News

Editorial: Solving the rail puzzle

In a race against time, solving the grade-separation problem remains elusive

In Palo Alto, we're forever in search of perfect solutions to our problems and challenges — ones that satisfy everyone, or at least don't sharply divide and anger residents.

We try to achieve this on particularly complicated and controversial issues by investing tremendous time and energy on the process, believing that if we talk long enough and explore every possible alternative, we'll wind up with some degree of consensus about a logical decision.

Sometimes this gets us to a good result. An example is the Downtown Residential Parking Program and its less ambitious offshoots. Exhaustive debate, many false starts and some tweaking after implementation actually managed to get us to a good place.

But the challenges facing the community as we prepare for much more frequent Caltrain service through the middle of the city is of an entirely different magnitude and one that, regardless of the selected "solution," will result in the most significant physical changes and disruption to our city since the construction of Oregon Expressway in the 1960s. And there is no ability to make adjustments once a grade separation solution is implemented. We need to get it right at the outset.

That's a heavy burden to fall on our newly reduced seven-member City Council, especially with two, Mayor Eric Filseth and Councilwoman Liz Kniss, recusing themselves from the issue because they own property near the tracks. As a result, just five members will be making what may be the most important civic decision in the history of Palo Alto.

So it's no wonder that the five remaining council members are struggling to narrow the options for what to do with the existing four at-grade road crossings at Palo Alto Avenue, Churchill Avenue, Meadow Drive and Charleston Road. They are proceeding with appropriate caution but must soon act.

Doing nothing is not a viable option, as increased train service, especially during peak commute hours, will create gridlock on these streets, adjacent neighborhoods and on Alma Street and other arterials.

The city staff recommends that the most extreme and expensive option — placing the tracks in a tunnel the length of the city — be eliminated, but the City Council Tuesday night could not bring itself to do so given the appeal and popularity of running the railroad out of sight and eliminating all conflicts between the train and cars, pedestrians and bicycles. It voted to keep the tunnel option for a bit longer so that it could get one more airing at a March community meeting, but no one seriously expects this billion-dollar alternative to survive the next discussion.

The remaining alternatives are elevating the tracks (the "viaduct" option), lowering the tracks south of Oregon in a trench, and a hybrid that lowers the road and elevates the tracks. These options would allow cars to go under or over the tracks at Meadow and Charleston. The City Council has already decided that the Churchill crossing will be closed to cars, with some form of passageway under the tracks for pedestrians and bicyclists, probably similar to the Homer Avenue tunnel.

The council agreed to create a separate planning effort for the northernmost crossing at Palo Alto Avenue, simpler in some ways because there are no traffic signals complicating the design. Closing that crossing entirely is still on the table, but isn't a good solution in our judgment.

(While not directly related to Palo Alto's decision, a newly elected City Council in Menlo Park earlier this month reversed the previous council's grade-crossing decision and decided that all three of the road crossings should be separated from the tracks instead of only the already highly congested Ravenswood Avenue. While this could occur by raising the tracks, the preferred option right now is to lower the three roadways.)

Palo Alto City Council members are doing their best to navigate through this consequential decision-making process and trying to explain to the community that there is no perfect or obvious "best" alternative. Each one has benefits and drawbacks that can be persuasively argued.

Predictably, residents living near the tracks are raising specific concerns, ranging from diverted traffic onto Embarcadero as a result of the Churchill closure to noise and visual impact of the viaduct option and construction challenges of a trench. An excellent visual depiction and background presentation on the options and trade-offs can be found here, and more information is posted at a city website, pagradesep.com.

For reasons we'll explain in a future editorial, we believe the "viaduct" option, in which the tracks south of the California Avenue train station are elevated and supported by concrete columns (not a continuous berm) is likely the best solution for the community. But each option has its benefits and problems, and time is running out for residents to have their voices heard and for the City Council to prepare itself to choose a solution that won't make everyone happy.

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Comments

14 people like this
Posted by At Last
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 25, 2019 at 8:28 am

At last! The least disruptive, most economical and the design that moves traffic underneath in the most efficient way. Forget visuals. Get this train in an elevated track that doesn’t sit on a berm which would create a wall and real visual obstruction.


21 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 25, 2019 at 9:04 am

We agree that the viaduct option is the best. That gives us most of the benefits of the tunnel for a far cheaper price and far faster construction time. Sidewalks and bike paths can be built under the viaduct to give residents far more and safer transportation options than we have now. I am sad that our city council did not go forward with this project years or decades ago.


3 people like this
Posted by Greenmeadow resident
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 25, 2019 at 10:11 am

So we'll have West Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, and I guess East East Palo Alto? Living in one of the most expensive places and building walls instead of making the town nicer and more liveable? It is a lot of money, but this wall be there for decades and likely more once it's built.


16 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 25, 2019 at 10:15 am

As much as I would like to see this underground, I suspect that a viaduct is a good option.

In many places, the arches under viaducts can be used as cafes, artist studios, crafts/gift shops, preschools, bike repair places, galleries, beauty salons, exercise studios, etc. etc. With some forethought, a viaduct could add usable space and attract people to the space rather than be a wall to divide.


2 people like this
Posted by Greenmeadow resident
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 25, 2019 at 10:27 am

If Palo Alto wouldn't consist of one story homes I would agree and if it would be rebuild to have a much denser use of space we should go for a viaduct. So if people are ok with 5 story homes everywhere building a wall and adding some shops below would work and would be nice. But Palo Alto isn't and so a viaduct is the cheap option you would never choose for your own car or whatever you'll like to have at home (at least if you can afford to live in this town).


10 people like this
Posted by TorreyaH
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 25, 2019 at 11:01 am

This is a solution for the next hundred years. Palo Alto has grown significantly in the last decades and is likely to continue to do so. It's important to maximize the free flow of pedestrians, bicycles, and automobiles. Invest in a tunnel to keep all the crossings open and create useable surface for housing, recreation, and all he other uses suggested in the viaduct alternative. Considering the current congestion on both Embarcadero and Oregon, even though there are already grade separations, it's vital to keep Churchill crossing open between those two already congested routes.


