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Menlo Park: City seeks feedback on Ravenswood, Caltrain track separation plan

Original post made on Dec 18, 2018

The city of Menlo Park is seeking feedback on a draft report that has been released addressing the complex question of what to do about the places where the Caltrain line intersects with city roads and the work that has been done so far to evaluate the city's options.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, December 18, 2018, 7:47 AM

Comments (58)

5 people like this
Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Dec 18, 2018 at 10:25 am

It's a horrible plan because it makes it harder to fix the other rail crossings.


6 people like this
Posted by MM
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 18, 2018 at 1:19 pm

Something needs to be done. Having recently moved here I am shocked how bad the traffic is here, the worst in the bay area!! The train tracks are a hazard, especially at Ravenswood where the pedestrian crossing stops traffic unexpectedly. Who came up with that idea? Which is less expensive, underpass or overpass?


26 people like this
Posted by John
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 18, 2018 at 1:21 pm

Everyone should keep in mind that future train traffic are going to be much greater than current levels. If we don't properly deal with grade separation it is going to be very difficult to cross the tracks and traffic problems will get much worse. San Carlos has done a beautiful job with the elevated section of tracks and has dealt with traffic well.

For those who think that an elevated section could 'divide' the city, please keep in mind that there is already a nine foot double fence and a set of railroad tracks dividing the city. Elevated tracks give us an opportunity to add multiple pedestrian underpasses that could allow for much great access to homes and businesses on either side of the tracks.


22 people like this
Posted by danahendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 18, 2018 at 2:28 pm

In May the prior MP city council instructed city staff to request a study proposal for fully elevating the tracks at Ravenswood, Oak Grove and Glenwood so this unstudied alternative could be FAIRLY compared to the Ravenswood-only underpass. This should not have taken more than a month but staff said it would be available in the July-August timeframe. A proposal is largely the work a paid consultant.

Seven months later, staff presents a draft 3-page scope for a study proposal and requests additional time to collect resident feedback on three already studied alternatives. This delay and lack of urgency is inexcusable. Compared to the Ravenswood-only approach, a fully elevated design would dramatically reduce traffic congestion both during years of construction and after the grade separations are completed. It would also enhance the appearance and functionality of the train station area and create multiple bicyclist and pedestrian connections between Santa Cruz, Merrill and Alma. The new council needs to aggressively complete a fully elevated grade separation study ASAP. Then ask for resident feedback.

More info Web Link about the Fully Elevated Grade Separation alternative.


8 people like this
Posted by PeninsulaGirl
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Dec 18, 2018 at 3:29 pm

PeninsulaGirl is a registered user.

I know that I'm not the first person to bring this up ("hat tip" to Peter Carpenter), but seriously, folks,
WE NEED TO BORE A TUNNEL, all along the peninsula rail corridor. This has to be a state-and-federally-funded project with cooperation from all counties.
If the British and French can do a massive rail tunnel BENEATH THE ENGLISH CHANNEL, for Heaven's sake, don't we think that our oh-so-technologically-advanced counties can get this done?

The key thing here is not to disrupt surface traffic for the next decade, which is what will happen if each city does something piecemeal---horribly inefficient and more troublesome/expensive than DOING IT RIGHT ONCE with a massive tunnel project that does NOT involved surface disruption.


10 people like this
Posted by Rich Cline
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 18, 2018 at 4:20 pm

Our city has debated grade separations now for almost 50 years. The first official train station area visioning can be found in a 1972 design of a fully elevated track on louvres. It looks open and elegant by all respects, but after the charettes, the analysis and public debate rendered the dream shelved.

Another downtown train station charette in the early 2000s defected a similar alternative - very streamlined elevated track with open space below for people and cars. It was also shelved for similar reasons - intense public discourse and costly studies requiring appropriate rigor.

High speed rail brought about the next consideration - albeit not a city sponsored design - it was proposed as a large berm or wall with four tracks 50” high at top train cars and 86” feet wide (Dumbarton Bridge is a comparable). This idea without community support and a ginned up ridership projection doomed HSR from the start.

But it brought the debate to the present time - elevated rail vs underground options. I’ve publicly opposed elevated rail as a direct result of the HSR design and the complexity it brings - there are no louvred options for heavy rail (Union Pacific) and Caltrain. They require steel and concrete especially for elevated stations - you can’t streamline escalators and elevators and stairways required under current state and federal codes.

