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Re: Menlo Park grade separations viaduct

From: domainremoved <mickie650>
Date: Wed, 7 Jun 2017 22:20:16 -0400

Dropped in but did not stay for Grade Sep presentation at the Rec Center.
Heard that:
There is some reason why full grade cannot be achieved over Ravenswood from the creek. not clear.
No grade separation or closure is planned at Encinal.
HSR has said it does not want 3rd track in MP, but noone is sure where Caltrains stands on this.
Drop down construction is fast but more expensive. The consultant talked to her own firm on this.
Aquaduct concept is a matter of design and will be discussed in the future. Is the expense justified if there is only 10-foot high clearance? don't know.

My thought:

The city council must go to felton Gables and demonstrate why grade seps will reduce noise, especially with a noise buffer.
The city council has to say to staff: We want a fully separated system. Show us how we can get it.

Mickie Winkler
650-335-5540 cell

-----Original Message-----
From: Adrian Brandt <adrian.brandt_at_(domainremoved)
To: city.council <city.council_at_(domainremoved)
Cc: Adina Levin <aldeivnian_at_(domainremoved)
Sent: Fri, Jun 2, 2017 6:29 pm
Subject: Re: Menlo Park grade separations viaduct

Just FYI ...

Gilroy Citizens Group "Gilroy Growing Smarter" chooses HSR viaduct over berm:

Guest Column: Build the High Speed Rail Above Downtown Gilroy

Downtown Viaduct Alternative – Would be about 30 feet above street level on posts allowing for visual access. The land underneath could be used for a park, bike path, farmer’s market, or parking. Construction would be much less disruptive. Both downtown alternatives would provide the most connectivity by locating the station just east of our Caltrain station.
At our May 23 meeting more than a dozen members of Gilroy Growing Smarter met to consider this issue. After much discussion, we voted nearly unanimously to support the downtown viaduct (aerial) alternative for Gilroy’s High Speed Rail alignment. We reached this conclusion primarily from the information contained in the May 15th report.
This alternative best supports the objectives of Measure H: preserving farmland and stimulating economic activity downtown. We felt it was important to take the long term view, knowing that the construction period would be difficult, but that the expected result would generate increased demand for office space, retail uses and housing within walking distance of the station.

On Wed, Apr 5, 2017 at 7:50 AM, Adrian Brandt <adrian.brandt_at_(domainremoved)

As I expected, it appears the most likely passing track alternative to be chosen will span San Mateo to Redwood City. If Menlo can keep the viaduct to 2 tracks, it will be that much easier and more viable.


Passing tracks could have the greatest impact in San Mateo County. The two alternatives are to either not create a new set of additional tracks, or to add nearly 6 miles where high-speed rail trains could pass Caltrain vehicles that are slower and make more frequent stops. The proposed passing tracks — the only in this northern San Jose to San Francisco segment — would span from about Ninth Avenue in San Mateo to Whipple Avenue in Redwood City, Alley said.
That stretch includes the cities of Belmont and San Carlos.

- See more at: http://www.smdailyjournal.com/articles/lnews/2017-04-05/high-speed-rail-plans-unveiled-agency-plans-peninsula-meetings-on-alignments-6-mile-passing-track-from-san-mateo-to-redwood-city/1776425178337.html#sthash.FJphSx8i.dpuf

On Sunday, April 2, 2017, Adrian Brandt <adrian.brandt_at_(domainremoved)

Adina, thanks for forwarding that excerpt (highlighted in yellow below) from the latest Ravenswood staff report.

Regarding 0.5-0.6% maximum grade the most recent staff report cites in ruling out a viaduct ... let them show their calculations, assumptions, and constraints!

Some distances measured from San Francisquito Creek Bridge where the tracks are already many feet higher than Ravenswood crossing ... which is easy to see as both the tracks (and even part of Alma) are on a downslope nearly the entire distance from the creek to Ravenswood:

• 2,000 feet to the nearest point of the crossover approximately even with Burgess Drive
• 2,300 feet to the furthest point of the crossover (i.e. the crossover is 300 feet long)
• 3,700 feet to Ravenswood

Even if you keep to the most conservative 0.5% grade across the entire 3,700 feet, you can only rise (or fall) 18.5 feet (from level) across 3,700 feet. This means to get tracks 25 feet over Ravenswood, you'd have to duck the road down 6.5 feet. HOWEVER, I'm almost certain the tracks at San Francisquito are ALREADY at least 6.5 feet higher than they are at Ravenswood. Voila! So even with a 0.5% grade, you can now easily get the tracks up to 25 feet over Ravenswood ... without even dipping the road!

If any part of that 3,700 feet can be 0.6% as the staff report suggests, achieving the 25-foot track height over Ravenswood becomes even easier.

And, failing all of that ... it's also possible the crossover could be moved at a nearly insignificant cost of the entire project budget) since tracks will be under major construction anyway.

Staff and/or Caltrain can confirm how many feet lower the tracks already are at Ravenswood with respect the San Fracisquito Creek Bridge.

So far, it seems anyone genuinely interested in pursuing the feasibility of a viaduct could easily make it work. If, as I suspect, it's political kryptonite, then it naturally becomes quite easy to seize on and allude to one or more "technical" reasons why it's impossible. Much easier that way.