9 people like this
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Jan 25, 2019 at 11:15 am

A tunnel or trench is neither practical nor affordable. I glad to see that the Weekly has seen the light. I hope the City Council and the [portion removed] residents will fall in line. What we need is real leadership, not pandering to the squeakiest wheel.

I really doubt a vote of the citizens would approve the $5 billion to build a tunnel, so let's get moving. Vote for a combination viaduct / hybrid and get on with the show so it is ready before peak Caltrain arrives.


51 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 25, 2019 at 11:54 am

The idea that people are going to live, work, learn, or recreate under a elevated freeway for trains with an 80-90 dBA conversation killing interruption every time a train passes overhead is just foolish.

How many cafes, artist studios, crafts/gift shops, preschools, bike repair places, galleries, beauty salons, exercise studios, etc. are located under Albany/Berkeley's elevated freeway for BART? It is hard to even find a person under Albany/Berkeley's elevated freeway for BART, let alone a preschool!

The only people you are going to find under an elevated freeway are the desperate and the homeless.


6 people like this
Posted by Rick
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 25, 2019 at 12:05 pm

[Post removed.]


25 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 25, 2019 at 12:16 pm

"Doing nothing ... will create gridlock" but closing Churchill and Palo Alto Ave won't?


8 people like this
Posted by Rick
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 25, 2019 at 12:52 pm

Personally, I think we need a few years of gridlock to illustrate exactly what voting for development-friendly Council members has wrought on our town. Close the crossings. If people need to travel between East Palo Alto (or EastEast Palo Alto)and West Palo Alto they can go though Mountain View or Menlo Park. Enlist the bicycle advocates to help ban automobile traffic on the University, Embarcadero, Oregon, and San Antonio crossings. Much healthier for our citizenry to bicycle between the two (East and West) cities than drive pollution spewing automobiles.

It might make further sense to divide Palo Alto into three separate cities: South,


9 people like this
Posted by commonsense
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 25, 2019 at 2:00 pm

I like the viaduct. The only way the tunnel should be on the table is if there is a funding source. If every household were to contribute $5k per year for the next ten year, we could do it. If there's no way the public would agree to that, forget it. The Viaduct would at least leave the land below it usable for housing, retail, a city wide park/running track/dog run. Could be really cool


19 people like this
Posted by Michael H
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 25, 2019 at 2:32 pm

Michael H is a registered user.

It certainly appears that the "decision" to close Churchill has been made more as a supposition based on "studies" regarding the impact with little or no hard evidence.

Why not temporarily close Churchill to automobile traffic for a 30-60 day period that brackets the end of the school year (e.g mid-May to mid-July) and see what happens?

The cost would be relatively minor and the result would be some hard, real world data that would provide far more evidence than we have now.


16 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 25, 2019 at 3:16 pm

Get real. We can't and/or won't afford a tunnel, trench, berm, or stilts. Just figure out which grade crossings to close and we're done.


6 people like this
Posted by Buster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 25, 2019 at 3:37 pm

The basic problem with the at-grade crossings we have now is contention between automobile and train traffic. Closing the Churchill crossing will worsen, not improve, traffic throughput. Put another way, it will worsen the very gridlock grade separation is supposed to eliminate. This is what happens when decisions are made by a body of unqualified amateurs who can't make a decision without reversing themselves again and again. Mark my words: you'll be sorry.

I hope the PACC doesn't think closing the Churchill crossing will make the trains stop coming and thus solve the problem.

All of the options — including closing crossings and doing nothing — are flawed. In terms of practicality, a viaduct is the most promising for a litany of reasons, most having to do with the problems it avoids — despite the lies and propaganda put out by one vocal opponent.

There is no reason on Earth that a viaduct can't be designed that is attractive and not an ugly gray poured-concrete thing designed by Caltrans engineers in Sacramento. This is where a design competition would be beneficial. Give it graceful, sweeping arches. Face it with clinging vines, iceplant, brick, Spanish tile, glazed ceramic, the list goes on. Borrow from Stanford's architectural heritage. Create something attractive. Go ahead, Palo Alto. Knock yourselves out.

The new electric Caltrain EMU's will not have diesel engines and are designed to be quiet, quieter than the diesel locomotives they will replace. Build sound barriers into the viaduct for added acoustical isolation. You can disregard the made-up lies posted by others without any basis in fact about the noise levels of the new trains.


12 people like this
Posted by A simple table please
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 25, 2019 at 3:45 pm

When I read that there was an "excellent visual depiction and background presentation" I got excited that maybe someone would have finally simplified the options into an easy to read table where we can see the costs and benefits of each of the options being discussed. How much $ for each option? What are the qualitative and quantitative benefits of each option? 48 slides and not one slide that clearly and succinctly states the costs and benefits of the options on the table.

No wonder this is taking so long...


7 people like this
Posted by Rick
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 25, 2019 at 5:06 pm

@Buster, We tried coming up with a creative design for a 101 bike bridge. Fail.

@commonsense, the Joint Powers Board owns the right-of-way. No cute shops or bistros under a four-track viaduct. And where would one park to visit these hypothetical shops?

You think the airplane noise complainers are vocal? Wait until you increase the rail noise footprint by lofting the trains overhead.


Like this comment
Posted by Buster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 25, 2019 at 5:15 pm

You might find something if you poke around here:

Web Link


1 person likes this
Posted by Buster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 25, 2019 at 5:27 pm

"Wait until you increase the rail noise footprint by lofting the trains overhead."

Again, with new electric non-diesel EMU's and effective sound barriers on the passageway, it might actually be quieter than what we have now, coupled with the fact that the trains won't have to sound their horns at grade-separated crossings.

"@Buster, We tried coming up with a creative design for a 101 bike bridge. Fail."

We've been failing at RR grade separation for over 10 years.

Do you have a better idea for grade separation, Rick?

I grew up a few hundred feet from the tracks near the Cal. Ave. station. We heard every passenger and freight train coming and going. Eventually you tune it out and sleep right through it.


