News

Menlo Park has funds to start Middle Avenue tunnel design

 

The city of Menlo Park now has the funds to begin preliminary engineering work on a pedestrian and bicycle tunnel that would run under the Caltrain tracks in the vicinity of El Camino Real and Middle Avenue.

The board of directors of the San Mateo County Transportation Authority approved $490,000 in county transportation money for the project at its March 3 meeting, said Tasha Bartholomew, spokesperson for the authority.

That money, combined with $210,000 from the city, will allow the engineering work to begin.

The project, expected to cost a total of $11 million, is designed to improve connectivity on both sides of the tracks, including between the Civic Center and the downtown areas, for walkers and cyclists.

Funds for design and construction of the undercrossing "will need to be pursued in the future," the city said in a staff report.

The tunnel would be near the Middle Avenue plaza part of Stanford University's proposed project to develop its 8.4 acres along El Camino with offices, apartments and retail.

Stanford has said it will make a "substantial contribution" to fund the undercrossing, but has not been more specific.

Comments

2 people like this
Posted by WhyATunnel
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 8, 2016 at 9:50 pm

$700,000 to begin engineering work on an $11M underpass.

How much would it cost to just build an at grade crossing? (At the grade of the tracks, which are slightly elevated there)

Pedestrian and cyclists have been crossing at grade at every intersection in Menlo without incident for a long time.
Why does this have to be an extremely expensive (yeah, sure, Stanford's check is in the mail), probably never to be built underpass?

Put it at grade and just build it.


21 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 8, 2016 at 10:29 pm

Demand for Caltrain service is soaring and Caltrain plans to add more and faster trains through their electrification program. The county is doing its best to remove all the existing at-grade pedestrian crossings for safety reasons and also to make walking more convenient and efficient for pedestrians. Asking for a new at-grade pedestrian crossing is a real bad idea.


10 people like this
Posted by Enough
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 9, 2016 at 7:56 am

Bikes and pedestrians do NOT have trouble crossing the train tracks, they have trouble crossing El Camino. Trains are very intermittent. The cars on El Camino are a non-stop flow during daylight hours. This bike/pedestrian underpass at the tracks is a waste of money and a boondoggle. Put the money where it will be useful like a bike/pedestrian OVERpass at Ravenswood and Alma - that intersection is a deathtrap.


8 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 9, 2016 at 9:33 am

An Overpass????? Which will have a ramp, and need to be the same size as the bike over pass over 101. And let's raised the tracks too, and add electrical pylons and cables for the new Caltrain/HSR. You've all lost your minds.

We've been talking about/working on this underpass for ages. Let's get it going!


3 people like this
Posted by Stats
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Mar 9, 2016 at 10:47 am

@WhyATunnel,
Sure ! It's absolutely a good idea to add an at-grade unprotected crossing, just as higher speed rail begins to ramp up on those tracks...
Web Link

Sounds like you are just seeking ways to hamstring more efficient rail service on the peninsula and throughout CA !


Like this comment
Posted by Sheldon Kay
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 9, 2016 at 12:26 pm

Instead of spending $700,000 why don't they just copy the one PA has on Homer. Maybe just scale it back a little.


13 people like this
Posted by here we go again
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 9, 2016 at 12:44 pm

No, no. You don't understand. The City already paid for a similar study about 12 years ago. Time to waste some more money.


6 people like this
Posted by gunste
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Mar 9, 2016 at 1:29 pm

Thin long term !! Why not make the tunnel sufficient to accommodate cars too. The lack of an east-west through road in Menlo Park is obvious. There is no good channel for cars between Woodside Road and Page Mill. The Ravenswood-Willow or March Road route is sort of useless for effectively moving traffic. - Abandoning the Willow Freeway in the 1960s was just a big error. Only part was corrected with the increase of Sand Hill Road to four lanes from 280 to Stanford Shopping Center. -


2 people like this
Posted by Questions
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Mar 9, 2016 at 1:50 pm

Are there any studies that show it would be used, e.g. is there justification to build this?
If this is built does it then prevent the train tracks from being below grade?

