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Grade Separation Potential

From: domainremoved <Steve>
Date: Tue, 5 May 2015 14:32:40 -0700

City Council:

I support revising the City’s Rail Policy to include options for elevated
Caltrain tracks. If one of our major goals is to create certainty for
developers and to increase safety, a firm commitment by the City for
elevated tracks is the way to go. This grade separation concept should be
applied to all four of our level crossings.

 The Status Quo and Caltrain as a barrier between east & west - The most
stubborn and dangerous barrier is Caltrain at grade. It is unacceptable.
The status quo makes both pedestrian and automobile undercrossings of the
tracks expensive, disruptive to adjacent property owners and most difficult
design of any of the alternatives. Think Oregon Expressway in Palo Alto.

 The half up, half down or split alternative - To eliminate the exiting
barrier between the San Francisquito Creek and Ravenswood, the tracks would
be raised to about 12 feet above grade, as it is now is at Willow & Alma.
The structure supporting the tracks could either be a viaduct or a berm
with penetrations aligning with streets on either side of Caltrain. Twelve
feet of elevation would allow at-grade pedestrian passage anywhere, but
would still require tunneling at our four vehicular street level crossings
of about eight feet below existing grade. This design would still create
moderately challenging problems with the access to Greenheart, The Axis
site and Hunter Properties.

 Elevated alternative - For my money, raising Caltrain to between 18 & 20
feet above grade is the preferred approach. Adjacent properties could be
developed with complete flexibility as to access. The architects for
Greenheart, Hunter, Axis, Stanford and others could design for any noise
(triple glazed windows) and sight protection in advance of work on the
Caltrain tracks. The existing street grid would be preserved. Samtrans and
the City would be free to negotiate uses of the easement below the tracks.
Pedestrian access between El Camino and Alma would be completely flexible
just as in the split alternative. As the tracks need to return to grade
approaching Atherton, the crossing at Encinal could be more of a split

 Train in a trench or a tunnel - This idea has always impressed me as
nothing more than an excuse to do nothing. It’s at least twice as expensive
as an elevated alignment. Getting the tracks to at least 25 feet below
grade in a trench between the Creek and Atherton would be impossible due to
gradient requirements with abundant drainage and utility relocation issues
to be solved. Access to platforms would be far underground, up to 100 feet
below grade if Caltrain were to be tunneled. It’s a non-starter.

 Elevating Caltrain is not only the way to get our grade separation,
east-west access, noise and safety issues behind us, but also to enable the
renewal of the ECR/Downtown area envisioned by the Specific Plan. We should
proceed with a plan that has minimal uncertainty for both developers and

Steve Schmidt
Received on Tue May 05 2015 - 14:28:37 PDT

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