9 people like this
Posted by Menlo Neighbor
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 25, 2019 at 5:46 pm

@Greenmeadow Resident
Not sure you understand that the Weekly expresses support for a viaduct, which is tracks elevated with no wall or berm below. That's the whole idea - its open. Whether its a parkway, a pike bath, basketball courts or just flowering shrubs is an opportunity, up to residents - after the big decision has been made as to which option. Many of us in Menlo Park agree, a berm for partially raised tracks would create a visual wall and would be the Worst option.


23 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 25, 2019 at 6:07 pm

"If you live near an airport, railroad tracks or a busy road, you might be concerned about how fumes from those planes, trains and automobiles are affecting your health. But according to a new review in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, there may be another threat to worry about: high levels of noise that may be bad for your heart."

"How Loud Noise Exposure Is Linked to Heart Disease"
Time Magazine ~ February 6, 2018 Web Link


1 person likes this
Posted by Buster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 25, 2019 at 6:15 pm

"Whether it's a parkway, a pike bath, basketball courts or just flowering shrubs is an opportunity, up to residents - after the big decision has been made as to which option."

Menlo Park, Palo Alto or whatever municipality would have to lease the land from PCJPB. It might be a worthwhile investment if the price were right. Rental income from quaint little shoppes and restaurants could help defray this cost.

It's time to bring in a little vision.


23 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 25, 2019 at 7:26 pm

Marie is a registered user.

Anyone who has lived near elevated tracks knows how awful they are. This option should be eliminated. San Francisco jumped at the chance to eliminate its elevated highway after the 1989 earthquake. Tip O'Neill facilitated the elimination of Boston's elevated highway, as his last present as speaker of the house, to be replaced by a tunnel. By the way, if they can build a tunnel under Boston, they can build one here.

If there are no funds to build a tunnel, which would be a win-win for everyone, then we should either follow Menlo Park's decisions and just drop the Charleston and East Meadow, leaving the railroad at grade. This would be far the cheapest way. The hybrid option still leads to an unacceptable elevated track.

Yes, that would mean Alma would no longer connect directly to Charleston and E. Meadow. However, if the CHSRA succeeds in their latest proposal to run four tracks from Mountain View to CA Avenue (essentially making the "shoofly track," permanent, and eliminating 3 lanes of Alma Street), there will not be enough capacity on Alma street to manage the traffic anyway.


3 people like this
Posted by Clem
a resident of another community
on Jan 25, 2019 at 7:50 pm

Marie says "essentially making the "shoofly track," permanent, and eliminating 3 lanes of Alma Street"

Nope. Caltrain's extensive land holdings, from south of Peers Park all the way to the Mountain View border, are 95 to 110 feet wide. Four tracks take only 75 feet.

Trust me, Alma will be fine.


15 people like this
Posted by JR
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 25, 2019 at 7:55 pm

There are currently four grade-separated ways for automobiles to cross the train tracks in this city. That's more than enough for the 67,178 people that live in Palo Alto. We don't need grade separations 5 and 6 at the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars (and at the cost of dozens of homes, and the serenity of several neighborhoods).

I call on all residents to oppose the elevated freeway for trains.


19 people like this
Posted by Elevated freight trains
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 25, 2019 at 7:56 pm

Elevated freight trains is a registered user.

I am strongly opposed to the viaduct, because of the noise and vibrations from elevated freight trains. Any recommendation for elevating the tracks should cover that aspect.


12 people like this
Posted by Earthquakes Anyone?
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 25, 2019 at 10:29 pm

I would be concerned about earthquake hazards with an elevated train on concrete posts. This sounds worse than apartment buildings above garages with concrete posts. And we all know those are dangerous.


3 people like this
Posted by Buster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 26, 2019 at 12:23 am

"I would be concerned about earthquake hazards with an elevated train on concrete posts."

I would be equally concerned about a trench or tunnel flooding if the pumps are neglected and can't keep up with the storm water. CPA has a history of pump neglect causing flooding during storms, especially at Oregon expwy.


12 people like this
Posted by Professorville Resident
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 26, 2019 at 12:38 am

@Buster

Unless they eliminate the cargo trains, we'll still have diesel powered extremely heavy trains which create large ground-waves.

I don't sleep through it all the time, and we've been here for years and years. It shakes things enough that I cannot tell the difference between moderate earthquakes and the train passing. It isn't insignificant, and it is far worse in some places than other places due to changes in ground density.

Anyway, if they did eliminate the cargo trains, then we could also have significantly steeper grades, allowing more options for elevating trains/roads, which would likely make partial trenching and hybrid options far, far cheaper.

... but since that isn't on the table, we'll get the incredible noise and shaking, all for SF's benefit, to the detriment of folks here and for zero compensation. Unlike people who've been here since forever, we'll be required to keep paying the incredibly high property tax, assuming we're allowed to keep our home at all.

A tunnel being flooded is nowhere as large a danger as a heavy cargo train derailing and falling 30 feet into residential homes.


4 people like this
Posted by TBM
a resident of another community
on Jan 26, 2019 at 1:01 am

@Earthquakes Anyone

Of all the grade separation options, the one that is least susceptible to earthquake damage is the solid berm.

The soil in PA is at "moderate risk of liquefaction". In a liquefaction event a tunnel or trench will tend to float to the surface like a boat, this would knock Caltrain out of commission for years.

The concrete posts of a viaduct would continue 80 feet underground, they need to support the weight of a viaduct and train, and without nearby bedrock, it is just the friction between the soil and the concrete post that holds them in place.

Caltrain fills it's solid berms with lightweight cellular concrete Web Link or Styrofoam Web Link, so there is minimum risk of settlement.


8 people like this
Posted by Buster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 26, 2019 at 1:14 am

So Palo Alto decides not to have a noisy viaduct and opts for a tunnel.

The estimates come in and Palo Altans discover that they just can't scrape together the financing to pay for their billion-dollar-plus tunnel. Bond measures fail at the ballot box. These projects invariably run way over projections so the projected cost should be at least doubled. How much over budget did the bay bridge go? I've heard 3x.

