News

Menlo Park: New mayor's priorities include affordable housing, Caltrain track separation plan

 

As Menlo Park's mayor for the coming year, Ray Mueller will play a role in shaping what gets put on the City Council's agenda and, by extension, what policymaking gets done over the next 12 months. The Almanac spoke with him to discuss his priorities for 2019.

To start, he said, the new council members have to be brought up to speed and the city needs to hire a new city manager.


Ray Mueller
"We're cognizant that the council coming in is inheriting a state of transition," he said.

While the city continues to recover from a hemorrhagic year of staff departures by making new hires, Mueller says he wants the council to focus on issues of self-governance; consider creating a policy to make council members' calendars public; and re-evaluate the city's travel policy.

Mueller said he also wants the council to consider a minimum wage ordinance and discuss how to build more affordable housing and protect existing affordable housing.

"We've gone through a number of years here in Menlo Park where it seemed there was one big, giant, massive strategic plan after another," he said. "It's time to give our staff the opportunity to focus on building our core strengths. At the same time they're doing that (there is an) opportunity for us as a council to build strength as well."

A key personal priority is to take a new look at the city's ongoing debate over grade separations – ways of separating the roadway from the Caltrain tracks so they don't intersect. A plan to separate only Ravenswood Avenue from the tracks, as opposed to multiple rail crossings throughout Menlo Park, had the support only of the three council members no longer in office.

On Dec. 17, Mueller emailed the Palo Alto City Council and indicated he is still interested in a tunnel option, which would likely cost billions. "I remain very interested in meeting with representatives of the Palo Alto City Council and other City Councils subregionally, formally, to discuss the viability of a tunnel for high speed rail in our portion of the peninsula," he wrote.

Further efforts to relieve traffic congestion, he said, will require work in neighborhoods to ease cut-through traffic and effort at the county level to ensure that the city receives funding from Measure W, the half-cent transportation sales tax that barely passed in November.

Mueller said he also wants the city to work more closely with the Menlo Park Fire Protection District and local school districts, especially in communicating about new developments.

When asked whether he thought district elections would change the dynamics on the City Council, he said he was "optimistic." "When you have a more focused area you're representing, it's easier to take community feedback and understand what's happening. I see a lot of benefit in that," he said.

There may be some rough spots, initially, he said, but added, "I don't foresee it to be an issue."

Other matters coming up this year are the launch of the environmental review process for Facebook's Willow Village project and the city's Parks and Recreation facilities master plan.

Mueller said he's also exploring having a city gala instead of a "State of the City" event in 2019.

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Comments

20 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 20, 2018 at 12:32 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Ray brings a fresh perspective, practical wisdom and sound values as our new Mayor. Thank you Ray.

On the grade crossing challenge here is no doubt that the tunnel option for dealing with the grade crossing issue is the most expensive option but it will not divide the community, it will minimize construction disruption and will get less expensive as the Boring Company revolutionize boring technology.

Web Link


4 people like this
Posted by MPer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 20, 2018 at 2:29 pm

All for transit alternatives, but boring co isn't one at the moment. A train can't fit in a 14' tunnel.

Musk was reportedly making excuses throughout the night about why his system looked nothing like what he promised. And his concept now relies on every person having their own car.

Web Link

There are plenty of underground highways in America. But they haven’t offered a very futuristic alternative. They’ve only delivered more single-family cars—which appears to be exactly what Elon Musk is putting in the pipeline.

Web Link


13 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 20, 2018 at 2:57 pm

Here we go again. We suffer while the big dreamers in town knock this ball into the rough and start talking pie-in-the-sky ideas. Every planner will tell you that we need a density of about 50 people per acre to create the ridership that will pay for $100M per mile of transit.

We're not worth a tunnel and nobody thinks Menlo Park is that important to give us money from outside. Get real Ray!!!


7 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 20, 2018 at 2:59 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"the ridership that will pay for $100M per mile of transit."

False premise - as boring technology improves the cost per mile will fall well below $100 million.


17 people like this
Posted by Sam Sinnott
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 20, 2018 at 5:38 pm

Ray is realistic and a clear communicator. Thanks for serving Ray! Please add parking structures downtown to your list. We cannot get the chaotic parking off the street without them. I hope you form a select committee/commission to work on these projects rather than the Complete Streets Commission.


10 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 20, 2018 at 5:59 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Let's not keep kicking these issues to unelected committees.

The Council was elected to make these decisions and that it was they should do.


4 people like this
Posted by MPer
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 20, 2018 at 6:37 pm

"False premise - as boring technology improves the cost per mile will fall well below $100 million."