If on the other hand, the tracks are going to go over Ravenswood (yuck) is a tunnel then not needed?

Shouldn't the decision on what happens to the tracks be made first and this included as part of it?

Would the $11m come even close to offsetting the costs of sinking the tracks and could it be used there instead?

BTW, I bike about an hour most days through Menlo Park. In the 30 years I've lived in Menlo Park, I've never felt a need for a crossing there. Getting rid of the at grade train crossings is at least 30 years long overdue.


3 people like this
Posted by dana hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 9, 2016 at 2:01 pm

Today bicyclists have NO safe and convenient way to cross EL Camino AND the train tracks because there are no continuous bike lanes at the crossings and on approaches.

Building an east-west bike corridor at the SOUTH-END of El Camino with a connection between Middle Avenue and the existing bike lanes on Alma is recommended in the Specific Plan and is an essential element in our community's bike network. So I welcome any progress. Hopefully the connection will open in 2019-2020.

A Valparaiso- Glenwood-Laurel connection will be completed this year (2016) will serve as an east-west bike corridor at the NORTH END.

The last missing connection is a CENTRAL east-west corridor based on Menlo and Ravenswood Avenues. I describe this on the Re-Imagine Menlo Park website. This could be completed within 12 months if the City approved it.

Once these and the north-south connection between Alma and Encinal are built (2019) Menlo Park we will have an excellent bike network!


Like this comment
Posted by Member
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 9, 2016 at 2:18 pm

For $11 million dollars you ought to be able to get a tunnel under El Camino and the train tracks all the way to the Civic Center. $700,000 for some preliminary design work looks like a rip-off.


Like this comment
Posted by WhyATunnel
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 9, 2016 at 3:27 pm

" The county is doing its best to remove all the existing at-grade pedestrian crossings for safety reasons.."

That would require removing the sidewalks that cross the tracks at Ravenswood, Oak Grove,Glenwood, Encinal, ...
They are all pedestrian walkways that cross the tracks at grade.
Are you actually suggesting that the county is trying to do this?

"Sure ! It's absolutely a good idea to add an at-grade unprotected crossing, just as higher speed rail begins to ramp up on those tracks..."

Again, what is going to happen with all the sidewalks that already cross the tracks with high speed rail?

THERE ARE ALREADY MANY PLACES WHERE PEDESTRIANS CROSS THE TRACKS AT GRADE. WITH NO PROBLEMS!

Also, I never said unprotected. Have gates and flashing lights when a train approaches like at every other at grade pedestrian crossing. That can't cost anywhere near $11M.





1 person likes this
Posted by Tunbridge Wells
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 9, 2016 at 5:54 pm

Tunbridge Wells is a registered user.

Caltrain has been working hard to limit pedestrian access to the train tracks for fairly obvious suicide prevention reasons. That's why the right of way is mostly fenced except at stations or grade crossings. The likelihood of Caltrain agreeing to a pedestrian grade crossing starts at zero and goes down from there.


2 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 9, 2016 at 5:56 pm

@WhyATunnel - I am obviously talking about pedestrian-only crossings. Car & pedestrian crossings are obviously more complicated. The county has been grade-separating street crossings in the northern part of the county (by elevating the train tracks). Menlo Park, however, opted out of this program by refusing to consider elevating the train tracks anywhere in the city for any reason.


Like this comment
Posted by fix Middle too
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 10, 2016 at 9:01 am

The design for any undercrossing (or overcrossing) needs to include Middle from Morey eastward. I ride my bike on Middle to Safeway and have encountered horrific traffic congestion into and out of the shopping center driveway. The intersection at El Camino can't be a lot better. Middle is just too narrow for all the cars. The cars are not looking out for bicyclists.

Until Middle is made more safe, a new undercrossing at Middle is a frightening thought. We NEED an undercrossing - ANY undercrossing. My vote would be at Roble or Cambridge.


4 people like this
Posted by Walker
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 10, 2016 at 9:36 am

Please take into account the popular dirt footpath that runs along the tracks on the Alma side from Ravenswood to the pedestrian/bike bridge over the creek into Palo Alto. It is a safe path used by many to walk/jog from Menlo Park to Palo Alto. It would truly be a tragedy if the bike tunnel were to block the path.