The project will die on the vine and we'll have at-grade crossings, just like we've had for 150+ years.

That might be the best option. No homes taken, no trains barreling down Alma on a shoofly track, no noisy viaduct, no flooded tunnel, no angry citizens, no bonds to pay off.

It remains to be seen whether this added Caltrain service actually materializes as projected, or if it's clouds in the coffee of rail planners. For Caltrain to increase service it will need more fare-paying passengers to ride the trains and more employees to operate them. Caltrain doesn't care one whit whether the cities grade separate. Their trains have the right-of-way no matter what. Have Palo Alto declared a "quiet zone" and say goodbye to train horns.

In all of these discussions I hear more clamor against various grade-sep schemes than I hear in favor of grade separation itself. That should tell us something.

With Cash-and-Carry Jerry Brown out of office it remains to be seen if HSR will lose its impetus under Newsom.


1 person likes this
Posted by Buster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 26, 2019 at 1:18 am

"without nearby bedrock, it is just the friction between the soil and the concrete post that holds them in place."

Another fly in the ointment. That is how San Francisco wound up with a leaning skyscraper. They had bedrock under that building but didn't drive the pilings down to it.


7 people like this
Posted by TBM
a resident of another community
on Jan 26, 2019 at 1:46 am

@ "That's the whole idea - its open. Whether its a parkway, a pike bath, basketball courts or just flowering shrubs is an opportunity"

But in south PA a viaduct will still be closed by residential fence on one side and a 4 lane road on the other.

There is unlikely to be space under the viaduct for basketball, either there will be many concrete posts close together with a thin deck, or a small number of posts with a thick deck. A viaduct only needs to be 15 feet in the air to cross the roads. To minimize height and overall cost, Caltrain normal uses an expensive but thin steel bridge to span roads, and thicker less expensive concrete deck elsewhere. A tall person will probably be able to reach up and touch the underside to the viaduct in most places, unless residents ask for and pay for it to be extra high!
HSR viaduct in the central valley has 10 feet thick bridge deck: Web Link


3 people like this
Posted by Buster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 26, 2019 at 5:40 am

"I don't sleep through it all the time, and we've been here for years and years. It shakes things enough that I cannot tell the difference between moderate earthquakes and the train passing."

My goodness, why did you move so close to the tracks? I grew up a few hundred feet from the tracks. Our whole family and all of our neighbors slept through all the trains, passenger and freight, day and night.

"if they did eliminate the cargo trains, then we could also have significantly steeper grades"

More than 1% requires an exemption from PCJPB. More than 2% is doubtful. PCJPB makes the rules here.

Anything you build in California, from a grass hut to a rail viaduct, is vulnerable to earthquakes, yet people still build here.


5 people like this
Posted by Buster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 26, 2019 at 6:01 am

"The soil in PA is at "moderate risk of liquefaction". In a liquefaction event a tunnel or trench will tend to float to the surface like a boat, this would knock Caltrain out of commission for years."

In addition, if there is no available bedrock for the footings, it puts the kibosh on a viaduct. A trench, tunnel or viaduct in such soft soil would be bad engineering and risky. A rail structure in Palo Alto shouldn't turn into a debacle like the tilting high-rise in San Francisco. That leaves a solid berm in Palo Alto which the locals won't have for aesthetic reasons.

Here is what happens when you fail to follow sound engineering practices. They didn't drive the pilings down to bedrock. Now it's a disaster which will cost millions to remedy and there are lawsuits flying every which way:

Web Link

We've eliminated trench, tunnel, viaduct and berm. The do-nothing approach wins by default.


3 people like this
Posted by TBM
a resident of another community
on Jan 26, 2019 at 8:12 am

@ "it puts the kibosh on a viaduct".

No. The central valley is a dry lake bed with a million years worth of sediment, with bedrock thousands of feet below the surface, but tall viaducts can still be safely built Web Link , it is just a matter of drilling deep enough with a large diameter pile to create sufficient friction Web Link .

I mention it in case some people think the support pillars are just sitting on the surface, like dominoes on a table.


Like this comment
Posted by Buster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 26, 2019 at 9:56 am

[Post removed; excessive repetitive posts.]


2 people like this
Posted by TBM
a resident of another community
on Jan 26, 2019 at 11:25 am

[Post removed; excessive repetitive posts.]


Like this comment
Posted by Buster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 26, 2019 at 12:15 pm

[Post removed; excessive repetitive posts.]


Like this comment
Posted by Buster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 26, 2019 at 12:41 pm

[Post removed; excessive repetitive posts.]


9 people like this
Posted by JR
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 26, 2019 at 2:08 pm

Instead of endlessly bickering about proposals that are never going to happen, we should spend our time planning and building something that residents actually want. There needs to be a bike / pedestrian overpass (or underpass) at Meadow, and another one somewhere around El Dorado. The number of students who bike across the train tracks every day is staggering and building a car / ped overpass / underpass will improve safety and encourage people to get out of cars. Let's build things that improve Palo Alto for ALL residents.


11 people like this
Posted by cvvhrn
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 26, 2019 at 3:35 pm

One only has to ask the residents of San Carlos how the elevated grade separation worked.

Yes it freed traffic alot, BUT the endless noise which is then amplified by by its elevated position is a bit much.

My fathers home was in the hills some 2 miles away from the track. After the separation and elevation, the noise was annoying louder and than before and it carried a much longer distance.

A trench would allow for the best of both worlds. Quiet operation, greater safety for all, improved pedestrian, bike and vehicle traffic etc. Yes cost is a huge issue, but we are talking about something that will have an impact on our city for for decades to come.

Yes, electrifying the tracks will help a bit with noise but ONLY if they put a stop to freight trains running the distance, and don't get me started on the High Speed rail boondoggle. Also, electrical or not the still make alot of noise.


2 people like this
Posted by Commuter
a resident of another community
on Jan 26, 2019 at 4:50 pm

Seems to me that this train left the station (so to speak) a long time ago already. While Palo Altans seem to think the electrification of Caltrain is in some kind of preliminary design phase, the fact is that the project is well underway and scheduled to begin service in 2021. When exactly is this change in layout supposed to happen? Through all these years of dithering, Palo Alto has effectively opted already for the status quo.


