Menlo Park: What residents can expect during the process to electrify Caltrain

Work may begin later this month

Photographs of the three different types of poles that may be installed in Menlo Park as part of Caltrain's project to electrify the rail line. (Image courtesy of Caltrain.)

Starting as soon as late March, Caltrain is going to begin work to electrify its rail line in Menlo Park, according to Caltrain spokeswoman Tasha Bartholomew.

The construction is expected to last between four and eight months and involve construction during the day, with some nights and some 24-hour weekends, Caltrain officials told attendees at a Menlo Park meeting on Feb. 28.

The $1.98 billion project, funded by federal, state, regional and local sources, will switch the power source for the Caltrain line from diesel to electricity and is aimed at boosting the efficiency, capacity, safety and reliability of the regional rail service between San Francisco and San Jose. The plan is to launch electrified services in 2022, according to the project website.

Caltrain plans to do work on the northern half of the city first, the 0.9 mile stretch of the rail line between Ravenswood Avenue and the Menlo Park/Atherton border, followed by work on the southern 0.7 miles of the rail line between Ravenswood Avenue and the Palo Alto border.

The work will involve preparing for and laying foundations for the electric poles, removing and pruning trees, and eventually installing the needed poles and wires.

One question raised by some of the meeting's roughly 30 attendees was how the project will impact local trees. In order to have the needed 10 feet of clearance between vegetation and Caltrain's electrical components, the agency plans to remove 30 trees on the Caltrain right-of-way, said Greg Parks, a public involvement manager subcontracted by Caltrain.

More trees are planned for significant pruning – they are targeted for scaling back by more than a quarter: 72 on Caltrain property, nine on private property, and four on other public property. Yet more trees will need to be pruned by less than a quarter: 244 trees on Caltrain property, 26 trees on city property and 76 trees on private property. The agency plans to replace 115 trees as close to their original locations as possible, said Casey Fromson, Caltrain director of government and community affairs.

According to Mr. Parks, the agency plans to install 51 poles through Menlo Park, placing one every 180 feet along the Caltrain line.

There are three types of poles that Caltrain plans to install: single-track cantilever, two-track cantilever and center poles. The single-track cantilever and center pole types are 30 to 35 feet tall, and the two-track cantilever pole type is about 45.5 feet tall.

Nighttime work in some instances could reach the noise level between that of a vacuum cleaner and a garbage disposal. Workers can install three to four poles a night, so no one area should be too impacted by construction noise for more than a night or two, according to Mr. Parks.

Go to, email or call (650) 399-9659 or the toll free

(800) 660-4287 for more information.


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10 people like this
Posted by elevate first?
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 6, 2018 at 7:56 pm

Why are these pole being installed now if the tracks are going to be elevated?

21 people like this
Posted by No time soon
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 6, 2018 at 8:35 pm

At the rate things are going, Caltrain's electrification will be up and running long before Menlo Park breaks ground on any kind grade separation project.

Menlo Park hasn't even decided on what kind of grade separation, if any, to build, let alone try and secure money for the project. But City Council has designated the Guild Theater project one of its top priorities for 2018.

If Menlo Park ever gets its act together for a grade separation, the overhead electric catenary will just be one more piece to the puzzle.

8 people like this
Posted by Suutal
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 7, 2018 at 3:38 pm

Need more housing! Today's bureaucratic nonsensical rules and limits are causing massive housing shortage here. People need to rise up and demand that rules be changed, more land made available and zoning relaxed, so more housing can be build everywhere. Older generation should not hold younger generation hostage like this, just to pump up their retirement funds - it's unconscionable!

Open your mind and support relaxing your city's housing restrictions to help young people in your neighborhood!

7 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 7, 2018 at 3:45 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

This is a perfect example of why citizens are losing faith in local government.

The electrification project is moving forward while Menlo Park and Atherton are ringing their hands on the grade separation issue.

3 people like this
Posted by Beaty
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 9, 2018 at 2:39 am

Suutal: what does more housing have to do with the Caltrain electrification project? Try to stay on topic.

When I first heard about the Caltrain electrification project I was thrilled about the elimination of the diesel engines and smoke . Now that I see what the poles and wires look like, I'm not too thrilled about the project - those poles and wires are an eyesore.

Will the trees at the train station be removed?

3 people like this
Posted by Where is Council?
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Mar 9, 2018 at 8:51 am

Does the Menlo Park City subcommittee of Cline and Keith ever do anything for the residents? Do they even attend the regional meetings?

2 people like this
Posted by Joan
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 9, 2018 at 2:28 pm

"Older generation should not hold younger generation hostage like this, just to pump up their retirement funds - it's unconscionable!"

What exactly do you mean by this statement?

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

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