News

Menlo Park weighs three options for separating roads from rail line

 

Three options to separate the Caltrain rail line from the Menlo Park streets it crosses were presented by the city of Menlo Park and representatives of the construction engineering consulting firm, AECOM, at a community meeting on Oct. 4.

Grade separations are being studied as a way to improve traffic flow and safety around the railroad tracks.

One option is to run Ravenswood Avenue under the tracks, which would remain at their current grade. The underpass, expected to be 740 feet in length from El Camino Real to Noel Drive, would have a steep grade downhill, and would be 22 feet below the ground at its lowest point. It would also cut off access at Alma Street. Alma Street would continue across the intersection at grade level parallel to the tracks.

A second option is to build two grade separations, at the Ravenswood and Oak Grove avenue crossings, that would both raise the tracks and lower the roadway considered a "hybrid" approach. At Ravenswood, the crossing would go 8 feet down while Caltrain would be elevated 14 feet up, and at Oak Grove, the crossing would go 15 feet down and the tracks 6 feet up. The project would cover a span of 5,400 feet, from East Creek Drive to Glenwood Avenue.

The third option is a "hybrid" as well, but would add a grade separation at the Glenwood Avenue crossing. It would run 5,800 feet, from East Creek Drive to Encinal Avenue, and over the three intersections, would have a maximum added height of 10 feet and maximum depth of 15 feet.

Each would have bike and pedestrian crossings separate from the tracks. Each also has its pros and cons, presenter Etty Mercurio of AECOM said, and carries implications for the possibility of building future grade separations along the Caltrain line. For instance, if the city were to pick the first option, then it could be harder and more expensive to build grade separations at the other rail crossings later on, since the chance to raise the Caltrain line may have passed.

The three options will also be presented to the Menlo Park Transportation, Bicycle and Planning commissions for feedback.

According to Menlo Park Associate Engineer Angela Obeso, the purpose of the study is for the City Council to have the information it needs to pick an option and move forward with creating designs. From that point, she said, it'll probably take three to four years to identify funding and proceed with designing the project, and then another three to four years to get construction funding and build the project. Construction time will vary based on the selected project.

Buildings at the Menlo Park train station may have to be moved, Ms. Obeso said.

"Due to the need for wider platforms (the current station platforms are non-standard widths) and the proximity of the existing buildings to the existing platforms, most likely the buildings would have to be moved," she said in an email.

Based on the requirements of the San Mateo County Transportation Authority, which helped fund the feasibility study, the designs cannot interfere with the train's electrification process or preclude the possibility of the construction of a passing track, or third track lane.

The contract for the feasibility study says the fee is "not to exceed $631,000."

Electrification

According to Casey Fromson, external affairs officer at Caltrain, the electrification process has already begun to get the electric train fleet built.

The current timeline for the electrification process is for construction to begin in 2017, with four different phases, expected to be completed in 2021. Caltrain service will continue, with construction taking place in off-peak hours, on weekends and during evenings.

A third community meeting on the feasibility study is expected to be held in early 2017. At that point, Ms. Obeso said, the consultants and city staff are expected to have refined designs, cost estimates, and more information about the possible impacts and project staging plans.

"Once we have a preferred alternative and cost estimates prepared, the project will be better positioned to apply for additional funding. Potential sources are local, regional, state and federal funds and we'll need to explore all possibilities," she said in an email.

Comments

14 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 9, 2016 at 10:07 pm

What does this statement mean? "Each would have bike and pedestrian crossings separate from the tracks."

Do you mean that the bike and pedestrian crossings will be separate from the car crossings?

Palo Alto has underpasses at University, Embarcadero, and Oregon. All of these divert bicycles, pedestrians, and wheelchairs into too narrow, dark, smelly, unpleasant sidewalks. If that is what Menlo Park is thinking about, I vote NO on underpasses. Raise the tracks so pedestrians can have a safe, level, and convenient crossing. Discouraging pedestrians from these routes is what cuts cities in half.