5 people like this
Posted by Clem
a resident of another community
on Jan 26, 2019 at 5:21 pm

"One only has to ask the residents of San Carlos how the elevated grade separation worked."

From a San Carlan who lives three blocks from the tracks, it works quite nicely, thank you very much. Trains rarely sound the horn. The roar from the freight trains does carry a bit but it's nothing debilitating, certainly far less of a nuisance in the city's soundscape than private airplanes circling the airport nearby.

Meanwhile, there are no crossing gates anywhere in San Carlos.


3 people like this
Posted by Pepe
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 26, 2019 at 6:05 pm

In 2014 Hatch Mott MacDonald delivered a study which included a trench at 2% grade stretching from San Antonio road to just shy of Matadero creek near Fry's Electronics. It involved no taking of residences — none — and "leveraged" three existing grade-separated crossings: Oregon, Embarcadero and University.

A 2% grade would require an exemption from Caltrain but that is probably doabale. The plan involved crossing Adobe and Barron creeks. It would also require a shoofly track on Alma as any trench or tunnel plan would.

It stands to reason that Caltrain, as owners of the right-of-way, would perform its own geological analysis on any proposal from the city to determine if the soil could support a rail trench, given the high water table and aquifers in the area, as well as the potential for liquefaction. They would likely also study any plans to cross the creeks. The county water district would also become involved as they have jurisdiction over the creeks.

Ultimately it would be up to Caltrain to give the thumbs up or down to this project.

Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 26, 2019 at 7:38 pm

I think the raised train could work. There are ways to improve the aesthetics. Some of us have been around such scenarios. It’s unrealistic to reduce economic activity or reduce auto driving in the near to mid term future. I know, farther out who knows, so we need to function in the meantime. Lots go crosstown besides Palo Alto residents (someone cited the last known PA population).


6 people like this
Posted by Steve
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 26, 2019 at 8:03 pm

Palo Alto has had decades to deal with grade separations, and did nothing. After the high speed rail bond measure passed in 2008, and detailed warnings of lots of fast trains were in the future, the city government blustered and spent money on a lobbyist in Sacramento to fight the train, but did nothing about the grade crossings. The city issued a report in 2013 suggesting that trenching the rail line was the best option for the city for what ever rail configuration might appear in the future (visionary!), but not much more happens. Caltrain got their $2B from HSR and other sources to electrify the rail corridor with the explicit purpose of running more faster trains in 2017 and VTA got voter approval for $6B in new taxes, some of which could be designated for grade separations in Palo Alto, but only if the city gets their act together and make a proper proposal. A little action regarding grade separations from city govt appears, but traffic circles begin blossoming all around town. Finally, in 2018, the city begins the Connecting Palo Alto design our rail corridor project.

Now, playing catch-up with little time to really do much analysis or secure funds, Palo Alto residents are left with very few options and with literally $0 cash in fist to advance any grade separation design. Sadly, the viaduct option will likely be advanced because it's one of the cheapest easiest alternatives, but it is certainly better than the 'do-nothing' or 'quad-gate' options which would both be disasters.


1 person likes this
Posted by Pepe
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 26, 2019 at 8:43 pm

Steve: agreed about the years wasted by CPA.

What is your solution for grade separation?


Like this comment
Posted by Gus L.
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 26, 2019 at 8:46 pm

Comparison animation of proposed designs..
Web Link


13 people like this
Posted by bg
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Jan 26, 2019 at 11:04 pm

Just look at Chicago - elevated trains are an eyesore, increase pollution, crater property values, and degrade our quality of life.

Don't waste time discussing a viaduct.


Like this comment
Posted by Rick
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 27, 2019 at 12:46 pm

What happens if Palo Alto doesn't get its act together? Does the state step in and impose its own engineering solution, including possible eminent domain? Certainly Palo Alto isn't going to be allowed to obstruct a regional project like this.


4 people like this
Posted by TBM
a resident of another community
on Jan 27, 2019 at 1:54 pm

@ "Does the state step in and impose its own engineering solution"

A state entity called the Public Utilities Commission has absolute sovereignty over all grade crossings. They dictate how grade separations will be done and who will pay for construction and ongoing maintenance. All Palo Alto can do is submit to the CPUC a grade separation proposal and a load of cash. Caltrain could submit their own proposal.


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Posted by Pepe
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 27, 2019 at 3:52 pm

"A state entity called the Public Utilities Commission has absolute sovereignty over all grade crossings. They dictate how grade separations will be done"

So if Palo Alto wants a tunnel and CPUC says "berms", then berms it will be, is that about right?

I'm sure Caltrain will have something to say about it.


4 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 27, 2019 at 5:29 pm

Marie is a registered user.

Nope. "Caltrain's extensive land holdings, from south of Peers Park all the way to the Mountain View border, are 95 to 110 feet wide. Four tracks take only 75 feet."

Unfortunately, this is not correct. I live on Alma south of Loma Verde where the right of way is 100 feet. Just to the south, it decreases to 90 feet and if I am remembering correctly, even less closer to E. Meadow.

The final environmental impact statement from CHRSA before the blended solution was announced finally admitted that Alma would have to be narrowed by 2-3 lanes, PERMANENTLY! Previous reports suggested it would only be temporary. If the right of way was as wide as you say, there would be no need for a shoofly track. Yet, after saying construction alternatives would only require 5 feet of Alma, now the the latest reports say a shoofly track closing 2-3 lanes of Alma will be needed for most of the options for construction to eliminate grade crossings.

Why do these stories keep changing? I don't know but as a resident living on Alma, who supports rail separations and electrification of Caltrain and even high speed rail, I would like one consistent story about the impacts to us. I'm willing to put up with a great deal of disruption to get electrification and grade crossing eliminations, but closing down much of Alma for years, and possibly permanently, is a showstopper for me. I much prefer alternatives that do not close lanes on Alma if possible. Depressing E. Meadow and Charleston to go under the tracks is probably the cheapest, and if Alma goes over those streets as well, little or no property will need to be acquired. Yes more traffic will go into nearby neighborhoods. But that is already happening as Alma hits capacity most weekdays around 5PM.


