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Palo Alto inks deal with Caltrain for assistance with rail redesign

Original post made on May 24, 2023

As Palo Alto moves ahead with plans to redesign three local rail crossings, city leaders have agreed to pay Caltrain for assistance with the complex and expensive effort.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, May 23, 2023, 11:18 AM

Comments (11)

Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 24, 2023 at 1:54 am

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

OMG. City is FINALLY partnering with something, someone !

“The service agreement is intended to help Palo Alto navigate the complex, dynamic and highly technical landscape on a project that has been in the works for nearly a decade and that has already cost millions of dollars in staff time and consulting fees. While the council has gradually narrowed down its list of design options from more than 30 to five, it remains far from a final decision.”
The irony lies in PA’s inadequacy afte nearly 10 years to “navigate”

cohesively this pass through that affects everyone coming and going, those residents and in town getting to and from. I was not present at Monday’s meeting yet cudos to Veenker and JLH for pushing this forward. Electric Trains are Coming and PA inability to plan, execute, mitigate and plan is like their RHNA plan. Hollow. OMG how a city could throw millions away to assuage the few loud voices on Churchill /Embarcadero SFH owner strip. Again SFH owners win the day, throwing wrenches in the already greased train wheels of progress. The behemoth outdated, diesel trains have been running since 1980 and prior. Is it a coincidence that this is another aftermath of unlucky Prop 1? . “The complex, dynamic, highly technical” is this not what our very highly paid city departments hired staff are tasked to do!!! Talk about sourcing out a job city “techies” are not equipped to “navigate” . TY CC for seeing the electric train hit the iron track and of ineptitude . As if a decade ago this was not part of city staff tasked to do. You’d think
These are non taxed, contract, 1099, independent workers . Yet they get full bennies,health, vacation, holiday, sick, COVID pay. Family leave, bereavement, over-time,cost of living raises — and are unable to “navigate” a historic N/S commuter train growing / expanding in the name of climate change. GIT. Get it together! Is our paid city “inept” ? While throwing up thier protective tax dollar sale rises?!

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 24, 2023 at 8:01 am

Bystander is a registered user.

This actually sounds like a method of lengthening the already lengthy process of doing nothing. It also sounds very expensive for another delay tactic.

Progress should be made on these immediately. There is no perfect method, all have their faults. But doing nothing is going to cost more in the long run in actual costs, but also in cost to our community.

Half of Palo Alto high schoolers have to cross the tracks to get to and from school on a daily basis! That in itself is not going to change unless Cubberley is reopened as a high school, not going to happen. People who live in Palo Alto cross the tracks for work, for leisure, for shopping, for business and for medical reasons, and that is not going to change. Telling people to ride bikes isn't going to change the fact that those bikes need to cross the tracks too! Our tunnels under the tracks are not anywhere near Meadow or Charleston crossings. We don't have any pedestrian overpasses!

I would suggest this is just another expensive delay tactic. I hope I am wrong.

Posted by Consider Your Options.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 24, 2023 at 10:20 am

Consider Your Options. is a registered user.

So much misinformation on this thread....

The city has to work with Caltrain because there are multiple grade separation projects that will move forward in multiple cities (not to mention the still looming probability of High Speed Rail (HSR) coming through the Caltrain corridor). All of these projects need to be coordinated to enable Caltrain service to be maintained through construction periods. In addition, HSR Authority would require a whole separate set of design specs that have, so far, not been clearly defined--things like: bridge depth, grade constraints, whether or not we need four or two sets of tracks. These are non-trivial matters that constrain design options, affect cost and require the city to collaborate with other agencies. As I understand it, the city has not been able to get clear answers on these matters from other agencies that control the rail right-of-way (Caltrain, HSR, FRA) to guide its design process. Disappointing, but true. The problem is not just the city. Government agencies are not playing well together.

Posted by Environmentalist
a resident of Stanford
on May 24, 2023 at 10:35 am

Environmentalist is a registered user.

What an unnecessary project. Electrifying the rail is worthwhile, but this grade separation is a complete waste of time and funds. Digging underground will harm the water table immensely.

Posted by efs
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 24, 2023 at 11:10 am

efs is a registered user.