Adrian Brandt

On Sun, Apr 2, 2017 at 11:09 AM, Adina Levin <aldeivnian_at_(domainremoved)


Previous grade separation studies conducted by the City of Menlo Park have analyzed the feasibility of a range of grade separation options including trenching or tunneling the railroad tracks and raising the railroad tracks into a viaduct. The previously completed 2003-2004 grade separation study narrowed the feasible PAGE 4 Staff Report #: 17-079-CC City of Menlo Park 701 Laurel St., Menlo Park, CA 94025 tel 650-330-6600 www.menlopark.org options and found the trench/tunnel and viaduct options to be infeasible within the City limits without having hybrid variations at multiple crossings. This was due to Caltrain’s required design criteria (which accommodate rail freight operations in the corridor), which limit grade changes to a maximum one (1) percent.

However, the current study has further explored grade changes in the corridor and has found that the existing rail infrastructure within the project area, including crossover track equipment near Burgess Park and the Menlo Park Station platforms, further limit railroad grade changes. The preliminary concepts prepared for this study show grade changes to be limited to a maximum of between 0.5 and 0.6 percent in the area of and due to these physical constraints, well below Caltrain’s current design requirements. This eliminates the feasibility of a trench/tunnel and viaduct options within Menlo Park.

On Thu, Mar 23, 2017 at 1:15 PM, Adrian Brandt <adrian.brandt_at_(domainremoved)

Here's a bit more on why if Encinal is either closed (or dipped under tracks "hybrid style") a viaduct alternative appears imminently feasible — even with a 1% maximum grade.

Of course, if the maximum allowable grade is increased, everything only becomes easier and cheaper due to the resulting shortened minimum necessary ramping distances.

Measuring out the "ramping distances" between Atherton and Glenwood is simple for anyone using the measure distance tool in Google Maps.

Measuring northbound along the tracks from Glenwood Ave., anyone can easily confirm it's:
• 1,000+ feet to Encinal Ave.
• 2,100+ feet to nearest edge of Holbrook-Palmer Park
• 2,500+ feet to the Atherton city limit line (red line in image below)
• 2,700+ feet to Watkins Ave.

Sloping down at 1% toward Atherton from 25-foot high tracks over Glenwood, you'd be down to:
• 15 feet high at Encinal (25 ft - (1,000 ft * 1%))
• 4 feet at nearest edge of H-P Park (25 ft - (2,100 ft * 1%))
• 0 feet (at-grade / ground-level) at Spruce Ave and northward to Watkins

So this perfectly satisfies the constraint of returning the tracks to "at-grade" (ground level) within Atherton's city limits.

Since the tracks are 15 feet up across Encinal, you can either close Encinal or just be duck it down a few feet and, voila!, you have grade-separation #4 and a 25-foot viaduct over Glenwood, Oak Grove and Ravenswood without any re-grading of any approaching or surrounding streets or sidewalks.


On Thu, Mar 23, 2017 at 1:05 AM, Adrian Brandt <adrian.brandt_at_(domainremoved)

Regarding Caltrain and CA HSRA's requirement that your project designs do not preclude the future addition of a 3rd track: it appears that only 1 of the 4 passing track alternatives under consideration involves Menlo Park (see "Middle 3 Track" on page 28, and depicted below).

It is my understanding that HSRA will choose only one of the 4 alternatives in the near future. Provided they do not choose "Middle 3 Track", then it's quite possible you may be relieved of this requirement.


On Thu, Mar 23, 2017 at 12:32 AM, Adrian Brandt <adrian.brandt_at_(domainremoved)

Honorable Councilmembers,

I am just now watching the recorded video of your February 7, 2017, study session on the Ravenswood Grade Separation Project with staff project manager Angela Obeso and consultants from AECOM.

Councilmember Carlton asked a question on behalf of an unnamed "a former mayor" as to why the fully elevated (i.e. viaduct) alternative was eliminated from consideration.

The answer provided was that due to the 1% maximum grade limitation, there was insufficient ramp-up distance from the Palo Alto side to achieve a 25-foot track elevation at Ravenswood. And that, similarly, there was insufficient ramp-down distance between Glenwood Ave. and Atherton to return the tracks to ground-level. (Atherton opposes any track elevation.)

As per this article on railroad grades and curves, a 1% grade exists when a track rises (or falls) 1 foot per 100 feet. This means for a track to rise or fall 25 feet at a 1% grade requires 2,500 feet (1% of 2,500 feet).

The track distance from the San Francisquito Creek bridge to Ravenswood Ave. is over 3,600 feet, and the distance from Glenwood to Atherton's Watkins Ave. crossing at over 2,700 feet.

So, clearly, there is more than enough "ramping" space to grade-separate Ravenswood, Oak Grove and Glenwood with a 25-foot high open viaduct while returning the tracks to ground level at Holbrook-Palmer Park in Atherton to the north and at the San Francisquito Creek Bridge to the south.

Note that the foregoing means that tracks will be sloping low across Encinal (the least trafficked Menlo Park grade crossing), which must therefore either be closed or dipped down a bit ("hybrid style") in order to provide a fourth grade separation there too.

This is an exciting possibility worthy of further study because it functionally provides a high degree of openness and connectivity across (under) the elevated tracks for much of its length ... allowing for landscaping and/or bike/ped paths alongside or underneath ... while also eliminating all four of Menlo Park's at-grade crossings and eliminating the need to change road or driveway elevations in the vicinity of Ravenswood, Alma, Merrill, Oak Grove or Glenwood, thereby allowing for maximum bicycle/pedestrian friendly and safe streetscaping.

The historic Menlo Park station can stay right where it is, as occurred with the historic San Carlos station during their multi-street grade separation project in the 1990s.

Respectfully and with kind regards,
Adrian Brandt
Redwood City (Menlo Park native)
Received on Wed Jun 07 2017 - 19:24:49 PDT

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