3 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 10, 2016 at 8:38 am

$631,000 of another study, paid for my all those financial bonuses of development in MP, all to be shelved because of poor timing and lack of coordination with HSR and Electrification. All this populist panic end up driving the politics in Menlo park where the only beneficiaries are the over-paid consultants.

Like it or not, HSR and Electrification are the only regional examples of joined-up thinking and therefore rule the day. Our piecemeal attempts to 'fix' things is blind and all I can say is that I want my money back!


12 people like this
Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Oct 10, 2016 at 10:03 am

Since option C is the only thing that makes any sense, Menlo Park will probably go with A. It's the least flexible and will cost the most money in the long term.


2 people like this
Posted by Kate Bradshaw - Almanac Reporter
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Oct 10, 2016 at 11:56 am

Kate Bradshaw - Almanac Reporter is a registered user.

@parent: Great question. The bike and pedestrian facilities would be on a separate plane from the cars in alternative A and on the same level as the cars in alternatives B and C, all with ramps to access the train station at Ravenswood. I've just posted several illustrations of this from slides the city and consultants presented, which are expected to be posted online soon at menlopark.org/ravenswood.


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Posted by Community First
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Oct 10, 2016 at 12:37 pm

"At Ravenswood, the crossing would go 8 feet down while Caltrain would be elevated 14 feet up, and at Oak Grove, the crossing would go 15 feet down and the tracks 6 feet up. "

Sounds like too steep an elevation change. Can you please double check your notes?


13 people like this
Posted by long view
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 10, 2016 at 12:40 pm

In the long run, the ONLY design that makes sense is to underground the trains. Yes, that is expensive but we should learn from what other countries and cities have done. This option should not be eliminated.

It's hard to believe that Options B and C are different, other than height. Wouldn't Glenwood be affected?

Does anyone know the impacts on Merrill and Garwood Way? Only Alma is mentioned but these other streets probably would be affected, too. What impacts on businesses and projects?

Really, 6-8 years before a project could start? In the meantime, electrification happens? Wouldn't that mean major re-do's? Please ask tough questions. This does not make sense


3 people like this
Posted by Menloresident
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Oct 10, 2016 at 1:33 pm

In case anyone missed this site, it documents what has already been learned by various cities about Caltrain grade separations on the peninsula:

Bayrailalliance.org


10 people like this
Posted by blatt
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Oct 10, 2016 at 1:45 pm

Dig a trench for the trains throughout Menlo Park! No one residing or working anywhere near the tracks would want elevated trains and overhead electrification just adds to the potential unsightliness (just look at San Carlos!). Keep the crossings at grade level.


2 people like this
Posted by Willows Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Oct 10, 2016 at 2:51 pm

Is evaluation of noise impacts part of the consultant's scope? Raising tracks up 15 feet will have a major impact on how much of Menlo Park is impacted by train horns. Another concern is keeping underpasses dry in heavy rainstorms, as flooding in the Oregon Expressway underpass has shown.


15 people like this
Posted by Chuck Bernstein
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Oct 10, 2016 at 3:05 pm

Hooray for the opinions of "long view" and "blatt." None of the options being studied make any sense. The only plan that will address all of the problems is to underground the tracks. Otherwise, with more trains, we will have even more congestion around the tracks. Undergrounding would likely reduce track suicides as well.

And while we are at it, let's underground some lanes of El Camino as well. That way we could get traffic out of Stanford and the medical center directly to where it is going rather than let it cut through Menlo Park.

Someone always brings up the cost as a reason not to study the only alternative that makes sense. The result is that we have no idea what it would cost. Moreover, no one has ever costed the value of the "air rights" that would be created on the above-ground right of way.

Come on, Menlo Park, let's be smart about this and get increased safety, decreased congestion, and less noise.

--Chuck Bernstein, 444 Oak Court, Menlo Park


10 people like this
Posted by James Madison
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 10, 2016 at 3:08 pm

1. If the study project had looked as far into history as the 1950s, the researchers would have found a design proposed by the then contract City Engineer Ed Smith that called for a depressed crossing of the then Southern Pacific tracks by Ravenswood, which then went straight to El Camino instead of curving to meet Menlo Avenue. The project was never approved because, if the crossing was to meet the grade of El Camino, the grade of Ravenswood from the tracks to El Camino would have been intolerably steep.