But I fully admit we haven’t seen a full review of elevated tracks. So let’s spend the time and money to get a full review of elevated rail and, if so, deep tunnels. We haven’t seen a full review of that either.

But leaving our own views aside, the challenges facing a council and staff when considering these types of studies is - prioritization, resources, community involvement and stuff like the story below...

The US can’t get out of its own way when it comes to modern transit.

Web Link


12 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 18, 2018 at 4:53 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Representative Democracy only works if the citizens actually trust their elected officials to make decisions on their behalf. There is no way that any decision will make everybody happy and sometimes the correct decision will make no one happy.

The decades long impasse on how to solve the rail crossing issue clearly demonstrates that the citizens of both Palo Alto and Menlo Park simply do not trust their elected officials to make decisions on their behalf.



17 people like this
Posted by kbehroozi
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Dec 18, 2018 at 5:15 pm

kbehroozi is a registered user.

This is such a great case of letting the perfect be the enemy of the good enough. Of course, doing one grade separation in such a way that precludes others down the line seems short-sighted. Redwood City is now having to figure this out. Maybe we can learn from their experience?

Honestly, the San Carlos and Belmont grade separations seem great to me. They have abundant openings underneath where people can cross, they aren't as high as a true viaduct (which still just seems like a fancy word for a giant overpass), and they get the job done.

We could have open undercrossings in the station area between Ravenswood and Oak Grove. South of Ravenswood and north of Oak Grove, the tracks are bordering parking lots and backyards so the aesthetic/"dividing the community" arguments seem a bit odd to me. The status quo–high fencing to keep people off the tracks–isn't exactly winning any beauty contests. Anyway, it's a train station, not a park.

Elevating the tracks just a bit also makes it easier to construct a bike/ped crossing underneath.

Web Link

Web Link


10 people like this
Posted by Michael Perez
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Dec 18, 2018 at 6:30 pm

If ever there were a topic over which the city should seek a CAREFULLY CONSTRUCTED and STATISTICALLY VALID SURVEY and NOT rely exclusively (or even principally) on the voluntary feedback/input of residents to guide its decisions, I would l think that this would be it. Educate, educate, educate, and then validate.


1 person likes this
Posted by concerned MP resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 18, 2018 at 8:42 pm

What's the problem and goal? Make the intersection safe for local commuters and residents on MP? Or create "induced demand" by eliminating the grid lock to encourage more of the +80% traffic through MP to hwy 101 and the EB? Do not elevate the tracks creating a large berm and wall that residents hate and didn't consider when moving to MP. Do not create a massive multi lane under path with right turn lanes and straight lanes to congest MAHS, Middlefield and Willow Road more than it is already. University Ave has a good "traffic diet" that improves the condition without attaching more daily commute vehicles. Keep the number of lanes the same and reduce the throughput of traffic. Make it safer and easier for bikes and pedestrian traffic. This area could be a hub for the public with Burgess, ECR and Caltrain. Children going to school at Hillview tend not to ride a bike because of ECR. Let's make it safe and not an ugly intersection with thousands of cars and traffic. MP residents and tax payers come first rather than the commuters.


5 people like this
Posted by Martin
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 18, 2018 at 9:22 pm

The current crossings do more to separate the town than a berm that provides unimpeded access across tracks. That's like a prisoner looking through a chain-linked fence at world outside and calling it freedom.


3 people like this
Posted by easong
a resident of another community
on Dec 18, 2018 at 9:25 pm

A train tunnel the length of the Peninsula with underground stations is far more expensive than grade separations at every cross street -- until you factor in the land reclaimed along the corridor. Billions in valuable real estate. No more train noise, reducing the whining in Atherton, Menlo, and PA. Reduced suicide-by-Caltrain. Fewer train delays along the line which affect thousands of workers per month. Bike and pedestrian paths reducing death-by El-Camino

Hello, Elon, bore the Peninsula. You can do it faster than you can land on Mars.


12 people like this
Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 18, 2018 at 9:31 pm

Important considerations:

Caltrain intends to run electric-powered diesels starting in early 2022 and has a goal of doubling the number of daily passenger trains, thereafter.

More frequent crossing signals closures will produce gridlock on Ravenswood, Oak Grove, Glenwood, Middlefield and El Camino, especially at commute times long before grade separations can be built.

The grade separations in San Carlos (actual), Burlingame (designed) and San Mateo (now being built all lower streets just a FEW feet - so they are almost fully elevated.