No, the author's statement is not a false premise. It is based on facts as known today, as in 2018.

Your statement, however, is speculation. You have no concrete evidence which says the cost per mile will fall *well below* $100 million (per mile). This may be your hope, your dream, your delusion, but it certainly isn't a fact, unless we should consider crystal balls to produce facts.

Here and now, living and breathing, in the present tense, "50 people per acre to create the ridership that will pay for $100M per mile of transit" is a generally accepted as reality. Welcome to the real world.


3 people like this
Posted by Julie
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Dec 20, 2018 at 10:50 pm

While we continue the exhausting debate about a tunnel and dreams of ever having the money, there is one low-cost thing that can be done rather quickly to fix the death trap at Ravenswood...move the pedestrian crossing down the Laurel (at light) and remove from the Alma/Ravenswood intersection. It’s not the pedestrians fault, but moving that down the block to Laurel as the sole crossing, will save lives!


6 people like this
Posted by Ev
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 20, 2018 at 11:01 pm

Julie, as a pedestrian who walks through the parking lot behind Jeffries to get to Caltrain, that is not an acceptable solution. I shouldn't be forced to walk two extra blocks, just so that 15% of the cars going east/west can shave 4 seconds off their trip. We need to encourage MORE walking, not less. How about we just close the intersection to cars? That would solve a lot of the safety issues, me thinks :)


4 people like this
Posted by TBM
a resident of another community
on Dec 21, 2018 at 2:42 am

@ "will get less expensive as the Boring Company revolutionize boring technology"

Don't hold you breath, there is no evidence of an imminent "revolution" in tunnel technology.

Drilling a small diameter tunnel just big enough for a Tesla will significantly reduce costs compared to a rail tunnel, but this does not reflect a revolution in tunneling.

A significant part of the cost of tunneling is the energy cost of physically grinding, crushing and hauling thousands of tons of dirt out of the tunnel and off to a disposal site, and the cost of lining the tunnel with a waterproof material strong enough to resist collapse over the next 100 years. Powering a tunnel boring machine with batteries instead of running a cable from the surface is not a revolution that will change these costs.

Unlike rockets, that where previously launched by inefficient government bureaucracies, tunnel boring is already a competitive state-of-the-art industry that exploits that latest advances in engineering. There is no low hanging fruit to be picked here. Web Link

Even if the city wants a tunnel and is willing to pay for it, the owner of the right-of-way does not want their valuable asset destroyed by tunnels and would reject the plan. As the population expands and HSR becomes popular, future generations will want to operate the ROW to it's maximum design capacity, which is 4 tracks.


2 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 21, 2018 at 7:40 am

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

"HSR becomes popular"

Talk about speculation. HSR will NEVER be built. It's a total fraud and there is ZERO funding for it and the Feds aren't going to give money to something that is clearly mismanaged and a fraud.


Like this comment
Posted by Other thread
a resident of another community
on Dec 21, 2018 at 7:48 am

Might make sense to move the HSR discussion to this thread:

Web Link


1 person likes this
Posted by TBM
a resident of another community
on Dec 21, 2018 at 8:53 am

@ "HSR will NEVER be built"

Talk about speculation! Never is a long time.
It is evident that some kind of high capacity higher speed transport system will need to be build eventually, and the Caltrain ROW is a unique location to host such a system. It would be a strategic error for the peninsula to construct a narrow two track tunnel forming a permanent constriction in the middle of a four track wide open-air right of way.


7 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 21, 2018 at 8:59 am

Popular Mechanics is out of print for good reason. Too much Fiddling while Rome burns. With such as strong German community here, why don't we have more pragmatism!

Spend the money on Dumbarton Rail and overpasses in the Caltrain ROW. Do it now before the next recession and keep going. No more silly distractions! No more EIRs! No more $500,000 studies!


6 people like this
Posted by Veritas
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 21, 2018 at 9:24 am

Everyone supports affordable housing in the abstract, but when an actual project is proposed they're MIA or cherry-picking reasons to vote it down. Maybe I'm jaded, but I don't see Ray or anyone else supporting an income-limited, property-tax-exempt BMR development when push comes to shove. Maybe if it's on the fringes of the city? Definitely not in the MP City or Las Lomitas school districts.


2 people like this
Posted by other thread
a resident of another community
on Dec 21, 2018 at 9:46 am

Palo Alto has been studying the tunnel option for over a year and is seriously considering tunneling at least some sections of the rail line through Palo Alto. Palo Alto still hasn’t ruled out a city wide tunnel.