2 people like this
Posted by dana hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 10, 2016 at 2:12 pm

Fix Middle To, you are right about the need to improve the Middle Avenue section of this east-west bike corridor which is included in the Specific Plan. Middle should have bike lanes for its entire length and suitable marking, signage and controls that enable bicyclists to safely and conveniently enter and exit the Safeway parking lot AND cross El Camino.


2 people like this
Posted by Steve Schmidt
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Mar 10, 2016 at 2:18 pm

WhyATunnel playfully writes that Stanford’s check is in the mail. He’s on to a larger truth: that Middle Avenue is the chosen location for the tunnel because of Stanford and its development plans. Middle Avenue has too much car traffic, too many dangerous driveways and a large intersection with El Camino. On the other side there is an unsafe T-intersection with Alma where pedestrians and bicyclists will emerge from a subterranean tunnel. This is not suitable for cycling commuters or students. Walking a bike will be required.

This location was chosen by our City Council because it will serve Stanford’s residential tenants by allowing them easy walking access to all the attractions of Burgess Park: the gym, rec center, the library, skateboard park, tennis courts, swimming pool, etc. This is the location Stanford wants! Stanford is the primary beneficiary. Why isn’t Stanford University putting up any money now to support this early phase of the project? Why are San Mateo County taxpayers putting up $490,000 and the City is putting up $210,000 for this phase? WhyA Tunnel might ask our City Council.


1 person likes this
Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 10, 2016 at 3:39 pm

Steve: you are factually wrong - or perhaps simply deceptive - about who wants the Middle Avenue bike corridor, including the El Camino and track crossings and the Alma connection. Menlo Park residents included these in the Menlo Park Specific Plan (2012) and ALL these bike facilities can easily be designed to be safe, convenient and comfortable. This corridor will provide needed connectivity between bicyclists who live near Middle and Oak Avenues who want an excellent way to any destination on the east side of El Camino including access to Willow, Middlefield, Laurel, Encinal which all have bike facilities. And yes, I am sure Stanford wants it as well for the same reasons. Both Menlo Park and Stanford need to encourage bike rather than vehicle usage whenever possible. I recall you have opposed the Stanford development of 500 ECR and were a major supporter of the failed Measure M campaign. It appears your attitude colored your comment.


Like this comment
Posted by steve schmidt
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 10, 2016 at 5:07 pm

Dana,
First of all, you are wrong by stating that I was against the Stanford ECR development. Measure M, which I supported, would have limited the amount of office development on the Stanford parcel to 100,000 sf. I was not against the Stanford development.

If you are correct that there will be significant community benefits from the Stanford’s Middle Plaza undercrossing, then the City Council was remiss in not requiring that Stanford with its $22B endowment build the whole thing. Before the Council increased Stanford’s development rights 2.5 times, it should have occurred to them to require a meaningful public benefit contribution. Is the Council’s primary responsibility to enhance a developer’s bottom line or represent the interests of the residents?

We still don’t know what Stanford’s 2013 “offer” means. The University appears to be sitting on the sidelines while Menlo Park scrambles for taxpayer money to get this undercrossing project going.


1 person likes this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 10, 2016 at 5:10 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

"Measure M, which I supported, would have limited the amount of office development on the Stanford parcel to 100,000 sf. I was not against the Stanford development. "

Which would have made the Stanford project impossible, thus, yes, I was and am against the Stanford project. Please spare us the twisting obfuscation.


Like this comment
Posted by steve schmidt
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 10, 2016 at 8:48 pm

Menlo Voter:
You've wandered off the topic of Stanford's undercrossing and now I'm curious. Of all the arguments put forth by Menlo Deserves Better & your other allies, I had never heard or seen in print that the Stanford project would be rendered impossible by the passage of Measure M. Where did this come from?