2. The present option A proposes to solve this problem bar starting back from the tracks as far as Noel, so that the ascent to El Camino begins sooner. That's really no solution, because of the extent to which it disrupts the neighborhood East of the tracks. Realistically, the choices comes down to either (1) elevating the tracks to at least Glenwood, if not beyond through Atherton Avenue, together with a lesser depression of the crossing streets, or (2) trenching over the same distance. Which does the body politic prefer and which is it willing to pay for?

3. I suggest those who might otherwise prefer option A drive back and forth under the tracks at the Oregon Expressway-Page Mill Road crossing. That project was designed at the same time as the 1950s version of a Ravenswood crossing and was subjected to the same criticism, but was approved by the Palo Alto City Council over objection, and we have been living with its dangerously inadequate sight lines ever since.


11 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 10, 2016 at 9:11 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Bernstein states "The only plan that will address all of the problems is to underground the tracks."

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 25, 2015 at 2:36 pm
Peter Carpenter is a registered user.
If this is done one crossing at a time it will be very expensive, take a long time and result in a dis-integrated design.

Please at least think about a more comprehensive and integrated approach.

Why not see this as an opportunity rather than a problem?

One thought is the put the trains underground, use the surface rights above it for housing in the stretches between stations and use the surface above the stations for transit connections and parking. The surface area of the current right of way is very valuable land - particularly in Atherton - and could generate a lot of the needed capital.

Why not take this as an opportunity to design a multi-dimensional, multi-purpose system that uses the existing right-of-way that includes CalTrain, HSR, utility conduits for telephone and internet cables, surface housing with high density housing around each station. And add pedestrian path and a separate bicycle path on the surface along the entire right of way. And include 3 or 4 12" conduits for the technology of the future.

We should think of this right of way as an integrated multi-modal communications spine for the peninsula.

A piecemeal approach will be very expensive.

Do it once and do it right.

Let's take the big view and come up with a win-win solution.


12 people like this
Posted by Start Digging
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Oct 11, 2016 at 9:17 am

@ Chuck Berstein; I couldn't agree more. When considering rail infrastructure, you have to take the long view. This isn't your typical land use case where we debate the finer points of building heights or the merits of adding a stoplight here or there. This is a major, expensive, and, from the viewpoint of our lifetimes, a permanent change. The solution can't be short sided or approached piecemeal city by city.

The only logical solution is to underground the tracks. Unlike subway lines which are usually installed at great expense by tunneling deep enough to clear the structure of the buildings above them, CalTrain can use the much more convenient and significantly less expensive, trench-and-cover method. This been implemented by many cities without regret.

The existing tracks and right of way would offer an unparalleled north-south pedestrian and bicycle coordinator and allow the land above to be developed as different cities see fit: parks, retail, commercial residential, etc.

Palo Alto and other cities have already considered designs for just such a plan. MP and Atherton should band with these cities, explore ways to get this done being creative with their designs and funding solutions. For now, forget the proposed study which will likely only be a focused civil works cost-design study for several specific grade separations. These only ever generate traffic counts and ridership impacts and track elevation drawings and costs for different intersections.

Just get out and talk to other peninsula cities. Engage with the community. Solicit and tap their ideas for workable solutions from all of us. Offer a public design prices to solicit ideas for designed, and on an economic solution to implement it. Travel to cities who have done this -- not just here but abroad as well. See how others have succeeded and bring back a plan to do the same here.

With that as background, I can't help but think that several of the most impacted, contiguous, peninsula cities could find a solution that works for all: the cities themselves, Southern Pacific (if they still have a stake), CalTrain, and High Speed Rail.

Lock down a design and start digging. We can't keep trying to solve this grade-crossing by grade-crossing. The end result will be a patchwork of fixes, with major compromises and a staggering cumulative price tag.



