By Dana Hendrickson
No One Wants A Train Viaduct Overshadowing Their BackyardUploaded: Jan 21, 2019
So why bring up this subject? Because for years a small, well-organized neighborhood group of vocal Menlo Park residents has persistently and heatedly claimed a grade separation alternative that elevates Caltrain tracks without lowering streets requires a viaduct that would destroy the quality of their “home life” and the values of their property. Regrettably, they are NOT well-informed. No one has ever proposed a viaduct be built near any Menlo Park residential neighborhood either north of Glenwood or south of Ravenswood but this fact did not matter to the opponents of fully elevated grade separations (FEGS). Their drumbeats would not be silenced.
So what has happened? Although the city council strongly disliked two studied alternatives, in October 2017 it reluctantly selected the one most members viewed as the least undesirable. This design (Alternative C) builds grade separations at Ravenswood, Oak Grove and Glenwood and requires lowered streets AND elevated tracks. Three grade separations were viewed as essential despite much higher construction costs and much longer lane and street closures than the other alternative. (Note: a large majority of residents strongly favored Alternative C during earlier official public workshops.) Then in May 2018, the council abruptly changed its mind and switched to Alternative A, the design that builds only a Ravenswood underpass. What changed? The projected negative impacts of construction on our entire community had finally sunk in. At the same meeting, the council finally (but unenthusiastically) agreed to consider a study of the FEGS alternative and instructed city staff to work with the consultant AECOM to develop a funding proposal. EIGHT months later (December 2018) staff published a draft scope for the study with unexpected design constraints so stringent that an acceptable FEGS solution would not be possible. No one has explained how this happened.
Illustration: an “almost fully elevated” train bridge proposed for Burlingame at Broadway.
Fortunately, there are many good reasons for our entire community to be cautiously optimistic about the future planning of grade separations in Menlo Park.
1. This month the city council decided three grade separations are needed – that means Alternative C, at least for now.
2. All the new council members have expressed a genuine interest in understanding the FEGS alternative.
3. The new mayor has consistently demonstrated his strong commitment to rational decision-making and sound planning processes while on the city council.
4. The recently recruited Assistant Public Works Director for the Transportation Division should be highly motivated to ensure a Menlo Park FEGS study is well-designed and professionally conducted.
5. The FEGS study LIKELY will show this option is a far superior solution.
I will explain why in my next grade separation post.
This is the second in a series of posts about the on-going planning for future grade separations in Menlo Park. The first can be viewed at https://www.almanacnews.com/blogs/p/2018/12/20/who-will-you-blame-for-the-coming-menlo-park-disaster
I invite residents and local business owners interested in encouraging our city to rigorously evaluate fully elevated grade separations for Menlo Park to contact me directly. Our new city council needs and deserves our strong political support now.