Fully elevating the tracks eliminates all street excavation, minimizes street closures during construction and shortens construction.

Caltrain has to build many grade separations on the Peninsula. Funding will take more than a decade.

No one will spend more than a billion dollars to build a tunnel to satisfy Menlo Park.


11 people like this
Posted by MP Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 19, 2018 at 6:06 am

The smart answer is to elevate the tracks, which will help traffic and overall connectivity and make the crossings much safer.

I am confident in Menlo Park's ability to cut off its own nose to spite its face and push for a half-a**-ed mess instead.

San Carlos did it right, we should learn from San Carlos. Tunneling is implausibly expensive and only serves to derail real solutions.


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Posted by new guy
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 19, 2018 at 11:07 am

How about we "MP" simply build a station with an underground area that could someday be used to connect to the underground railway that will be built someday in the future with money no one has any idea where it will come from. Then we can sell naming rights to the station, "Salesforce Station" even. Have a grand above ground park with walkways.


13 people like this
Posted by Henry Riggs
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Dec 19, 2018 at 11:32 am

Well made points above. We don't want a deep dive undercrossing (as approved by former council members) and a half up/ half down has both the excavation cost and 3-5 year choking construction of the bad approved option, plus the wall effect.

While no option will meet 100% of our hopes, raising the tracks fully over three downtown crossings truly opens up the mid-city east-to-west; it ramps down to meet Palo Alto to the south with zero impacts, and to meet Felton Gables to the north with minimal impact. And it doesn't tie up traffic for years, requiring only brief intermittent detours. It's the best of tough choices. (It will be hard to sell a tunnel to funding agencies, esp. if adjacent cities don't join us.)

Michael - A full study of this option was requested by council in May for August review - it is way overdue.


2 people like this
Posted by Dagwood
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 19, 2018 at 12:31 pm

Dagwood is a registered user.

The current report, like earlier ones, fails to give decent representations of visuals/feel/aesthetics for either Alternative C (three separations) or a fully elevated alternative. We're mostly guessing at gross features for how these might appear and function. The graphics also give incomplete measurements: the height of walls for Alternative C at crossings appears to be about 20', but only the 10' above grade portion is marked, e.g. Why is that crucial measure left out? We also cannot see how the walls might be improved to be more than tolerable, and where changes are not possible. The report also 'scores' the Alt C visual impact as 'Significant'. That means little without better graphics and measures. It has no relation to 'Significant' in an EIR, as in 'needs to be addressed/mitigated', but who knows? That 'score' is also not a factual judgement. It's a value judgment of staff and the consultants that, 'Hey, the visuals/feel could be worse.' Neither staff nor consultants have special insight into this aspect of separation design.


3 people like this
Posted by Steve Schmidt
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Dec 19, 2018 at 6:07 pm

Steve Schmidt is a registered user.

When High Speed Rail (HSR) rolled out its first concept for its elevated Peninsula segment, Menlo Park Council’s knee jerk reaction was to sue. This was done on an emergency basis at 11 PM in a Council meeting with a vote of 2 to 1. One council member was absent and one was recused. Onward the City went into litigation with Atherton and ??????

Compromise? Negotiate? Never!

Later Former Council Member Rich Cline & his colleagues accepted the highly restrictive “Balanced Plan” at which point the High Speed Rail Authority picked up their marbles and moved to the Central Valley. The City might have benefited from the grade separations HSR would have funded, had the HSR project been supported and construction on the Peninsula had begun.

Now we have only the short-sighted 22 ft deep roadway design at Ravenswood left to show for 10 years of lackadaisical effort. A viaduct separating three of MP’s four at grade crossings remains the wisest and most reasonable alternative.

In his 12 years on the Menlo Park Council, former Council Member Rich Cline was not interested in looking at a practical solution. The Council’s piecemeal approach will leave the city with one-fourth of a solution.

And no, building one under crossing is not better than building none.


7 people like this
Posted by Rich Cline
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 19, 2018 at 6:21 pm

Steve, obsess on the solution not on the person. While I appreciate your passion to throw stones and rattle cages, I do not see how a couple of old has beens tossing insults is anything but pitiful. I do think the best way forward is to focus on the solution and find ways to work together. The high speed rail bond process and collapse is well documented. In the future I would suggest the sponsors do not project future ridership in the Central Valley equal to Baltimore’s ridership numbers.