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Posted by Pepe
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 27, 2019 at 6:04 pm

"Why do these stories keep changing?"

You're looking at an EIR from the pre-blended-approach era.


2 people like this
Posted by Clem
a resident of another community
on Jan 27, 2019 at 6:36 pm

Marie, it’s important to know that HSR never released even a draft EIR. They still haven’t got that far. What you recall probably came from the analysis of alternatives, which is a precursor to an EIR.

The ROW widths are public records. There’s not much mystery or controversy there.
Web Link


4 people like this
Posted by JR
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 27, 2019 at 7:31 pm

Please stop repeating the myth that Palo Alto is obstructing rail travel by not deciding to build an elevated train freeway. Caltrain could start running electrified trains tomorrow, 15 per hour, and the only negative impact would be for a handful of people who choose to cross the tracks at Meadow or Charleston who would have to wait longer to cross.

It's not a failure of process if Palo Alto decides not to build an elevated train freeway either. Public infrastructure requires public benifit, and an elevated train freeway does not provide it.


1 person likes this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 27, 2019 at 8:13 pm

Marie is a registered user.

I just found the article on potentially four tracks from Mountain View to CA Avenue. I don't think I can post the link here but if you check the Daily Post articles for Dec. 29, discussing the Dec. 20 presentation to a group of local elected officials called the Caltrain Local Policy Maker Group including Adrian Fine, who is I think Palo Alto's alternate for these meetings. Many thanks to Mr. Fine for asking good questions about this alternative.

I hope the Palo Alto Weekly will attend more the Caltrain Local Policy Maker Group monthly meetings as many really important decisions are being discussed.

No mention was made of Greg Sharff who I believe is the main delegate or perhaps this changed now that it is 2019. His record for attending Caltrain meetings was abysmal in 2018.


2 people like this
Posted by Pepe
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 27, 2019 at 8:17 pm

"Please stop repeating the myth that Palo Alto is obstructing rail travel by not deciding to build an elevated train freeway."

I don't know who your remark is directed to, but I haven't seen anyone spreading sucj a "myth".

Your remark makes no sense. There is nothing the city can do to "obstruct rail travel". The trains are run by a separate agency and will run no matter what, regardless if there's a trench, a tunnel, a viaduct, berms or at-grade crossings in Palo Alto.

"Caltrain could start running electrified trains tomorrow"

That would present quite a challenge. Only a small portion of he right-of-way is close to being electrified, and the new EMU's haven't arrived yet.

At some point Palo Alto will likely vote on "grade-separation bonds" or a tax increase or both. If a viaduct is part of the deal, the matter will be decided at the ballot box. Or, if Palo Alto prefers a trench or tunnel, it's possible that the plan will be nixed by the Joint Powers Board when it is presented for their approval.


Like this comment
Posted by Pepe
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 27, 2019 at 8:44 pm

Here is a link to that article:

Web Link

Everything I've heard is that whatever is built in Palo Alto must not preclude a third and fourth track.


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Posted by TBM
a resident of another community
on Jan 28, 2019 at 3:54 am

@ "Everything I've heard is that whatever is built in Palo Alto must not preclude a third and fourth track."

Note that the trench and the viaduct are not mutually exclusive. If Palo Alto somehow succeeds in getting a two track trench, when Caltrain needs to expand, they will have no option but to build a viaduct. PA would be seething, having taken out a giant 30 year mortgage to pay for a trench to avoid a viaduct, only to end up with a mortgage and a viaduct.


8 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 28, 2019 at 7:24 am

Palo Alto doesn't HAVE to build anything. If Palo Alto built a trench and Caltrain wanted more tracks it would be on them.


Like this comment
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 28, 2019 at 7:27 am

[Post removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by Buster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 28, 2019 at 8:22 am

The do-nothing approach is looking better all the time.

I doubt there would be much public outrage if everything were left as is.

There would be public outrage over a viaduct or berms, or over a trench/tunnel once they got stuck with the bill and the inevitable "cost overruns".


8 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 28, 2019 at 8:38 am

^ One person's "cost overrun" is another's "extra income".


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 28, 2019 at 9:30 am

@Buster
The problem is that Caltrain plans to increase the number of trains to 16 per hour (8 per direction) in the next few years, and eventually up to 20, along with more cars trying to cross the tracks. With the amount of time it take for the signaling to “clear” ( get back to normal pattern) after each gate down, the existing crossings will be neatly blocked.


1 person likes this
Posted by Buster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 28, 2019 at 10:18 am

"The problem is that Caltrain plans to increase the number of trains to 16 per hour (8 per direction) in the next few years, and eventually up to 20"

That's what they're telling the public to justify things like grade separation projects, electrification and electric train sets. In order to justify the added service they'll need more paying passengers. They will also need to hire more personnel to operate the trains and that is an expense. I don't know where this added demand will come from that they can't handle by adding more cars to existing trains. At the moment Caltrain has no concrete plans for expanded service. Whether this onslaught of demand for added passenger rail service actually materializes remains to be seen. I'm skeptical.

With choo-choo Jerry Brown out of office, the future of HSR is even less certain than before.


13 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 28, 2019 at 8:05 pm

Remember: Caltrain/UP owns the ROW, and railroad land rights are absolutely supreme per hoary laws.

The crossings are trespassers. So would be anything else the city attempts to build in the ROW.

Cut our losses. Contain this monster before it can inflict any more harm: Close the crossings and build tall sturdy barrier walls right adjacent to the ROW.


13 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 28, 2019 at 10:54 pm

@Curmudgeon,

Have to agree building on Caltrain's land raises some thorny legal issues like who would own and who would be responsible for any structure, but Palo Alto probably has a limited ROW for the crossings. Not sure Palo Alto should abandon any ROWs without receiving compensation from Caltrain.