Yet naysayers in Menlo Park don’t even want to discuss it or study it. How would Menlo Park react if Palo Alto got their tunnel while Menlo Park recieved four lines of elevated passing track to service it? What’s wrong with meeting with Palo Alto to discuss it?

Great discussion about HSR here:

Web Link


8 people like this
Posted by MPer
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 21, 2018 at 10:49 am

"A significant part of the cost of tunneling is the energy cost of physically grinding..."

Absolutely correct. Excavation has been around for centuries, and while the tools have progressed from picks and shovels to hydraulics, the basic task has not changed: remove dense material.

There is no magic bullet for this, the dirt won't simply vaporize. But what about "advances in technology"? Won't a battery make it go super fast? Again, flatly, no. There's that small problem in removing what has been carved. Tunneling tech is basically low tech, we will not be saved by Moore's Law, or Peter's Law.

The next time someone tells you tunnels will get much, much (much!) less expensive due to the Boring Company's fantastic mousetrap, pose the same question to any of the several contractors building brand new housing, commercial, and retail along El Camino. All of these sites require a tremendous amount of excavation.

Ask the general contractors if the cost of digging and transporting dirt has dropped sharply over the last 20 or 30 years. The answer is no. But what if the excavators ran on battery power instead of diesel? Perhaps some savings on the cost of energy consumed per machine, but that's it. That has zero effect on the site's engineering, transportation, shoring, plumbing, or electrical.

Get real folks, or better yet, solicit the opinion of a commercial builder and not a paratrooping fire jumper. There are literally dozens of general contractors, living and breathing experts in the field of large scale construction, who will tell you the cost of digging dirt isn't coming down anytime soon, and certainly not in the timeframe of Menlo's train task.


Like this comment
Posted by MPer
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 21, 2018 at 10:59 am

"as a pedestrian who walks through the parking lot behind Jeffries to get to Caltrain, that is not an acceptable solution."

Julie, at a minimum moving the crosswalk northeast to the Laurel intersection would be safer for pedestrians or bikers. I'm astonished nobody has been killed at the existing crosswalk. Pedestrians freely walk into traffic, assuming cars can see them. Try that in a city like SF or NY, and life expectancy reduced in a hurry.

The Laurel intersection is controlled by signal lights ... this is far safer than waltzing into a crosswalk, wearing headphones no less. It's just matter of time before a distracted driver plows into a pedestrian.

As you are a proponent of walking, you should embrace the extra two hundred yards of exercise it would require to walk to the Ravenswood-Laurel intersection.


5 people like this
Posted by other thread
a resident of another community
on Dec 21, 2018 at 11:06 am

Palo Alto has been studying the tunnel option for over a year and is seriously considering tunneling at least some sections of the rail line through Palo Alto. Palo Alto still hasn’t ruled out a city wide tunnel.

Yet naysayers in Menlo Park don’t even want to discuss it or study it. How would Menlo Park react if Palo Alto got their tunnel while Menlo Park recieved four lines of elevated passing track to service it? What’s wrong with meeting with Palo Alto to discuss it?

Great discussion about HSR here:

Web Link





2 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 21, 2018 at 12:43 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

" the cost of digging dirt isn't coming down anytime soon"

Nope. It's only going up. The other major cost of digging is also going up rapidly. Getting rid of the spoils is extremely problematic and expensive in this area. There are only some many places near here that will take dirt. And they charge a premium to dump it. Which leaves options further out like Altamont that will take the dirt. That means it has to be trucked there. That's generally a four hour round trip for a truck. Largest quantity of dirt that a truck can haul is 20 cubic yards. Sounds like a lot, but it's not.

I have a project under way that has a large basement. We had to dispose of over 3000 cubic yards of dirt. That's 150 truck loads. We were fortunate enough to find a nearby location that would take the dirt so the trucking and disposal weren't bad. $600 per load. That's $90,000 to get rid of dirt. I've had other projects that cost us double that to get rid of the dirt. You can imagine how much soil will be coming out of a tunnel through Menlo Park and how much it will cost to dispose of that dirt.

Tunneling is not cheap because of the disposal costs of the dirt. A berm could have it's costs off set by charging contractors for the soil needed to build a berm. The contractors benefit as they have a more reasonable cost solution to getting rid of dirt and the berm builder benefits by collecting funds that partially offset the construction costs.


Like this comment
Posted by MPer
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 21, 2018 at 3:02 pm

So let's stroll though the world of reality ... a real premise, as opposed to someone claiming "false premise".