Get the facts, unite behind an option, raise the money and hire the experts...then get out of the way. Seems simple. It’s anything but...


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 19, 2018 at 7:26 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Within two years the Boring Company will have reduced the cost of bored tunnels to the point where dual bored tunnels will be competitive with surface construction when you include all of the costs of surface construction disruption.


2 people like this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Dec 19, 2018 at 8:08 pm

Reality Check is a registered user.

Musk tunnel acolytes really need the same "reality check" Musk chooses to ignore.

Elon Musk’s Tunnel Project in Los Angeles is Bad Joke
Web Link

Elon Musk Responds!
Web Link

"When Musk talks about how he’s going to change the facts of geometry, I point out that no technology has ever done that: Web Link And I’ve commented on other things he’s said that express cluelessness about how cities work. Musk is doing some great things, but he is also using his megaphone to advance the idea that our cities will be great if we can just drive faster through them [in tunnels]. Most of his own hometown, Los Angeles, was designed on that very principle, and look how that turned out.

"Recently, I wrote a very careful piece on elite projection: Web Link — the universal problem of very fortunate people designing the world around their private needs and tastes. (Read the piece before you make a judgmental comment based on that summary!)" –Jarrett Walker


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 19, 2018 at 8:13 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"The one-mile test tunnel I rode in took about a year and a half to complete, and about $10 million, not counting research and development — or, for that matter, equipment. This is still fairly cheap. The Silver Line in Washington, DC cost $300 million per mile; New York’s Second Avenue subway will be more like $2.5 billion per mile,"

Web Link


6 people like this
Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 19, 2018 at 9:07 pm

More considerations:

1. A tunnel will cost a lot more than 3 grade separations.

2. Palo Alto estimates a city length tunnel (about 5 miles) would cost $2.8B to $3.4B => $560M to $680M per mile; Menlo Park tracks are about 1.7 miles long => $952M to $1.16B.

3. Burlingame has completed the design and engineering for it six lane Broadway grade separation and there is no funding for construction. Caltrain estimates current construction costs would be $250M. The grade separation is almost fully elevated.

4. San Mateo is currently building an almost fully elevated grade separation and adding two bridges. Total budget is $180M.




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Posted by Steve Schmidt
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Dec 20, 2018 at 3:37 am

Steve Schmidt is a registered user.

Correction: The plan promoted by Joe Simitian and passed by the Legislature that restricted HSR (and Caltrain) on the Peninsula was called the Blended Plan.


2 people like this
Posted by Bonny
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Dec 20, 2018 at 8:08 am

I might have originally supported version A, because it seemed so much cheaper -- but now I realize we should go ahead and make the investment in Alternative C. Costs more, but will pay back so much greater in better lives for all of us who have to navigate these streets daily. Please reconsider Alternative C!


1 person likes this
Posted by Derick
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Dec 20, 2018 at 9:15 am

Why is this still even being discussed? Caltrain is already being electrified, it's waaay too late to talk about modifying the track layout. The time for that was maybe a decade ago, or better yet back in the late 90's during the track replacement project.


2 people like this
Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 20, 2018 at 10:05 am

Derek:

Caltrain started building grade separations years ago as part of its long term plan to electrify its rail system.

The pace of building grade separations has been controlled by the availability of state and county funding. For example, Burlingame received enough Measure A funds to design and engineer its grade separation but there is none left to construct it. So it waits - indefinitely - but is first in line for new funding.

Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Redwood City, and Mountain View have spent years trying to decide what design concepts they want for their communities and are not ready to apply for future funding.

Meanwhile, Caltrain moves forward with electrification and will add more daily trains because it has funding for this work.

By 2023-2025 all of these communities will experience more train-generated congestion that will not lighten until they have build grade separations - 3 to 5 years of construction AFTER funding is secured.

Not a "pretty picture".

Best course for Menlo Park: select the best solution possible and then apply for design and engineering funding as soon that is the first phase.




2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 20, 2018 at 10:30 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

As time passes at grade, above grade or a trench will all become more expensive and a bored tunnel will become less expensive do to improved boring technology.


2 people like this
Posted by Sean
a resident of another community
on Dec 20, 2018 at 2:22 pm

Communities: El Cerrito, Oakland.