Like this comment
Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Oct 11, 2016 at 10:02 am

Does Menlo Park have the $10,000 per inch required to bury the tracks? It is simply far too expensive.


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Posted by MPer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 11, 2016 at 10:54 am

I love all the commenters here who feel they know the right solution. You don't.

Some criticize what was built in Palo Alto 60 years ago, well they did something. Yet fail to mention the much newer crossings at Homer in PA and in San Bruno, San Carlos, Belmont etc...

Tunneling it is great idea, but it expensive and not a slam dunk. Yet, how can we afford that when Menlo Park can't even fix sidewalks?

What I do know is that all the 2nd guessers in MP will ensure that nothing happens to fix the tracks at all. Let's study it, 2nd guess it to death an ultimately do nothing.


5 people like this
Posted by elevate separate electrify
a resident of another community
on Oct 11, 2016 at 11:05 am

The idea of having underground train stations in Menlo Park and Atherton is absurd. With various creeks along the way, the train tunnel would need to the 30 to 50 feet underground. Those tracks also need to support freight trains. If Caltrain modernization includes level boarding, there will need to be a third set of track down the middle so that wider freight trains can pass through. A third or fourth set of tracks will also allow commuter trains to operate when there is mechanical failure or collision. Bullet trains should also use the center tracks. If you've ever stood at the Menlo Park station while a bullet train passes at 70 miles per hour, you'd understand the safety issue.

Let's get the entire Caltrain corridor elevated, fully grade separated and electrified.


2 people like this
Posted by long view
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 11, 2016 at 11:24 am

We need to look at net costs, not just expenses. As Bernstein, Carpenter observe, there are both revenue and quality of life benefits that must be evaluated. That includes It is far too simplistic to only look at short term costs. An analysis of potential revenue sources should be done. An evaluation of other community benefits also should be done. Imagine the vibrancy possible in the heart of our town without the trains barreling through! Imagine the north-south connectivity possible!

A thorough analysis of potential funding sources must be done. Other cities and countries have put trains under. We have smart people and resources to do this.

Streams, even mountains, do not get in the way other places. Why here? Even BART went under the Bay.


16 people like this
Posted by Martin
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 11, 2016 at 11:32 am

Sadly, if Menlo Park (along with PA and Ath) hadn't been fighting High Speed Rail for the last 8 years, it could've worked with Caltrain and HSR instead to create a solution and funding path to getting these done.

For the new grade separation San Mateo is getting some funding from HSR for the Grade Separation around Hillsdale station and leveraging San Mateo taxes. Sadly, these taxes have been capped out leaving the obvious source of funding out.

It's not end of the world, but certainly adds extra level of challenge.


12 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 11, 2016 at 11:49 am

For better or worse, I agree with @Martin. We had the opportunity 10 years ago to grade separate the entire track through Menlo Park, but after years of bickering and lawsuits, that chance is long gone. The only change that we are going to see in our lifetime is the 3 choices presented here, or leave the tracks as is (with the current traffic and safety headache). Pushing for anything without putting up the money to do it is essentially the same as pushing for the status quo.


Like this comment
Posted by Observer
a resident of Woodside High School
on Oct 11, 2016 at 2:47 pm

as we look to the long term: ultimately HSR will just use the San Jose terminus and let local transit aggregate traffic -- just as the Chunnel train reaches one, not all major stations in London or Paris ... even all of greater Tokyo with twice the population of the entire Bayarea, is served by only 2 bullet stations: "Tokyo" and "Shinagawa" stations

Electrification *will* happen, if only for environmental reasons -- as well as speed to serve the airport and a SJ HSR terminus


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Posted by Randy Clunge
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Oct 12, 2016 at 8:53 am

Randy Clunge is a registered user.

Seems that the BEST option would be to fix the traffic lights so that there isn't a huge back up prior to a train coming -- allow more time for the poor drivers to get around the guard rails - maybe start the RR crossing signals sooner than the guards rails dropping, make more signs and nanny state the heck out of the bad drivers that get stuck on the tracks waiting for traffic ahead of them to move... what else?