According to Berenberg Research, which I imagine is far more qualified to cite costs than the local fire department "experts", we have the following figures to ponder for our little Menlo Park, population something like 32,000. The following figures are cost *per mile*.

SF Central Subway 924 million per mile
Los Angeles Regional Connector 921 million per mile
BART to San Jose Proposed 783 million per mile
Seattle U Link 600 million per mile
Boston Green Line Extension 489 million per mile

Menlo Park policymakers, are you understanding this? How will you acquire these funds? And no, it's not prudent to click your heels and wish upon a star that Elon Musk's Boring Company will ride to the rescue.

But wait! We have new data! Breaking news! Isn't there evidence that China has built tunnels for 22 million per mile? Yes, this is actually true. It's also actually thru that the cost of labor in China is 1/20th that of California, not to mention the fact that pesky issues such as worker safety don't exist.

If any person on the Menlo council publicly mentions "tunnel", prepare to be laughed out of the room.


3 people like this
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 22, 2018 at 11:50 am

Me. Mayor:


Traffic traffic traffic traffic. Bike safety Bike safety Bike safety.... fix them, then you’re our hero!!!


Like this comment
Posted by MPer
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 24, 2018 at 7:22 am

Real premise, according to Emily Mibach of the Daily Post:

Elon Musk, who once lived in Palo Alto and put his electric car company’s headquarters here, isn’t interested in digging a tunnel for trains in the city.

That’s according to Councilman Greg Scharff, who along with councilman Adrian Fine, reached out to Musk’s Boring Company in May to see if they would be interested in boring a 4-mile-long tunnel underneath the city for Caltrain.


4 people like this
Posted by Lynne Bramlett
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 24, 2018 at 10:38 am

Lynne Bramlett is a registered user.

Hope all who can will attend the city's annual goal setting meeting on January 11 from 1-5 p.m. at the Arrillaga Family Gymnasium. If you can, please also spread the word about the meeting. Below is my NextDoor post:

At this meeting, Council sets its priorities for the year. Anyone interested in influencing the direction of MP's local government, or in being more involved and aware, should attend this event. Web Link That would include residents, small business owners, local stake-holders and others. Attending and making public comments helps Council to hear from a broad spectrum of voices and perspectives throughout MP.

Following our financials also is critical as the spending illustrates the actual priorities so here's a link to the just published MP's Comprehensive Annual Financial report.
Web Link The Government compensation in California site might also be of interest Web Link The total number of employees in 2017 differs in both documents and I don't know why. Unfunded pension liabilities and the number of MP city employees (compared to other cities our size) may also be discussed at the meeting.


1 person likes this
Posted by Relax
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Dec 24, 2018 at 10:46 am

MPer, there really is no need to get so worked up.

The City of Palo Alto has been looking at the tunnel option for a year. There is nothing wrong with Menlo Park sitting down with Palo Alto to discuss the viability of what they have studied and to determine if Menlo Park’s participation makes a tunnel more feasible. In fact it’s reasonable to do so, to make certain Menlo Park is not left in a subservient role to Palo Alto.





3 people like this
Posted by MPer
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 24, 2018 at 11:55 am

" There is nothing wrong with Menlo Park sitting down with Palo Alto to discuss the viability of what they have studied"

Let me get this straight. You feel MP should meet with PA to discuss an issue PA has determined is not viable. Elon Musk has already stated he does not want to help PA build a tunnel for a train. Perhaps this is because Elon Musk has never actually built a tunnel for train. Trains are "kinda big". They weigh a bit more than an featherweight electric car. But MP should sit down anyway, and discuss PA's calculation that say a train tunnel would cost 4 BILLION dollars.

So when we go through the viability checklist, we appear to see a pattern. Will The Boring Company build it? No. Conclusion: not viable. What is the projected cost, and we know these things usually spiral out of control. 4 billion. Conclusion: not viable.

Did I miss anything on the viability list?

Perhaps you can help me with a question. At what stage did it become normal to have towns with a population of 32,000, or even 50,000 consider proposals costing several billion dollars?

But the traffic is just ... so, so bad! Get over it. Leave for your destination five minutes earlier to account for the traffic. Our roads were never meant to handle this many cars. Spending a few billion here or there is not the answer.