Just giving some feedback on existing overhead train tracks in El Cerrito.
The tracks provide a park-like path that runs through the entire city of El Cerrito, making it very pleasant to walk to the BART station and nearby stores.
The raised tracks are much better than raised freeways because they are thin enough to let in light, and rain to wash away bad smells.
Train overpasses would probably be dark and dirty, just like almost anything under a freeway.


1 person likes this
Posted by TBM
a resident of another community
on Dec 21, 2018 at 9:44 am

@Peter Carpenter

"The one-mile test tunnel I rode in took about a year and a half to complete, and about $10 million, not counting research and development — or, for that matter, equipment. This is still fairly cheap. The Silver Line in Washington, DC cost $300 million per mile; New York’s Second Avenue subway will be more like $2.5 billion per mile,"

This tunnel was bored using a second-hand tunnel boring machine that has previously bored a sewer pipe in Washington Web Link , there is no reason to believe it cost less per mile than the sewer pipe in Washington. What research and development?

You cannot compare the cost of a small radius sewer pipe with the cost of a large radius train tunnel. The thick concrete tunnel wall is a significant part of the cost and the volume of concrete increases by 2-Pi-r .
The volume of muck excavated is proportional to Pi-r-squared.

Even Musk admits that you should not take anything he says seriously.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 21, 2018 at 9:50 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Here are some facts that show how improved TBM technology is reducing the cost per mile and allowing larger diameter tunnels:

"While the project cost for a bored tunnel may be slightly more than that of a viaduct and substantially more than a surface street option, when whole-life costs are considered the tunnel becomes the most cost-effective solution."

Web Link


1 person likes this
Posted by TBM
a resident of another community
on Dec 21, 2018 at 10:15 am

"a tunnel becomes the most cost-effective solution" according to "Tunnel Talk" magazine.

They are talking about establishing a new right-of-way across a crowded city. Tunneling under an already established right-of-way will obviously be more expensive that leaving the right-of-way as it is, or just adding a small road underpass.


2 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 21, 2018 at 12:50 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Advances in TBM technology don't solve the problem of disposing of the spoils. It is extremely expensive to get rid of dirt in this area. We're rapidly approaching a point where basements are going to become cost prohibitive to build due to the cost of spoils disposal.


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Posted by Address all crossings
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Dec 21, 2018 at 8:13 pm

I favor tunneling as the best long term solution. We should learn from European metropolitan areas. Virtually all have undegrounded trains. We will need to sometime so why not do it now?

If that isn’t seriously considered, the current plan to leave tracks at grade is preferred because it allows each grade separation to be built sequentially. That minimizes traffic impacts. These work in Redwood City. However all separations must be planned at once as a single project The raised tracks in San Carlos are not adjacent to residential properties like here so are not a good model.


2 people like this
Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 22, 2018 at 10:30 am

Another Important Consideration:

Caltrain must install a temporary track system ("shoofly") that bypasses the existing ones regardless of the number and type of grade separation that are built. This will ensure passenger services can continue uninterrupted during 3 - 5 years of construction. The actual location of the shoofly might vary but it would be located on the west side of existing tracks.

Address all crossings, I do not think the idea of sequentially building grade separations with individual shooflies has been examined. One BIG concern: how connecting a combination of existing and new tracks at different heights during construction would impact project costs, construction schedules and train operations.


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Posted by TBM
a resident of another community
on Dec 22, 2018 at 11:48 am

"Caltrain must install a temporary track system ("shoofly") that bypasses the existing ones regardless of the number and type of grade separation that are built."

Not necessarily, if the track remains at grade, an underpass can be built without a shoofly. With a lot of preparatory work, an underpass can be installed during a weekend track closure: Web Link

An underpass can even be installed by pushing a prefabricated concrete box under the tracks without closing them: Web Link

However it is unlikely that conservative California would risk such advanced techniques.


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Posted by Dana Hewndrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 22, 2018 at 4:56 pm


TBM: The transportation consultant AECOM has told the city that a shoofly is needed for a Ravenswood underpass. As you stated, this might be a Caltrain preference, rather than a construction requirement.


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Posted by remove constraint?
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 31, 2018 at 12:36 pm

One of the assumptions in all these comments is that the diesel freight trains must continue as they have been. There would be more options and flexibility if that assumption were different. So I have to ask:
Is there any way to change the technology the freight trains use?
Is there any way to move where the freight trains travel?

Even if the answers are "expensive", how would that cost compare to the current net cost picture for various options?

btw all analysis should assume a 50-100 planning horizon that takes into account the projected growth of the bay area, net costs and present value of various alternatives.