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Posted by Menlo Park Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 12, 2016 at 9:59 am

If these are the only options, then grade separation isn't feasible. A poor solution to the problem will be worse than living with the problem itself. We should focus on making the at-grade crossings work with safety upgrades and traffic management improvements. If the State and Caltrain want grade separations, they need to fund the mandate and fund it at a level that does not reduce the quality of life, connectedness and vibrancy of our downtown area. We are in danger of being slow-walked into poor outcome. Fortunately, we have outcomes in San Carlos and Palo Alto to compare to the picture painted by grade-separation advocates. These show that their argument, that a lousy solution is better than none at all, is simply wrong.


2 people like this
Posted by Apple
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 12, 2016 at 10:14 am

For electrification, Caltrain should look at eliminating the overhead wiring system and use battery powered trains instead. Battery technology has vastly improved and is getting cheaper since Caltrain started designing for electrification many years ago.

Do you need overhead wires to run Teslas? No. Teslas have a range of 300 miles now. The Caltrain system is only 78 miles long. If the train needs more power, just add more batteries.

No overhead wires means much lower cost, faster time to electrification, and no need to cut down all the trees in the right of way. Seems like a no brainer to me.


4 people like this
Posted by MPer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 12, 2016 at 11:07 am

@Apple
Sorry, we are no where near having the technology to have battery powered trains. So not really a slam dunk. They have this thing called a 3rd rail which could be used to power the trains. It is very dangerous to use when the tracks are not completely separated from traffic and peds (like BART). I am also sick of Atherton holding up electrification because they might loose some trees. entitled much?

@Randy Clunge.
Glad you have it all figured out! Just retime the lights problem solved. So in your words, DO NOTHING. Randy, that is why we have this unsafe mess now.

@ Menlo Park Resident? You reference grade separations in Palo Alto that are 60 years old. They aren't prefect and could be improved, why because they are 60 years old. You also referenced San Carlos, yet don't articulate why it is bad? Let's see the train is raised and traffic, bikes, peds can all cross under at street level. They are well lighted and clean. Once again, you advocate for doing nothing. Unfortunately, we can't DO NOTHING and keep traffic flowing, have electric trains and keep us all safe.

All the folks looking to 'fix' at grade crossings need to get your heads out of the 1950s. It is time to grow up.


9 people like this
Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Oct 12, 2016 at 11:29 am

I fail to see what is so horrendous about the tracks in San Carlos. That is the only decent option that is potentially affordable (tunnels are a pipe dream).


Like this comment
Posted by Raise it
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Oct 12, 2016 at 11:51 am

Where's the "innovator" always touting hyperloop?

;)

Raise it!


2 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 12, 2016 at 12:00 pm

I still remain perplexed as to how any of this is happening, and am not happy writing checks for $600K in yet another useless study. Electrification is starting next year! Posts and power lines will go up on track elevations as they are then, while we're still messing with an over-paid study. And the study will show that you can't jump up 14' from Watkins to Encinal, or jump down 8' from Ravenswood to the Creek.

We only have 1.5 miles to play with- try modelling this out at home with your old Brio wood track set and you'll see what I mean.


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Posted by MPer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 12, 2016 at 12:58 pm

@really

Glad you have all the answers! Can I just make the check out to you?


4 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 12, 2016 at 1:16 pm

MPer:

Yes please. The check should be made out to my charity, Citizens Against Studies for Hire.

Or you can abbreviate that as C.A.S.H.


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Posted by Apple
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 12, 2016 at 2:15 pm

@MPer
Battery powered trains already exist and are in active use, such as the Clayton CB40. Another example is the Bombadier Electrostar, which is running in the UK. They are ideal for short rail lines. Caltrain is a short rail line, about 50 miles from SF to SJ.

I'm betting the only reason Caltrain hasn't looked at this alternative is that they started electrification planning in 2002 before battery technology made its giant leap forward. Technology has improved faster than the pace of bureaucracy. It's worth making a new assessment as I don't believe Caltrain has all the money lined up to complete an overhead centenary system.