1 person likes this
Posted by Relax
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Dec 24, 2018 at 12:30 pm

MPer you are playing pretty fast and loose with the facts.
Palo Alto just met last week on the tunnel and still hasn’t ruled it out. In fact it is seriously considering it for some sections of track


5 people like this
Posted by YIMBY
a resident of another community
on Dec 24, 2018 at 4:04 pm

@Relax

Yeah, they're going to give it a token discussion to appease the vocal minority of Palo Alto residents who don't grasp that the cost of tunneling Caltrain through the city for any length of track is outrageously expensive and in no way justifiable. At most, Palo Alto might raise the tracks in some very specific sections, but more realistically, nothing is going to be done for at least 20 years until generational drift in Palo Alto's population results in a more sensible citizen body that finally just elevates the tracks.


4 people like this
Posted by MPer
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 24, 2018 at 4:48 pm

@relax

What part of the following facts are, as you say, "loose"

SF Central Subway 924 million per mile
BART to San Jose Proposed 783 million per mile


A subway, a Bart train, a CalTrain. All essentially the same breed. Our Peninsula neighbors know all too well the cost of a tunnel for something bigger than a Tesla on a sled.

A tunnel simply will not happen. The biggest hurdle, by a longshot, is cost. Is traffic a problem? Sure, nobody likes it. Is it worth 900 million, or 800 million per mile? No. But if the MP council wants to make an appearance for appearance sake, be my guest.

While @yimby is thinking elevated tracks, my guess is they'll keep the tracks at grade level and streets such as Ravenswood will go under the tracks. It's far easier to excavate for an open air roadway than it is dig a tunnel for a train. Pedestrians will be able to cross Ravenswood at will, pedestrians and bikes can go under the tracks the same way they do at University Avenue in Palo Alto. The immediate right turn at Alma (if heading toward M-A from ECR) will be tricky but not impossible to solve.

These tunnel fantasies have taken on a life of their own.

I cross the Ravenswood train gate twice a day, six days a week. I don't like the traffic, but it's tolerable. Having lived here more than 50 years, there a few other things about Menlo that are bothersome, but progress marches on and we live with the consequences of growth.

I'm more concerned with a car getting stuck on the tracks. That problem can be mitigated with earlier warnings, but at some stage, motorists need to take care of themselves and use extreme caution when navigating a train crossing.

But traffic? As I said, plan your trip accordingly.


2 people like this
Posted by public support
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 27, 2018 at 1:46 am

I hope Mueller will bring his pet projects forward at goal setting to let the public give input on what's worthwhile. The council previously agreed to look at sunshine calendars at goal setting but there was no public support. The city council unanimously approved Mueller's travel policy update only a few months ago.


4 people like this
Posted by Historian
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Dec 27, 2018 at 7:03 am

From the Almanac editorial during the last election:

“Voters can look at the records of Keith and Ohtaki to determine for themselves whether the changes the incumbents have supported argue for their return to office come December....

They were part of a four-member council majority that ignored Councilman Ray Mueller's request to discuss a proposal aimed at increasing transparency by requiring council members to make their calendars of council-related meetings with others — developers, businesses, residents and others — available to the public.”

Web Link


8 people like this
Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 28, 2018 at 10:35 am

Important Considerations:

Has either Palo Alto or Meno Park ever asked whether Caltrain WOULD build tunnels for them?

1. The California Public Utilities Commission decides - statewide - the priorities for grade separation funding, not Caltrain.

2. The Priority List establishes the relative priorities for allocation of State funds to qualified crossing projects most urgently in need of separation or alteration, to meet the program goals of eliminating hazardous railroad crossings. Note: local traffic management is NOT a criteria.

3. The existing PUC 38 grade separation priorities (set in June 2017) include only three streets on the Peninsula
Broadway - Burlingame (#3), San Mateo - 25th Ave (#8), Rengstorff - Mountain View (#10),

4. Both Palo Alto and Menlo Park must nominate grade separation projects for inclusion in the Commission Priority List.
After public hearings the Commission decides whether to add projects and prioritizes them.

5. $180M is the largest amount of funds previously allocated to a single Peninsula city for a grade separation project (San Mateo). Would the state support allocations of $1B to any city?

6. Both passenger and freight trains use these tracks. Would Caltrain ever approve a tunnel given its safety, maintenance, and operational concerns?

I have published the PUC Priority List on the Reimagine Menlo Park website. Web Link


1 person likes this
Posted by Wibbut
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Weekend Acres
on Dec 28, 2018 at 1:14 pm

Dana is your question rhetorical?

To my knowledge Palo Alto and Menlo Park haven’t asked about a train yet. Palo Alto is building a case and Menlo Park seemingly has never looked at the tunnel option. Regarding what CalTrain will pay for - well that’s a political process. You can accept what they give or you can demand more. It’s bizarre a few people are so worked up because Ray has said he wants to talk to Palo Alto about what they are thinking with respect to a tunnel. The outraged reaction by a few isn’t commensurate with the thought and feels blatantly political. Why wouldn’t we talk to Palo Alto about what they are thinking? Seems like common sense to me.