It is astonishing that this arrangement has taken so long to become formalized. This process could have been begun years ago when it was clear that Caltrain was going to have to participate. And the article doesn't mention the 4th grade level crossing at Alma which is somehow put in a separate basket. Our City Council deserves much of the blame for years of indecision. and its failure to work with Caltrain and sister cities on a comprehensive plan.

Posted by Local news junkie
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 24, 2023 at 12:50 pm

Local news junkie is a registered user.

As someone who lives near the train crossings in South Palo Alto, I’d love someone to tell me what kind of project to expect and when to expect it. This article mentions a trench for these two intersections, but then also mentions a raised track. Would houses be seized by eminent domain? Maybe the city has a website that would answer my questions or maybe some kind reader could enlighten me. I have to admit that I haven’t followed all the twists and turns of the planning process.

Posted by Neilson Buchanan
a resident of Downtown North
on May 25, 2023 at 1:48 am

Neilson Buchanan is a registered user.

Our city council's timing is sincere but could not be more ironic. I think the Governor and state legislature are sending signal to CalTrain and other transit agencies to forget state funding. They seem say, "Go directly to your taxpayers for funding." Check out the latest article in the Palo Alto Daily Post.

Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on May 25, 2023 at 9:21 am

Nayeli is a registered user.

What is the "real world" timetable for all of this construction? The City needs to stay on top of this -- because we don't want to see happen here what happened in South San Francisco.

That "station improvement project" of the South City station took two-and-a-half-years longer than the proposal and was 50% over budget. Yet, the design isn't particularly "revolutionary" and didn't really disturb local traffic either. Actual construction began in 2017 and was finally completed in 2022. Finger-pointing commenced as the project dragged on and on. When it was finally completed, some of the proposals were scrapped despite the fact that the project was 50% over budget.

My biggest concern with a partnership between Palo Alto and Caltrain is that the Caltrain governing body seems a bit complacent with ensuring that projects are completed on time and on budget. This just never seems to be the case for Caltrain as well as many of the companies hired to construct public works projects in this area.

In addition to blaming the pandemic (despite the fact that the project was scheduled to be completed BEFORE the pandemic), Caltrain dismissed the concerns over the construction and budget by blaming "unforeseen conditions" and "low productivity by the contractor." I just don't want to see the same thing happen here as happened there (or as we experienced with the Mitchell Park Library).

Posted by Leslie York
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 26, 2023 at 7:00 pm

Leslie York is a registered user.

CPA has pi**ed away millions on engineering studies from myriad firms over almost 10 years with nothing to show for it, while a committee of local amateurs has tried to tackle the problem in a vacuum with almost NO INPUT WHATSOEVER from Caltrain, the owners of the trains and the right-of-way.

It is a big step forward that Caltrain at long last is formally involved. The project is now even more complicated with Caltrain's recent plan to replace the aging trestle over the creek. May as well redesign the Alma crossing in conjunction with trestle replacement, bringing the total to four intersections instead of three.

1. Face it, no design is going to please everyone in Palo Alto and Caltrain/HSRA. Somebody will have to compromise and it won't be Caltrain/HSRA. If enough PA residents don't like the design, funding will fail at the ballot box and goodbye grade separation.

2. Construction will be extremely disruptive no matter what.

3. The project will be extremely expensive. A lowball figure will likely be given to voters to get the project approved. Once begun the project will in all likelihood go way over budget due to "unforeseen cost overruns".

4. CPA should ONLY pay to separate the surface streets from the tracks. It should NOT be paying for modifications to the Caltrain ROW, either for Caltrain or HSR.

5. Be careful what you wish for.

Posted by Paly Grad
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 7, 2023 at 7:34 pm

Paly Grad is a registered user.

“ U.S. Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (CA-16) announced that the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) will award $6,000,000 to the City of Palo Alto to eliminate at-grade Caltrain crossings at Churchill Avenue, Meadow Drive, and Charleston Avenue.”

Web Link

Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of another community
on Jun 7, 2023 at 8:01 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

I smell money. Love that fresh aroma. Spread it all around. For 6 million dollars PA would not be able to achieve even 1/3 of the goal with double that amount of money. Can't wait to hear the response from the local rail committee.

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