Take a look at what SF Muni is doing. Are they investing more in their electric trolley bus overhead centenary system? No. They are buying all new battery powered electric buses.


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Posted by MPer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 12, 2016 at 2:33 pm

@apple

Both of the trains you mentioned are still in the experimental phase. The Clayton is still working on getting enough power from batteries to pull the load and isn't expected to be in service until 2023, Bombardier is looking at converting the Electrostar to batteries, but that is still a work in. Currently it uses overhead wires. \

I am all for batteries, but we aren't there yet.


Like this comment
Posted by MPer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 12, 2016 at 2:42 pm

my bad

the Electostar is in limited service, the clayton is not. If the cost is right lets do it.


3 people like this
Posted by James Madison
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 12, 2016 at 2:55 pm

Tunneling is not feasible.

Battery powered trains are beside the point.

So was this study and so would be any more.

As I have written before, the realistic options are: (1) elevation and partial depression all the way from Ravenswood through Atherton Avenue (option C+) and (2) trenching.

Different costs and different benefits and detriments. Either decision will be better than none.
















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Posted by Apple
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 12, 2016 at 3:29 pm

@MPer
The Clayton trains are already in service in the London Underground. They are not for passenger service, which may be why it appears they are not in use. These trains are for maintenance use when power to a section of the subway must be turned off. They replaced diesel trains, which have obvious downsides in an enclosed subway.

You are correct that electric train technology is still progressing. But it's not like Caltrain ever started a project on schedule. It doesn't even have all the funds in hand to complete overhead electrification. And even when it has found the $2 billion, there's zero chance they will complete the project on budget. I'm guessing cost over runs and late running schedules will add up to around $3 billion for the final price tag.

With the overhead system, you need to wait until it's entirely complete before you can even start testing electric trains. Whereas with battery powered trains, you can start testing those TODAY....and it wouldn't cost billions.


4 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Oct 12, 2016 at 4:03 pm

All this discussion of pointless details, whether or not battery powered trains would be feasible (reminder: they've already ordered the new, non battery powered, train sets) when the focus should be simple: what sort of grade separations are acceptable, and what can be done within a reasonable time frame, budget, and hopefully in coordination with other peninsula cities. If you can't make this decision it will be made for you: the grade crossing will be closed, either formally, or informally from the increase in rail traffic.


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 12, 2016 at 4:03 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

One strategy is to have the trains be battery powered and to have them top up while they are stopped in each station - this greatly reduces the range problem.

Look how quickly the Tesla superchargers can add 10 miles to the range of a Tesla's battery pack - 2 minutes!


1 person likes this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 12, 2016 at 8:29 pm

Here's a novel idea even though there's a considerable cost -- why not convert CalTrain to BART and think finally complete the circle around the Bay.


2 people like this
Posted by Martin
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 13, 2016 at 1:33 am

@Bob

Some reasons why BART might not be a good idea:
1) BART is LOUD AF!!!!
2) Caltrain corridor is already tall, so why give up double decker trains. If you ride for 30 mins, wouldn't you rather sit?
3) Can't share tracks with HSR or Freight.
4) Bathrooms on trains


4 people like this
Posted by Mpres
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Oct 13, 2016 at 2:30 pm

Agree with Longview and start digging, and add - why focus on the underpass in Palo Alto that was developed ages ago, when we could learn from communities, many of them to the North of MP, currently addressing the very same thing with current design solutions


I'm guessing we don't fix the crossings because neighbors in proximity don't want it, not due to the expense. Didn't Menlo Park just pass on the potential of considerable funding from the state? if I had a home near the tracks I might worry too. It is likely that other communities dug deep to avoid a hit to the "look and feel" of neighborhoods with raised tracks. Other cities are well along in the processthe process. What is with us??

Communities that get themselves on the list first (like Hillsboro and San Mateo will be first to get funding and have their at grade stations redesigned and rebuilt. The longer we wait, the more likely it is that we put ourselves in reaction mode to the electrification project, hsr and neighboring cities.

