The city of Menlo Park is seeking feedback on a draft report that addresses the complex question of what to do about the intersections of Caltrain tracks with city roads and the work that has been done so far to evaluate the city's options.
Staff also wants feedback on its draft report outlining what should be studied next; the draft is based on City Council instructions to conduct a financial assessment of a trench or tunnel, and to assess potential designs, as well as noise, tree and visual impacts, of fully elevating the rail line.
Access the report here; submit comments in writing to [email protected] or send them by mail to Menlo Park City Hall, Attn: Transportation Division, 701 Laurel St., Menlo Park, CA 94025. The deadline is Jan. 3, according to project manager Angela Obeso.
Once the final version of the report is approved and a "preferred option" chosen, the city can pursue more funding for the environmental review and design phase of a grade-separation project, which could last three to five years, according to the staff report.
The council in May hesitantly voted in favor of pursuing just one rail crossing at which to separate the tracks from the road at Ravenswood Avenue. The vote was 3-1-1, with Ray Mueller opposed and Catherine Carlton abstaining.
All three council members who voted for this option are no longer on the City Council, and Mueller, who is now the mayor, said he wants the new council to re-evaluate the topic, including the possibility of fully separating all of the city's rail crossings.
The approved proposal would leave the Caltrain line where it is and excavate an underpass for Ravenswood to cross beneath the rail line. The Ravenswood Avenue-only separation plan was generally considered to be the most financially feasible, but comes with drawbacks. One is that the project could preclude the city from elevating the rail line should it decide to pursue other rail line separations in the future.
Two other alternatives were studied, and consultants evaluated whether a "hybrid" approach was possible, in one option by raising the rails and lowering the roads at Ravenswood and Oak Grove avenues, and in the other by doing the same, but including Glenwood Avenue too.
The council ruled against those options largely for cost-related reasons and because they would result in years of major construction impacts. The hybrid option that would end at Oak Grove Avenue carried the added problem of requiring a substantial berm to be built to support the elevated rail line, which some people argued would divide the city.
Any option will be enormously expensive. To build an underpass for Ravenswood Avenue to pass beneath the Caltrain tracks alone is expected to cost between $160 million and $210 million, according to the draft report, while building the three separations would cost an estimated $310 million to $380 million.