5 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 31, 2018 at 2:20 pm

We need the Union Pacific freight trains for the foreseeable future because of the needs of a few specifics:
-Gravel and cement is needed to be shipped into South San Francisco and in Hunters View to the concrete batch plants- concrete can't be mixed too far away from a job site, so those batch plants need to stay in SF and be fed gravel ad infinitum
-Contaminated soil is being shipped out of SF every night on its way to Utah and Nevada for disposal- that is going to be happening for a long time.
-The rest is lumber and some liquids- maybe replaceable by road.

So until the need goes away, the trains stay.


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 31, 2018 at 2:46 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Yes the freight trains will stay but there is no reason that their engines need to be the current diesel powered ones.


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Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 31, 2018 at 9:50 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Their engines may not NEED to stay diesel, but they will. Because when they get out of the bay area an electric locomotive will need to be changed to a diesel, or multiple diesels. Time and money Union Pacific and the other rail operators don't care to absorb. So, there's basically no chance UP will use electric locomotives on their peninsula lines for freight. Not going to happen. Especially in a tunnel.


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 31, 2018 at 9:55 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"It is illegal to operate a diesel locomotive in NYC, so even if one were to be on a train in NYP, it would have to be towed by an electric loco."

So there is no reason that the same could not be required here.


2 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 1, 2019 at 9:35 am

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Peter:

so, if only two cities have a tunnel under them and both those cities make it illegal to run diesel, they'll just add electric locomotives? Again, time and money. It would also reduce the length of the freight portion of the train as they only have so much yard space. Add electric locomotives, likely the same number as the diesels, two to three, and you increase the over all length of the train.

And still no one has answered the really tough question about putting in a tunnel; where are you going to put the spoils and at what cost?


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Posted by TBM
a resident of another community
on Jan 1, 2019 at 10:55 am

When a once-in-100-year infrastructure project is built, standard practice is to overbuild it, with spare capacity and flexible enough to allow future technology upgrades.
The tunnel-istas are proposing the opposite. A two track tunnel when it is already foreseeable that three or four tracks could be needed. To reduce costs, narrow tunnels just big enough for current generation trains to squeeze through at a maximum speed of 110mph. Steep 2%+ grades. No support for diesel trains. Increase risk of service interruption from flood or earthquake, and to ensure that future generations can never exploit high-capacity high-speed transport-of-the-future on the peninsula, build dense housing all over the only right-of-way!


5 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 1, 2019 at 11:06 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Nothing in this proposal that limits the proposed tunnel to two tracks - on the contrary it states "that includes CalTrain, HSR, utility conduits for telephone and internet cables,"

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.


3 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 1, 2019 at 11:17 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

To be clear, a large tunnel WILL be - very expensive
- involve significant but solvable technical challenges
- challenge the imaginations of many
- require disparate agencies to actually work together for the common good

But it will provide the least disruptive and most flexible solution to the Peninsula transportation corridor problem and in decades to come will be hailed as a wise investment.


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Posted by TBM
a resident of another community
on Jan 1, 2019 at 12:10 pm

Internet cables don't need to travel in straight lines, they can duck and weave under the existing street networks where workers have easy maintenance access during working hours. If you are building a tunnel anyway (or a viaduct), definitely add spare conduits and try to rent them to AT&T, but I doubt that the price AT&T is willing to pay will help justify the cost of a tunnel.

How valuable is the row in Atherton? Apart from the station area, which will remain the station area, the row has no road access and is surrounded by private gardens. Neighbors would object to any new structures overlooking the villas, and there is no money to be made from a bicycle path unless you are going to erect a toll gate.

Caltran has rules on the minimum widths of new roads, bicycle and pedestrian paths, which unlike existing Atherton streets, have to be ADA compatible now. I can't see there being much square feet left over for property development in the 100ft wide row.


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Posted by Long view
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jan 2, 2019 at 5:22 pm

@ remove constraints:
Maybe it would be cheaper to move the freight train tracks (they don’t belong in middle of towns). Removing that complication from the equation should help

If this decision is for 100 years, then every comparison of alternatives must take into account 100-years worth of growth.
Won’t that mean replacing above grade options?



