Atherton residents whose properties border the train tracks will soon be hearing from Caltrain as the utility begins to prune and remove trees to make way for the wires that will power its electric trains.
Caltrain will take out 18 trees in Atherton as it makes room to install the wires, Caltrain officials told the Atherton City Council on July 19.
Sixteen of the trees are in the Caltrain right-of-way and two are on public property.
Caltrain's Stacey Cook said that by 2021, when Caltrain has electrified the corridor between San Francisco and San Jose, it will be able to increase the number of daily train trips in each direction to 114 from 92.
"We have committed to restore weekday service to (the) Atherton and Broadway stations," she said.
The trains will reach speeds up to 79 miles per hour and Caltrain will be able to increase the number of trains it runs by five to six an hour in each direction, she said. There will be more stops, but reduced travel time, she added. Other trains, including freight trains, will continue to run on the tracks.
The number of trees Caltrain will need to remove throughout the corridor has been reduced dramatically from the original estimates, Caltrain consultant Rich Walter said. The draft environmental report said 2,220 trees would be removed with another 3,616 to be pruned. Current plans are for 516 trees to be cut and 2,547 to be pruned.
Caltrain plans to prune 214 trees in Atherton, with 63 of them having more than 25 percent of their growth removed. Caltrain will replace any tree that is removed or pruned more than 25 percent, totaling 26 trees in the Caltrain right-of-way, 11 on public property and 45 on private property.
After overhead poles are installed, the trees will be replaced with 15-gallon trees. Caltrain will maintain them for at least five years, replacing any that die, Mr. Walter said.
Property owners will be able to decide if they want replacement trees and what type they want, but natives will be planted in the Caltrain right-of-way, Mr. Walter said.
Councilwoman Elizabeth Lewis asked if residents could ask to have a tree that was to be severely pruned replaced instead. "That wouldn't be considered unreasonable," Ms. Cook said.