Palo Alto's grade level crossing ROWs are pretty valuable because Caltrain and CalHSR want to be able to run their trains in excess of 100mph through Palo Alto, but cannot due to Federal train speed limits (69mph?) which apply to at grade crossings.


2 people like this
Posted by TBM
a resident of another community
on Jan 29, 2019 at 1:31 am

@ >>>>"Have to agree building on Caltrain's land raises some thorny legal issues like who would own and who would be responsible for any structure, but Palo Alto probably has a limited ROW for the crossings. Not sure Palo Alto should abandon any ROWs without receiving compensation from Caltrain."<<<<

Nonsense, the raison-d'etre of the California Public Utilities Commission is to prevent competing utilities from extorting and blackmailing each other when their respective utilities cross paths.

The CPCU has exclusive authority over rail crossings and has well worn formulas to apportion construction and maintenance costs among the interested parties.

Caltrain owns the land and will own any structures. Palo Alto has limited or no rights. The CPUC will act in the best interest of the State.
The best interests of the State are less likely to align with the best interest of Palo Alto, and more likely to align with the best interest of Caltrain.


2 people like this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Jan 29, 2019 at 3:06 am

Reality Check is a registered user.

@Ahem: what is your source for claiming a 69 mph (or similar) train "speed limit" for grade crossings? ... or do you just make stuff up? Either way, you are a veritable font of misinformation. Please stop, because it's not helping.

Caltrain today traverses crossings at 79 mph, that being the maximum FRA-allowed speed for trains using only visual lineside signal systems. We already have Amtrak California "Pacific Surfliner" trains (using in-cab signaling) daily traversing some crossings between LA and SD at 90 mph ... and the FRA allows speeds up to 125 mph. Caltrain is presently installing a positive train control (PTC) system and, together with the HSRA, is currently planning to merely use so-called full-quadrant (aka "quad") crossing gates to permit 110 mph trains between SJ and SF.

Caltrain — not Palo Alto — owns the grade crossings. So there's nothing there for cities to "give up" or use to extort Caltrain with.


14 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 29, 2019 at 4:07 am

^ Wasn't Caltrain presently installing a positive train control (PTC) system 20 years ago?


2 people like this
Posted by Buster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 29, 2019 at 10:00 am

"@Ahem: what is your source for claiming a 69 mph (or similar) train "speed limit" for grade crossings? ... or do you just make stuff up?"

Yes he does. I've caught him making up lies to make his points.

Yes, the FRA speed limit is 79 mph. Do the Caltrain baby bullets actually go that fast? I once asked a baby bullet conductor and he said we got up to 70 mph but not 79.


3 people like this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Jan 29, 2019 at 12:00 pm

Reality Check is a registered user.

@musical: no, you are misinformed. Caltrain didn't start working on PTC (positive train control) until 2011. The so-called "PTC mandate" was signed into law by President "W" Bush as part of the Rail Safety Improvement Act in October of 2008. The FRA published final regulations for PTC systems on January 15, 2010 (with amendments on December 11, 2012).

Interested readers can learn more about Caltrain's PTC (and electrification) projects here:
Web Link

@Buster: many years ago Caltrain raised top speed for all trains (not just bullets) to 79 mph.


Like this comment
Posted by Pepe
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 29, 2019 at 1:10 pm

"many years ago Caltrain raised top speed for all trains (not just bullets) to 79 mph."

The question was how fast do the trains actually go, not what is the speed limit.

PCJPB (Caltrain) owns the ROW from S.F. to Tamien, south of San Jose. Union Pacific owns what is called the "Coast Line" from Tamien south.

I don't know if PCJPB has struck a deal with U.P. to electrify the ROW from Tamien to Gilroy, or if Caltrain will be running diesel trains to Gilroy. Anyone know?

U.P. does not own any part of the ROW from S.F. to Tamien. They are looking for a different short-line freight operator to take over freight service on the peninsula from U.P.


Like this comment
Posted by Pepe
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 29, 2019 at 1:25 pm

Caltrain baby bullet #360 leaves S.F. at milepost 0.2 at 4:12 pm and arrives at Millbrae at milepost 13.7 at 4:27 pm, a distance of 13.5 miles in 15 minutes, or approximately 54 mph, less than 79 mph.

It may go faster through certain parts of the route but I'll let others figure that out.


1 person likes this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 29, 2019 at 1:55 pm

Posted by Pepe, a resident of Midtown

>> Caltrain baby bullet #360 [...] approximately 54 mph, less than 79 mph.

As noted, 79 mph is the peak allowable speed. Actual speed at any location depends on many factors including the track itself and what any trains ahead are doing. Average speed will necessarily be lower than peak speed. The same thing is true of cars, of course. Maybe your car cruises along I-280 at 90 MPH at 6 AM on Sunday, but, getting along most Palo Alto arterials at rush hour is at about 6 MPH in my experience, leading to an overall end-to-end rush hour auto trip average speed of ~14 MPH in my experience.

That said, when I'm on Caltrain riding south at 5:40 as sometimes happens, it sure is nice not to be stuck in traffic on 101. e.g. #376: Leave at 5:38, get in at 6:15/6:18. Web Link


1 person likes this
Posted by Pepe
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 29, 2019 at 2:18 pm

That same train baby bullet #360 arrives in San Jose 59 minutes later, average speed about 48.1 mph.


2 people like this
Posted by WilliamR
a resident of another community
on Jan 29, 2019 at 3:25 pm

@ Pepe

The last I heard, Caltrain will still run diesel trains between Gilroy and San Francisco. Electrifying the line between Gilroy and San Jose was still being negotiated with Union Pacific, and would be part of "phase 2" of the electrification project.


13 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 29, 2019 at 5:53 pm

TBM said:

"...the raison-d'etre of the California Public Utilities Commission is to prevent competing utilities from extorting and blackmailing each other when their respective utilities cross paths."

That's funny the CPUC doesn't seem to care about Caltrain/PCJPB extorting and blackmailing Palo Alto into building $250+ million in infrastructure on Caltrain/PCJPB land which according to you will become the property of Caltrain/PCJPB when it is completed.