Like this comment
Posted by dana hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 11, 2016 at 2:08 pm

Steve: you are correct. I should have chosen my words more carefully. I meant to say that I believe you opposed the PROPOSED Stanford development which Stanford modified in 2015 after a required study indicated that the project could generate unacceptable levels of neighborhood traffic. The city planning process re: 500ECR worked as required and did so without the need for Measure M.

However, the central point of my prior post is that Menlo Park is the PRIMARY beneficiary of the tunnel, not Stanford.

I believe Stanford intends to share the cost of the tunnel construction which is the most significant part of this project. I agree Menlo Park should negotiate the maximum public benefit contribution that it can within the framework of the Specific Plan. Since I am not knowledgeable about the negotiation re: 500ECR I cannot judge its reasonableness. Perhaps you can share your understanding of the terms.


Like this comment
Posted by steve schmidt
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 12, 2016 at 10:46 am

Dana,
It's not a question of you or me being knowledgeable about terms of negotiations between MP & Stanford. Nobody knows what is going on. I suggest that you refer your questions about any negotiations between the City and Stanford to our Council's Stanford subcommittee, Kirsten Keith and Rich Kline, who have been having closed & private meetings with Stanford for some time.
FYI, no public benefit negotiation is required of Stanford because none of their proposals have exceeded the base FAR established by the Specific Plan. Their first trial balloon came close with 229,000 sf of office, which I believe was the maximum allowed on the 8.3 acre merged site.
Steve


Like this comment
Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 12, 2016 at 12:03 pm

Steve: Thanks for reminding me that the Stanford project is consistent with the Specific Plan, and therefore Stanford is not required to provide public benefits.

Is it true that Stanford has agreed-at least in principle-to Menlo Park extending Middle Avenue bike facilities across its property and to fund some portion of a Middle-Alma bike and pedestrian tunnel?

If so, these would be significant benefits. Agree?


Like this comment
Posted by steve schmidt
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 12, 2016 at 8:08 pm

Dana,
For the pedestrian & bike facilities through Stanford property to Caltrain (or the Cortana panhandle) I'm not aware of a public easement being offered by Stanford or currently being sought by Menlo Park. Will this be a handshake deal?

Stanford is not offering any funds for the critical preliminary engineering and environmental clearance phase of the project. As of March 3, 2016 the City and San Mateo County Measure A will be picking up 100% of the $700,000 tab.

So far it doesn't look much like a substantial contribution.


Like this comment
Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 13, 2016 at 5:10 pm

Steve:

I was referring to the requirement described in the April 16, 2013 City Council Agenda - page 135

"This project is also required to provide a 120-foot-wide, publicly accessible frontage break at Middle Avenue. This "Burgess Park Linkage/Open Space Plaza" would lead to a future grade-separated pedestrian/bicycle crossing of the Caltrain tracks. As is specified in the Specific Plan, the grade crossing itself (which would need to cross the separately-owned 700-800 El Camino Real property) is not the responsibility of this applicant, but the provision of a 120-foot-wide, publicly-accessible amenity that will ultimately lead to the crossing is a unique requirement of this applicant.

Have I misinterpreted the City-Stanford agreement re: Stanford's obligation to support the bike connection?

How much of the $700,000 tab will Menlo Park bear?


3 people like this
Posted by menlo resident
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 14, 2016 at 1:11 pm

"Put the money where it will be useful like a bike/pedestrian OVERpass at Ravenswood and Alma - that intersection is a deathtrap."

Don't know if it's an overpass or an underpass, but with the focus on that intersection.

What happened to - we did a study on Ravenswood crossing years ago? What happened to - we have the money and have had it for many years? What happened to, this is the most dangerous train crossing in the City and has been for years? What happened to - we just lost a young woman on those tracks? Does this mean nothing to those pushing for this thing on Middle??




Like this comment
Posted by Aaron
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 15, 2016 at 10:32 am

$11 million for a tunnel that's maybe 100 feet long? Seriously? $700,000 to plan/study something that has apparently been planned/studied previously? I would like to see the itemized estimates for these costs.


Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle

on Sep 23, 2017 at 11:45 pm

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Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle

on Sep 28, 2017 at 12:52 pm

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