Just say 'no' to more costly studies and being told by consultants that we can expect this to take 8 years. MP has been here before...many times. We have an opportunity to do this in concert with our neighboring cities and the electrification project. We can't loose if we communicate and discuss beyond our city!! (Or maybe I should just become a City consultant.


2 people like this
Posted by Mpres
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Oct 13, 2016 at 2:53 pm

Martin more accurately described what San Mateo did, I mistated. But our points are the same, it's being done, if we want to find an acceptabl solution, and one that takes less than 8 yrs to implement, we can.

to: "a poor solution to the problem will be worse than living with the problem itself."

Living with the problem means that we accept the occasional death on the tracks. Is that where our City is at? Are we waiting for a significant sampling before we bust a move? I'm kidding, but it's feeling a little like.
-------------------
Agree with Longview and start digging, and add - why focus on the underpass in Palo Alto that was developed ages ago, when we could learn from communities, many of them to the North of MP, currently addressing the very same thing with current design solutions


I'm guessing we don't fix the crossings because neighbors in proximity don't want it, not due to the expense. Didn't Menlo Park just pass on the potential of considerable funding from the state? if I had a home near the tracks I might worry too. It is likely that other communities dug deep to avoid a hit to the "look and feel" of neighborhoods with raised tracks. Other cities are well along in the process. What is with MP?

Communities that get themselves on the list first (like Hillsboro and San Mateo) will be first to get funding and have their at grade stations redesigned and rebuilt. The longer we wait, the more likely it is that we put ourselves in reaction mode to the electrification project, hsr and neighboring cities.

Just say 'no' to more costly studies and being told by consultants that we can expect this to take 8 years. MP has been here before...many times. We have an opportunity to do this in concert with our neighboring cities and the electrification project. We can't loose if we communicate and discuss beyond our city!! (Or maybe I should just become a City consultant.


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Posted by long view
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 17, 2016 at 9:57 am

@Mpres "
I'm guessing we don't fix the crossings because neighbors in proximity don't want it, not due to the expense. Didn't Menlo Park just pass on the potential of considerable funding from the state? if I had a home near the tracks I might worry too. It is likely that other communities dug deep to avoid a hit to the "look and feel" of neighborhoods with raised tracks"

I believe neighbors in proximity to crossings very much want to reduce train noise and the inconvenience of train crossings at grade. Understandably, they do not want their own property to be taken from them. Our Council has been reticent to take a stand at all, instead authorizing multiple studies that lead nowhere.

The right solution for the long term is to lower the tracks. It is safer when tracks and freight travel by residential properties, especially in earthquake country; it is more aesthetically pleasing than above grade; it is more quiet; it is the only alternative that can handle long-term growth; and it is the only alternative that allows new uses at ground level. New uses can provide revenue to offset costs, and add other benefits to downtown area.


2 people like this
Posted by Mark Duncan
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Oct 25, 2016 at 11:02 am

It really is a matter of cost. Palo Alto found that the cost to depress the tracks at Meadow and Charleston with a one percent grade was $1 billion. Tunneling is even more expensive. The cost to raise the tracks and lower the road is on the order of $150 million. When you advocate for an unaffordable solution and refuse to compromise, the result is why no progress has been made on grade separations in Menlo Park over the past 50 plus years.


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Posted by elevate
a resident of another community
on Oct 25, 2016 at 4:34 pm

The tracks should be elevated and electrified. There should be a passing lane or two. Without all these at-grade crossings, we'll be able to get rid of the horns and bells. The electric trains will be much quieter in general.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 19, 2016 at 8:23 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Perhaps there is hope for a tunnel solution:

Web Link


1 person likes this
Posted by Mark Gilles
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Dec 22, 2016 at 11:32 am

I am with Bob on this. BART would be a preferable alternative to heavy rail. It is old and poorly managed but it is fully integrated and expandable. The cost may not be all that different than what we are looking at here.