When you refer to the California Public Utilities Commission, are you referring to the same corrupt California Public Utilities Commission that is supposed to "regulate" PG&E?


8 people like this
Posted by CallingOut
a resident of another community
on Jan 29, 2019 at 6:02 pm

@Ahem

I love how you're trying to attack his argument by saying the CPUC is corrupt and isn't working in Palo Alto's best interests when the crux of said guy's argument WAS that the CPUC wouldn't rule in Palo Alto's best interests.


1 person likes this
Posted by Pepe
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 29, 2019 at 7:49 pm

"the CPUC doesn't seem to care about Caltrain/PCJPB extorting and blackmailing Palo Alto into building $250+ million in infrastructure on Caltrain/PCJPB land"

My, you have a vivid imagination.

Has CPUC or CAHSRA issued a mandate requiring grade separation in Palo Alto or any other peninsula city? Could Palo Alto get by with quad gates and not full grade separation?

[Portion removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by WilliamR
a resident of another community
on Jan 29, 2019 at 8:24 pm

Quad gates are a safety project, and they eliminate the need for trains to sound their horns at crossings, but they don't do anything for cross-traffic management, that grade separation does.


7 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 29, 2019 at 9:43 pm

Let's just summarize the deal proposed by the rail fanboys:

Palo Alto residents cough up $250+ million to build infrastructure on Caltrain/PCJPB land and when the infrastructure is complete, including all of the massive cost overruns, Caltrain/PCJPB owns the infrastructure because it was built on their land, and just to sweeten the deal Caltrain/PCJPB gets to run their trains through Palo Alto at an ear-splitting 125mph instead of the current grade level crossing limit of 79mph?


8 people like this
Posted by TBM
a resident of another community
on Jan 30, 2019 at 2:16 am

@ "Palo Alto residents cough up $250+ million to build infrastructure..."

It's not such a bad deal, the alternative is that Palo Alto build road bridges that spans over the railroad, or tunnels that spans under it. Both of these options would cost more, demolish many properties, and the city would be responsible for all ongoing maintenance costs.

The city of San Mateo is presently building 3 grade separations, a new station, and a pedestrian underpass for only $12 million. Web Link

Project Cost $180 million:

$12 million : City of San Mateo
$74 million : Measure A
$10 million : State Section 190
$84 million : State HSR Prop 1A

Here is San Mateo's request to the CPUC: Web Link
Here is the CPUC decision: Web Link

If Palo Alto wants to build the Taj Mahal, the extra cost will come entirely from the city.


6 people like this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Jan 30, 2019 at 2:39 am

Reality Check is a registered user.

@Ahem, there is no mandate from Caltrain, HSR or anyone else that cities pay for grade seps. Cities are free, at their discretion and cost, to implement quiet zones (as Atherton has at its Fair Oaks crossing, see video: Web Link) or not to spend a dime and just leave their crossings as they are.

Also, there is no "current grade level crossing limit of 79 mph." As explained previously, the current 79 mph track speed limit is a function of the signaling system, whose upgrade to PTC is nearly complete. [Portion removed.]


4 people like this
Posted by Buster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 30, 2019 at 4:21 am

The trains were there 30 years before CPA was incorporated.

PCJPB owns the ROW. They and CAHSRA are in the business of operating trains, which have priority over automobile traffic.

If a municipality wishes to have its roadways cross the RR ROW, it is up to the municipality to facilitate that at its expense. The crossings could be in the form of signals and gates as we have now, or a grade-separated crossing in which the auto traffic goes over or under the RR ROW. Or there could be no crossing at all as we now have now at California Avenue.

It's not that difficult to understand.


6 people like this
Posted by CallingOut
a resident of another community
on Jan 30, 2019 at 9:36 am

There actually is a grade crossing speed limit, but it's 110 mph (with FRA waiver), not 79 mph.

79 mph is the speed limit for trains/tracks not equipped with a cab signaling safety system. This requirement will be satisfied by PTC.

Grade separation is not mandated by Caltrain or the FRA. It is entirely up to the counties and municipalities to decide whether the increased traffic flow and safety is worth the cost of separating crossings. They just don't get to tell the railroads how to use THEIR land. And trust me, the crossings are THEIR land. I guarantee you that Palo Alto merely has an easement on it.


4 people like this
Posted by Woodside Fire
a resident of Woodside
on Jan 30, 2019 at 12:09 pm

Reality Check wrote:
"upgrade to PTC is nearly complete."

LOL! You are quite the comedian.


4 people like this
Posted by Buster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 30, 2019 at 1:12 pm

"They just don't get to tell the railroads how to use THEIR land. And trust me, the crossings are THEIR land. I guarantee you that Palo Alto merely has an easement on it."

PCJPB will have to approve any plan CPA comes up with for grade separation. If they're smart they will have a geologist analyze whether the soft soil which is prone to liquefaction, combined with the high water table and aquifers, can support the weight of their trains. They also need to analyze the possibility of a trench or tunnel flooding during a heavy storm and the consequences thereof. I'm sure all of this analysis will be carried out at CPA's expense.

If a trench/tunnel floods and becomes impassable it will immobilize Caltrain service. In addition, the county water district will become involved if any of their creeks are to be crossed or diverted.


5 people like this
Posted by Buster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 30, 2019 at 1:56 pm

All Caltrains travel between San Francisco and San Jose, with six trains going to/from Gilroy. If a tunnel or trench in Palo Alto became flooded during a heavy storm due to pumps failing to keep up with the rising storm water level, it could immobilize Caltrain as the trench/tunnel would be impassable. Trains would not be able to complete their runs between S.F. and S.J. and hndreds of passengers would be stranded.

To be blunt, if I were the decision maker at PCJPB I wouldn't take this risk. There are other less risky ways to grade separate which don't require a trench or tunnel and other peninsula cities are using them. Palo Alto would be the only city on the peninsula with a trench/tunnel.

Just because Palo Alto wants a trench/tunnel, there is no guarantee that Palo Alto will get one. This is something our distinguished panel of rail planners needs to take into consideration. They might do well to have a plan "B" in mind should a trench/tunnel plan be shot down.


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