7 people like this
Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 28, 2018 at 2:54 pm

I have no problem with Ray or anyone investigating a tunnel but it is a waste of city staff time and resources to study a tunnel IF either the state will not fund it or Caltrain will not build it. The latter concern could be answered by asking Caltrain; the former requires reasoned judgment.


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 28, 2018 at 6:30 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Union Pacific, the owner of the Caltrain tracks, is only interested in moving freight up and down their line. Using multiple diesel locomotives. Just how much interest do you think they are going to have in putting in tunnels that have to be ventilated to remove the exhaust or that requires switching to electric locomotives in order to move that freight up and down their line? Answer: none.


Like this comment
Posted by Wibbut
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Weekend Acres
on Dec 28, 2018 at 8:02 pm

Menlo Voter, all train tunnels whether they are for freight trains or not need to be ventilated.

Are you really making the argument that diesel freight trains don’t already frequently use tunnels across the state of California and across the rest of the country?

I think I understand what’s happening here. A group of people have decided what they want and don’t care what Palo Alto does.


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 28, 2018 at 8:44 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Wibbut:

The amount of ventilation is what's at hand here. Diesel trains in tunnels require far more ventilation than electric locomotives. Union Pacific doesn't have any interest in putting diesel trains in tunnels. Ask them.


4 people like this
Posted by TBM
a resident of another community
on Dec 29, 2018 at 1:37 am

@ "Are you really making the argument that diesel freight trains don’t already frequently use tunnels across the state of California and across the rest of the country"

I don't think you will find many examples of diesel freight locomotives passing through underground stations, belching soot and noxious gasses into the faces of passengers waiting on the platform. Ambulance chasing lawyers would be all over this like a hungry chihuahua on a pork chop.

Historically, steam locomotives were used in some early underground metro systems, but that is not something you could get away with today on a new-build.

If you put the rails in a tunnel, you need to relocate Menlo station platforms underground, which in weak soils means excavating a 750 foot long hole from the surface. The existing station would need to be closed or relocated on a shoo-fly for several years during the big dig.


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 30, 2018 at 9:16 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Note:

"BY EMILY MIBACH
Daily Post Staff Writer

Caltrain is studying the idea of adding two more tracks from Palo Alto’s California Avenue station to Mountain View, bringing the number of tracks in that area to four.

The two additional tracks would be “passing tracks,” where trains would idle or travel more slowly while the pair of regular parallel tracks would be used by express trains or high-speed rail."

Four tracks cannot be done without a tunnel or massive use of eminent domain to acquire adjacent properties.


1 person likes this
Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 30, 2018 at 10:20 am

Peter:

Important considerations:

1. The passing ("overtake") tracks are only required if high speed rail operates on the Peninsula, and this is rapidly becoming less likely.

2. If Caltrain were to select a 4-track configuration, a tunnel would also need to be much wider. This would greatly increase construction costs.

3. A wide tunnel does not eliminate"right-of-way" concerns; they simply move underground. Does the tunnel extend under Alma? This might create big issues during tunnel construction and on train operations/maintenance. These remain unknown.

Caltrain describers its overtake track alternatives here. Web Link

"The 4 track configuration is shorter in length and thus reduces the number of stations that would need to be reconfigured. A 4 track overtake, however, requires additional width which could result in impacts outside of the Caltrain-owned right of way in constrained areas. The 3 track configuration is narrower and has less need for right of way width but must be correspondingly longer and would require more stations to be reconfigured."


4 people like this
Posted by Tunbridge Wells
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Dec 30, 2018 at 10:31 am

Tunbridge Wells is a registered user.

"Four tracks cannot be done without a tunnel or massive use of eminent domain to acquire adjacent properties."

Peter, you need to check your facts before you make sweeping statements. For the length of the Caltrain Right of Way between California Avenue and the Mountain View station, the ROW is already plenty wide for four tracks, no eminent domain required. Look at the maps here: Web Link This subject has been discussed at great length on Clem Tillier's blog, which is very informative. I acknowledge the post and discussion are nearly ten years old but I very much doubt the ROW has decreased in the last ten years, given the planning for electrification and HSR.

I understand that you are pro-tunnel, but you don't help your argument when you make sweeping statements that are not actually correct.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 30, 2018 at 10:40 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" For the length of the Caltrain Right of Way between California Avenue and the Mountain View station, the ROW is already plenty wide for four tracks, no eminent domain required."


