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Future Long Train Trench Or Tunnel In Palo Alto Appears Unlikely

Original post made by Dana Hendrickson, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park, on Feb 18, 2018

Menlo Park residents who continue to want a future underground rail system that would separate trains from streets should pay attention to what residents in Palo Alto are learning about trenches and tunnels. The following is from a February 2018 white paper. Web Link

"The attached analysis assesses the technical feasibility of constructing a trench or a tunnel through all or
a portion of Palo Alto to place Caltrain (and High Speed Rail) below ground. The analysis indicates that trenching and tunneling would be feasible from an engineering perspective. However, there are a number of significant issues associated with trenching or tunneling throughout the entire City, making it very difficult for the City to obtain approval for or construct these alternatives. Principal issues, which are identified below, include construction impacts, necessary agency approvals, construction costs, and on-going operational/maintenance costs.

Trenching under a portion of the City - specifically the Meadow and Charleston crossings or just the Charleston crossing may be more feasible, but would require further analysis as we continue our planning process including review by the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) of agency staff."

Comments (8)

2 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 18, 2018 at 9:38 pm

Talk about a trench or tunnel all the way through town is just a stall tactic by people who don't want anything to change. No one proposing a trench or tunnel has ever had a realistic plan for paying for it.


3 people like this
Posted by Paul Roberts
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 19, 2018 at 1:33 pm

We definitely need CalTrain grade separations and must work with our neighboring cities. For 50+ years, Palo Alto has been ahead in their grade separations and it's time we joined them. For CalTrain tunneling or trenching, Menlo Park should be engaged with its neighbors in all options. I'm reading mostly about what Palo Alto is doing, however, not Menlo Park.

Even though it estimates as much as $235M in funding from "land capture", the East Bay consulting firm behind Palo Alto's "preliminary" November 2017 grade separation funding report is admittedly very conservative in it's "low end of the range" 10% assumption of the estimated $2.35B in total value capture. See Table 16 Web Link

Anyone building a house in MP knows that the dirt is worth far more than just 10% of the finished building. Same is true of any commercial land along El Camino Real. Look at the new development along and above CalTrain in San Jose, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale and San Francisco. Yes, we can do this.


1 person likes this
Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 19, 2018 at 4:33 pm

Hi Paul. I am not sure if you are supporting the idea of either a trench or tunnel in Menlo Park, or not. Read the entire February white paper to understand how the prospects for either in Palo Alto have greatly diminished since November. Why? It's expensive and the city cannot count on other sources to pay for most of it. An elevated solution would likely cost less than half. The 3-5 years of construction would severely harm local traffic on Alma, El Camino and neighborhood streets. And finally, the trench and tunnel designs do not meet Caltrain standards.

Note: Palo Alto banned elevated rail solutions in order to block high-speed rail but the separate elevated tracks are no longer needed.

If you would like to learn more about what is happening in Menlo Park re: grade separation simply stop by.


1 person likes this
Posted by Mark Gilles
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Feb 21, 2018 at 12:50 pm

I think it is time to consider extending BART from San Jose to Millbrae. The main objection that I have heard to the idea in the past is cost, however looking at the cost of the alternatives it makes sense to create a solution that is fully integrated into the public transi infrastructure.


Like this comment
Posted by What next,
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 22, 2018 at 3:20 am

What next, is a registered user.


Somebody remind me why we are doing grade separations again,

The current system seems to have worked very well in the past.

It's like the Library our beauracrats feel they are not doing their job unless they are finding projects to work on. Consulting firms to hire, Engineers to study, Contractors to estimate, Grant researching.

Give it a rest guys, Menlo Park is just fine as it is.


Like this comment
Posted by What next,
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 22, 2018 at 3:24 am

What next, is a registered user.


I should have added, Spending our money to the list,

How about a surplus tax rebate to the citizens? and one less Taj Mahal Library with some ego driven person's name on it,


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 22, 2018 at 6:30 am

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

"Somebody remind me why we are doing grade separations again,"

Because of the rare occasions when a driver does something stupid and gets caught on the tracks and hit by a train and the rare occasion when someone decides stepping in front of a train would be a good way to end their life. Grade separation would end that.


Like this comment
Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 22, 2018 at 1:08 pm

Dreams of a train tunnel slip away
Citing costs and obstacles, city prepares to abandon idea of a city-long tunnel

"But with a new study highlighting the high costs and steep engineering challenges of the project, city officials are preparing to pull the plug on the idea and to consider less ambitious and less costly methods for separating the train tracks from the city's roadways. Instead, they are focusing on the idea of digging an open trench only in the southern half of the city, which would affect the railway's intersections with Charleston Road and Meadow Drive."

Web Link


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