmental disaster to California since it's inception. I believe it will be an antiquated transportation system that has little use when it goes on line in 20 years. A shameful waste of time and energy.
Of course, at 78 I will have no personal use. This is an idea that would have been great about 50 years ago.
How about putting our money into caring for our students, health care, and general community development.
Lastly, is this monstrosity still going through the Pacheco Pass wilderness?
Thanks to you Cedric for waking us up.

Posted by Just Tear Out the Tracks
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 29, 2018 at 5:26 pm

The train is still OK for taking to AT&T Ballpark...even though the SF Giants aren't worth watching (or even worth the price of a gameday ticket).

Just tear out the tracks and widen Alma Street.

Posted by Man Paulafort
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 29, 2018 at 5:57 pm

I thought the tunnel/trench option was deemed infeasible by the county water district due to the need to cross or divert creeks, so why is it still on the table? There are also engineering issues involved with bringing the trains above and under ground.

Let's do some simple arithmetic. If the Churchill crossing is left as is and the gates are down, say, 10% of the time, it means the road is passable 90% of the time.

If the crossing is closed, the road is passable 0% of the time. How is this an improvement? It won't improve gridlock as auto traffic seeks other routes such as Embarcadero. The numbers may change but it's doubtful train traffic will ever cause the gates to be down 100% of the time.

I've posed this question many times in the past and no one has ever come up with a logical explanation of the benefits of permanently closing that or any crossing.

I've seen drawings with four tracks on the existing right of way. I didn't know the ROW was wide enough for that. Two tracks on the existing ROW could be used as shoofly tracks during construction.

In all of this reporting we hear about presentations made by engineering firms, city staff and local citizens, but we never hear anything from Caltrain itself, who will have to approve any changes to their right of way.

It sounds noble to collaborate with other cities but if you were a neighboring city would you want to collaborate with Palo Alto given that P.A. has been spinning its wheels and generally moving at a snail's pace for years on this matter?

Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 29, 2018 at 6:54 pm


Federal laws from the era of the robber barons limits the speed of trains to 79mph at grade level crossings. Caltrain, CalHSR, and transportation Luddites want the train to be able to go 100mph, and they want Palo Alto residents to pay for it.

On a side note, how did the federal government come up with 79mph? Given the 18th century braking capabilities of your average train, 10-15mph would be a better safe speed for grade level crossings. Guess it is more fun to pretend you are living in Victorian England and just run over people from the modern world who get in your way.

Posted by Clem
a resident of another community
on Nov 30, 2018 at 12:21 pm

@Ahem: grade crossings are forbidden above 125 mph, not 79 mph. The rail corridor here will be upgraded to 110 mph.

Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 30, 2018 at 1:29 pm

The residents of Palo Alto are going to have some serious buyer's remorse when they discover the new faster electric trains are actually louder than the trains they replaced.

From a Gaurdian article entitled "NYC subway exposes commuters to noise as loud as a jet engine":

"In Times Square, one of the busiest subway stations in the city, the noise level ranges from 80 decibels to 96 decibels when the express trains barrel through the station.

Other stations measured, including the 86th street station on Manhattan’s Upper West Side briefly hit an ear-splitting 101.9 decibels.

The eastbound trains at Union Square, another popular station, registered in at around 95 decibels, as New Yorkers and tourists alike looked pained and covered their ears with their hands. For perspective, 100 decibels is also the volume of a power lawn mower or a jet taking off at 305 meters."

Link: Web Link

Posted by @Ahem
a resident of another community
on Nov 30, 2018 at 5:34 pm

What part of what you've just posted implies that electric trains are louder than the current ones Caltrain is using? This is just a story about how loud the NY Subway is from within the stations. There are certainly better and quieter subway cars out there than what NYC is using, and Caltrain will not be using NYC subway cars on its tracks.

Posted by Man Paulafort
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 30, 2018 at 6:03 pm

"The residents of Palo Alto are going to have some serious buyer's remorse"

Except Palo Altans are not the buyers here. It's completely out of CPA's hands because the city does not own the trains, the stations, the locomotives, the RR cars, the signals or the land under the tracks.

Expert that you fancy yourself, I'm sure you know who does own the rail infrastructure so I'm surprised you posted this. You claim to know almost to the person what percentage of the population is served by Caltrain and bang that drum incessantly.

Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 30, 2018 at 7:02 pm

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

Even a widened Alma would be too narrow and short to accommodate the volume of commuters carried by Caltrain. See Clem's comment for equivalent free way lanes.

Skeptics are invited to visit the Palo Alto station during the morning commute, and better yet board one and try to find a seat. All travelers benefit from Caltrain, whether they ride it themselves or are spared its riders worth of traffic, fumes and hazard.