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Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 2, 2019 at 7:03 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

long view:

good luck with that. UP owns the right of way. Let's just say we want to seize it by eminent domain. What will that entail? Getting multiple cities to all file suit to complete that seizure. You honestly think there's even a snowball's chance in hell of that happening? I don't.


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Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 3, 2019 at 12:47 pm

The BIGGEST problem with a Menlo Park (and Palo Alto) tunnel is that NO ONE will ever agree to pay for it - certainly not in our lifetime.

The primary funding must come from the state and county =>OTHER PEOPLES' MONEY (OPM).

The PUC will NEVER allocate the funds needed for a tunnel given its large list of existing grade separation priorities, limited funds AND the heat politicians would receive if they attempted to spend so much money to satisfy the "special preferences" of individual cities. So go ahead, ask Joe Simitian, Anna Eshoo and Liz Kniss whether they want to spend political capital on a Palo Alto tunnel.

AT BEST, Caltrain might receive an annual total budget for grade separation of $250-400M. Look at how much is being spent in 2019.

Meanwhile, expect more daily trains to start running as early as 2022.

Even the Ravenswood-only grade separation alternative Menlo Park will submit for design and engineering funding this year will not be completed until many years later. Imagine how long it would take to build a tunnel!

(Also, why does anyone think that Caltrain would permit private housing to be built on top of its tunnel???)


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 3, 2019 at 2:04 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" why does anyone think that Caltrain would permit private housing to be built on top of its tunnel???"

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


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 3, 2019 at 2:06 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

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 TBM
a resident of another community
on Jan 3, 2019 at 4:29 pm

@ "150 North Riverside were built above tracks leading to the Amtrak station".

Well really it was built to the side of the tracks and hangs over them: Web Link , no need to put the tracks underground to do this, but you do need some solid bedrock not too deep.

The make this type of structure cost effective the building needs to be tall, and tall buildings need a lot of infrastructure at the base to feed them: transport, shops, restaurants, etc. It would not work in the middle of low density residential zone.

Tall buildings in the bay area need a lot of foundation piles under them, and even then they sometimes fall over: Web Link

A pergola over the tracks Web Link is another option but probably worse for the neighborhood than just elevating the tracks.


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Posted by Underpass swimming pool
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 5, 2019 at 9:26 pm


I agree that at current speed of political decision processes, technical advances, and funding situation & Costs, as well as evaluating the completed projects at neighboring cities, all speaks for an elevated track as the most future proof, feasible and economical solution....

especially given California's mess with contractors and funding decisions.


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Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 6, 2019 at 2:32 pm

Peter:

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

I do not know if Caltrain is a "smart railroad" but do know that placing buildings on top of a tunnel would increase construction costs

* Deeper tunnel = more expensive
* Substructures that carry building weight = more expensive
* Building utility subsystems (electrical, water, gas" = more expensive
* Complex flood control system = more expensive
* Complex emergency and maintenance access facilities = more expensive
* Overall project complexity

And likely things I cannot identify.


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Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 6, 2019 at 10:02 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Dana:

You are right. Tunneling is not cost effective at all.


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Posted by TBM
a resident of another community
on Jan 7, 2019 at 3:28 am

@ "I do not know if Caltrain is a "smart railroad" but do know that placing buildings on top of a tunnel would increase construction costs"

The clue is that when you look around the Bay area, you don't see many examples of residential or office blocks straddling highways, railroads, rivers or tunnels.

If land in Menlo Park is so valuable and housing needed, why has El Camino Real not been built over already? There you have 640,000 square feet of prime real estate being 'wasted' on a road. Put the road in a trench and build on top, un-divide the city.

The reason it has not been done is because it is not cost effective. It is less expensive to buy and demolish low density houses than to build a structure over a road or railway.

Even if the railroad was in a tunnel, a pergola type structure Web Link would be required to distribute the load of the building around the tunnels and down to the bedrock. The bedrock below Menlo Park is probably very deep. The cost of the pergola could be more than the cost of the building on top. Web Link

Caltrain does not have a policy on 'air rights' because no developer has been crazy enough to want to build over a railroad. Caltrain itself would have done this as a way to fund upgrades if it made economic sense.


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Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 7, 2019 at 12:40 pm

Another important consideration re:building above a tunnel

The width of the Caltrain (actually the Joint Powers Board) right-of-way in Menlo Park ranges from 60 to 80 feet.

Given the requirement for setbacks, driveways, parking, utility infrastructure, etc., I doubt any desirable housing could even be built in this narrow corridor.


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