Is 95 ft sufficient for four tracks?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 30, 2018 at 10:53 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

HSR documents states that 95 ft 4 in is required for four tracks with cars going above or below the tracks.

Web Link


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Posted by TBM
a resident of another community
on Dec 30, 2018 at 11:47 am

• HST - Track spacing is 16 feet 6 inches (center to center) – Desirable
• HST – Track spacing is 15 feet (center to center) – Minimum
• HST – Track spacing is 14 feet (center to center) - Exceptional
• Caltrain – Track spacing is 15 feet (center to center)

Redwood City already has 4 tracks in a 75 feet ROW. Web Link

For electrification of 4 tacks, a gantry type overhead structure avoids any poles between the tracks. If necessary a tiny piece of eminent domain could support the footing of an electrical pole outside of the ROW.

High speed trains will be the same width as new Caltrain trains so that they can share platforms.

High speed trains (and new Caltrain trains) are hermetically sealed to avoid blowing put the eardrums of passengers when going into a tunnel at 220mph. No opening windows where passengers can stick their head and arms out, so the gap between passing trains can be quite small. If ROW width is tight, parallel tracks can be laid snug together on double length sleepers so that tracks cannot drift closer over time.


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Posted by TBM
a resident of another community
on Dec 31, 2018 at 3:28 am

By August 2016, passing track options under consideration had been whittled down to three: Web Link


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Posted by Paul Roberts
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 3, 2019 at 9:31 pm

I'm "late for the train" commentary following the report of Mayor Mueller's priorities for grade separation and housing. I was a little surprised to find residents so expert on train tunnel ventilation, passing widths and boring costs. One anonymous opinion cited 50 years of crossing Ravenswood as his/her expertise.

I for one don't expect to live another 50 years, but believe we ought to truly plan for the next 50 when embarking on such a major project. I look forward to removing the bifurcation that divides our small town / city while adding sorely needed housing. Two major priorities our Mayor had identified that will make our town much, much more livable.

The prior tunnel discussion omitted an option to add badly needed housing atop the current train corridor (indeed such development could help fund the project). Given the scale of our current housing crisis this is an option our neighboring towns and cities will also consider.

I support our mayor's diligence in partnering with nearby cities on transportation (50 years ago, MP might have been more separate, but it is not so far apart now). Let's at least consult with true experts, our neighboring cities, counties, and state to plan it forward 50 years. We don't have to narrowly over-focus on the 50 or so feet of twin rails that currently divide Ravenswood. Our future is much wider.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 3, 2019 at 9:42 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"The prior tunnel discussion omitted an option to add badly needed housing atop the current train corridor "

Actually the prior discussion did not omit that option:

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.




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Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 3, 2019 at 9:56 pm

Paul: The idea of building housing on top of a tunnel in the Caltrain ROW has been bandied about in Palo Alto for over two years. And still Caltrain has not agreed to it. Why? It's their land and they have nothing to gain by giving up rights to it. For example, building a tunnel would require lots of surface infrastructure, especially because UP diesel freight engines also use the rail system, e.g., extensive ventilation, numerous access points that enable rapid responses to fires, derailments, medical emergencies, water pumping system failures, etc.

The state PUC will never fund one, never mind two $1B+ tunnels, when most cities are satisfied with grade separation projects that cost between $200 and $250M. Caltrain can achieve its primary grade separation objective - Crossing SAFETY - without building tunnels.

There are quite a few individuals who well understand the operational problems crated by tunnels as well as Caltrain grade separation design preferences. I encourage you can talk to them.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 3, 2019 at 9:59 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"The idea of building housing on top of a tunnel in the Caltrain ROW has been bandied about in Palo Alto for over two years. And still Caltrain has not agreed to it. Why? It's their land and they have nothing to gain by giving up rights to it."


Smart railroads have been selling/leasing the urban area air rights above their rights of way for years and for very large fees.


Wikipedia:
"Railroads and air rights
Railroads were the first companies to realize the potential of making money from their air rights. A good example of this is Grand Central Terminal in New York City, where William J. Wilgus, chief engineer of the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad, devised a plan to earn profit from air rights. At first, the railroad simply constructed a platform above the rail yards to allow for the development of buildings overhead. By 1954, the railroad began to realize it could sell more air rights and Grand Central Terminal was proposed to be replaced by a 50-story tower. This is how the Pan Am Building came to be built next to the station, after public protest regarding the demolition of Grand Central Terminal.[12] This approach has been used in Chicago since the construction of the Prudential Building in 1955 above active railroad tracks of the Illinois Central Railroad.[13] In 2017, to the west of the Chicago River, River Point and 150 North Riverside were built above tracks leading to the Amtrak station.