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Posted by realist
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 22, 2016 at 12:20 pm

Regarding building BART down the peninsula, BART is currently being built down the east bay, ending in East San Jose. They are looking at extending that from East San Jose to Santa Clara to be more useful to Silicon Valley commuters. The 6 mile extension has an expected price of $5 BILLION. BART from San Francisco down the peninsula to San Jose would be 50 miles. I expect the price for that will be upwards of $50 BILLION, in addition to not possibly being complete in my lifetime. Grade separating the entire Caltrain line is a tiny fraction of that amount and can be done incrementally (like northern San Mateo County has been doing in recent years).


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Posted by bart to menlo
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 22, 2016 at 1:24 pm

Running BART 15 miles from Millbrae to Menlo Park would cost between 1.5 and 2.5 billion (in 1999 dollars)

The high cost in San Jose is related to tunneling and building underground stations.

SAMCEDA 1999 proposal for BART via 101 to Menlo Park
Web Link

In the Spring of 1999, a proposal was launched to extend BART 15 miles beyond the Millbrae station, currently under construction, to Menlo Park via U.S. 101, the Bayshore Freeway.
Proponents were Tom Huening, now San Mateo County Controller, former County Supervisor, and Denise de Ville, CEO of SAMCEDA, the San Mateo County Economic Development Association. (Note: SAMCEDA's web site offered no information on the proposal while SAMCEDA was advocating it.)

On Wednesday, July 14, local newspapers reported that the campaign had been called off to qualify two ballot measures advocating the proposed BART extension. The news followed a meeting held between campaign committee members and critics of the BART extension proposal, county Supervisors Mike Nevin and Jerry Hill.

The campaign had just begun circulating petitions to collect signatures to place two initiatives on the county's March 2000 ballot. One initiative would have increased the sales tax 1/2 cent to 8.75%, making it the highest in California. The other initiative would have advised the county to spend the revenue from this 1/2-cent tax on extending BART through San Mateo County. The language of the intiative was not specific about where a future BART extension should go.

Cost estimates for the extension ranged from $1.5 billion to well over $2 billion. (SamTrans officials contend that a $2.5 billion figure is more likely to be accurate. This is well over twice the cost of upgrading Caltrain all the way from San Francisco to San Jose to capacity and frequency comparable to BART.)

Extension proponents envisioned an elevated BART line along the median of the Bayshore Freeway with four stations south of Millbrae at the following locations along the freeway: San Mateo, Belmont/San Carlos, Redwood City, and Menlo Park near Willow Road or Marsh Road.

From Millbrae the 15-mile BART extension would have followed the Caltrain tracks to near Broadway in Burlingame. South of there the line would have followed the freeway. Proponents envisioned a connection to Caltrain just south of Marsh Road in Menlo Park, via a branch line off the Caltrain's line. No service is yet provided on this branch line which connects to the Dumbarton rail bridge to Fremont, as the map below shows. A Caltrain extension via this line to the East Bay was not included in the SAMCEDA proposal. Two alternative station sites in Menlo Park are shown on this map.


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Posted by bart to menlo
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 22, 2016 at 1:31 pm

Santa Clara County's 2000 transportation tax includes funds to help pay for the Dumbarton rail project.

Grand Jury weighs in on rail bridge
Web Link

Grand Jury weighs in on rail bridge

The cost of building a commuter rail bridge over the bay should be shared more by Santa Clara County and Alameda County, the San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury has concluded.

The plan to rebuild the old Dumbarton railroad bridge, which was partially destroyed in a 1998 fire, will cost an estimated $130 million. As it stands now, San Mateo County is scheduled to pay $60 million, or almost half the cost of the 11-mile span.

Santa Clara County's voters passed a transportation tax Nov. 7 to bring BART to San Jose. But that measure also includes funds to help pay for the Dumbarton rail project.


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Posted by James Madison
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 22, 2016 at 6:03 pm

It's fascinating how this discussion has morphed from commenting on the latest "study" to talking about Caltrans electrification to battery powered trains and now to Dumbarton Bridge rail. I wonder what the next topic will be.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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