Posted by Another Alternative
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 30, 2018 at 8:07 pm

Forget the speed factor. Just turn the Caltrain system into a light rail like the MV to SJ route...essentially a bus on rails.

Quiet and no fumes.

Posted by Clem
a resident of another community
on Nov 30, 2018 at 8:13 pm

@Man Paulafort (great handle!)

"I didn't know the ROW was wide enough for that."

The right of way width is available here
Web Link

"we never hear anything from Caltrain itself, who will have to approve any changes to their right of way."

Caltrain is wisely staying out of the fray until CPA figures itself out. Evidently the citizenry holds widely diverging opinions with a sizable tunnel-or-nothing contingent, and it will take time and effort to get an official CPA grade separation policy straightened out. Once you have that, Caltrain will become involved and take the lead on construction, just as they have in other projects up and down the corridor (San Bruno, San Mateo, etc.) Next week Caltrain will enter into an agreement with Mountain View to design the Rengstorff grade sep project, and a few weeks back they entered into an agreement with Redwood City for the Whipple grade sep and associated downtown grade separations. Those cities decided on the one (reasonable) option that they wanted.

Key point: Caltrain now requires all new grade separations to be engineered for four tracks wherever feasible, so as not to impair future service expansion. Meadow/Charleston is definitely 4-track compatible. Remember they own the ROW and they call those shots.

Can CPA pull a plan together soon enough to access VTA Measure B grade separation funds? I don't think Caltrain cares that much, but y'all should give them a call when you're finished with your Palo Alto Process. Until then...

Posted by Homeless for Viaduct
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 30, 2018 at 8:19 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Man Paulafort
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 30, 2018 at 8:26 pm

Caltrain isn't going away, period.

It serves 16 communities in the 3 counties that own it and it keeps thousands of cars off the roads. Freight and HSR use or will use the tracks. "Just tearing up the tracks" is worse than naive; it's ignorant.

This is why Palo Alto is unable to solve this problem.

Posted by Man Paulafort
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 30, 2018 at 8:33 pm

"Caltrain now requires all new grade separations to be engineered for four tracks wherever feasible"

Are our city planners aware of this? Surely AECOM is.

It's the first I've ever heard of it.

Posted by Clem
a resident of another community
on Nov 30, 2018 at 9:15 pm

References for four-track future proofing are provided below. I don't think it's an official policy (yet), but it's a de-facto requirement not to preclude future additional tracks. There is no requirement to build the tracks now, just make the structure work with future expansion. Nobody, not even CPA, is going to be allowed to build something that constrains future traffic growth on the rail corridor.

Mountain View, see bottom of PDF page 105 of the December PCJPB agenda packet
Web Link
"the design will consider and accommodate Caltrain/High Speed Rail
Blended System improvements and be designed to allow for up to four tracks."

Redwood City, see report to council from October with Caltrain grade sep MOU (this is what collaboration with a city looks like). See PDF page 138.
Web Link
"The infrastructure needed to support future blended services is still under study. Given this, the project study report must include at least one design option that accommodates the potential overtake. In this context accommodate is understood to have the following minimum threshold of meaning: (a) the grade separation design maximizes the preservation and configuration of the existing ROW such that overtake tracks could be built later with no or minimal ROW acquisition; (b) the grade separation design does not force future overtake tracks to be built in a way that substantially increases their cost and complexity"

While the blended system is primarily two tracks within the right of way, there are things that will come after the blended system runs out of capacity. Nobody ever agreed to keep only two tracks through Palo Alto, and any grade sep design will need to be future proof. Two-track trenches and tunnels need not apply.

Please send memo to AECOM, because they are wasting your money if they aren't already on top of this key design constraint.

Posted by Man Paulafort
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 30, 2018 at 11:04 pm

"Two-track trenches and tunnels need not apply."

There goes the cost through the roof.

As I posted earlier, didn't the water district put the kibosh on a trench/tunnel through Palo Alto due to creek crossing/diversion issues?

Posted by Win/Place/Show
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 1, 2018 at 3:10 pm

Keeping Caltrain operational is critical for my needs. Gotta get to Bay Meadows (Hillsdale) every other day to play the horses. It's my only escape from the Missus
since retirement and taking SamTrans or driving my car via ECR is a nuisance.

I don't care if the RR tracks are underground, overground or suspended in the air.
It's immaterial and I want to keep using my senior pass. The noise doesn't bother me either.

Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 1, 2018 at 7:06 pm

^ What, OTB at the Jockey Club? After redevelopment, Bay Meadows is just a dim memory.

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