Building on platforms over railroad tracks is still potentially very profitable. In the mid-2000s, New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) attempted to sell air rights to the New York Jets so that they could build the West Side Stadium over Manhattan's West Side Yard, near Penn Station, as part of the Hudson Yards Redevelopment. The Hudson Yards mega-development was eventually built over the rail yard. In Brooklyn, the Barclays Center and Pacific Park have been constructed over Atlantic Yards."


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Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 3, 2019 at 10:16 pm

Peter: I do not know if Caltrain is a"smart railroad". Instead, of speculating about its interest in this idea, go ahead and ask them. Contact AECOM, the consultant that is working with Menlo Park and WAS working with Palo Alto, and ask if it either knows the answer or knows who you can talk to.

Last year, Palo Alto conducted a funding study for a tunnel and I do not recall that it learned that Caltrain would permit builidngs over a tunnel. You can contact the Palo Alto rail advisory committee.

The tunnel is your dream, I encourage you to see if Caltrain would support it.


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Posted by TBM
a resident of another community
on Jan 4, 2019 at 1:12 am

@ Paul Roberts "The prior tunnel discussion omitted an option to add badly needed housing atop the current train corridor (indeed such development could help fund the project)."

Palo Alto wrote an entire white paper on Value Capture from tunneling Web Link which informed their decision to abandon the city wide tunnel concept. Even the optimistic scenario came up $billions short.

"As shown, the value capture funding potential increases with the amount of new development that is assumed to be directly attributable to grade separation and related improvements. For example, assuming 1,000 new residential units and 500,000 square feet of new commercial space (e.g., office and retail) is developed, approximately $130 million might be available for infrastructure. Under a more aggressive scenario, 3,000 new residential units and 1 million in new commercial square feet might generate about $340 million of value capture funding."

Atherton would not tolerate more than a few bungalows for billionaires being built atop the corridor. That would not capture much value and would not attract any OPM.


1 person likes this
Posted by TBM
a resident of another community
on Jan 4, 2019 at 3:46 am

@Dana Hendrickson "Last year, Palo Alto conducted a funding study for a tunnel and I do not recall that it learned that Caltrain would permit buildings over a tunnel."

They didn't learn anything, they just noted that learning the facts it would make the project even more financially infeasible:

"In addition to critical phasing financing challenges, the net value capture amount available for grade separation improvements would ultimately need to deduct or account for a number of factors, including without limitation, the following:

 Any additional development cost associated with building on top of a Caltrain tunnel,
 The specific terms of a development agreement and/or P3 arrangement involving the City, Caltrain, private developers, and others"


1 person likes this
Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 4, 2019 at 8:11 am

I suspect that building a tunnel that could support surface buildings on top would significantly increase tunnel cost due to factors like greater tunnel depth, existing water tables, substructures that support building loads, underground building utility systems. Together these dramatically increase project complexity and risks re: construction schedules and costs versus grade separation alternatives.

Tunnel supporters need to prove Caltrain would assume these burdens and the PUC, the cost and risks; doubters do not need to prove the two organizations won't!


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Posted by Lynne Bramlett
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 23, 2019 at 8:54 am

Lynne Bramlett is a registered user.

Historian -- thanks for your response to "Public Support." I've seen ample public support for increased transparency in Menlo Park's local government. I've also seen (and made my own) public comments decrying the private meetings where the real decisions have been made and the public informed later. Just reviewing the agendas for our public meetings (especially ones for our advisory commissions/committees) reveals a pattern of mostly routine business or informational-only items. If the public is brought in, it can also be very late in the process when the public has little opportunity to influence matters.

A Sunshine Ordinance would reduce the influence of special interests and better guard against possible corruption. The public needs the power to decide what it wants to know, or not know, about a given topic. We also want to see who is meeting with whom and make our our conclusions based on the facts. Further for our public meetings, the Brown Act is considered the "floor" of governmental transparency and not the "ceiling." The public is calling for more transparency to better ensure that governmental decisions are made for the public's good. There should not be so much resistance to opening the books, so to speak.

Public Support's argument suggests that substantial numbers need to ask for integrity-related reforms before Council will act. This style of leadership would place Council in a reactive mode (i.e. needing to be lobbied before doing anything!) rather than a proactive group. This is not Leadership! It also suggests that the public's desire for integrity in our decision-making process is not an inherent right in our local democracy -- but rather a gift of government to the governed. Our expectations are otherwise.


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