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CalTrain Grade separation

From: domainremoved <Paul>
Date: Mon, 11 Jun 2018 19:36:04 -0700

Dear City Council Members,

I am greatly dismayed and disappointed at your recent decision to
separate only Ravenswood Ave.

I realize being a council member is a bit of a minefield trying to
balance everyone's desires.  It is impossible to make everyone happy. 
This decision makes the least number of Menlo Park citizens happy.

I participated in one or two of the workshops the city had for citizens
to explore the options and to make recommendations.  We certainly didn't
recommend option A nor as far as I can tell has anyone else.  I feel
like my time was completely wasted.  Why ask for citizen input, if you
are just going to ignore it?

Maybe you are showing great leadership and foresight.  If you are, I see
no evidence of that.  It's hard to tell exactly what led to this
unbelievable position.

It appears the decision was based upon making a few people happy,
spending the least amount of money and avoiding traffic disruption
during construction; and for that, you only solved 1/3 or really 1/4 (if
you include Encinal) of the problem.  Presumably, some other city
council will have to solve the other 2/3.  Nice.  This does not look
like leadership at all.  It looks more like sticking ones head in the
sand.  Are these issues going to change over time?  Is there going to be
some magic solution?  Not to mention, option A really kind of eliminates
any grade separation at Oakgrove without a redo of Ravenswood.  Brilliant!

The city has spent a ton of money over the years on just how to do this
separation.  The same solutions or minor variations of solutions are
suggested over and over only to be rejected.  Somehow people think if we
keep studying this the costs will come down and a more palatable
solution will be presented.

Based upon the article in the Almanac here are the reasons it appears
you chose option A and arguments why these reasons are misguided.

Costs:

We live in a very wealthy city.  We have a pretty good base of
businesses.  Surely we can come up with a way to raise additional moneys
to pay for all three crossings or really four.  For example, how about
an employee tax (all the rage) or a parcel tax or... Facebook generated
almost $16 billion in net income on $40 billion in revenue last year.  
The difference between A and C are $190 million.  That's almost a
rounding error to Facebook.  How about a tax on real estate sales.  In
2017 it looks like roughly 290 homes were sold for a median price of
over $2 million.  At .15% or about $6K per sale you'd generate the $190
difference in one year.  Spread that over a 5 or 10 years.  It's a drop
in the bucket to the home sale price.  Now maybe you don't think the
residents of Menlo Park should pay for the grade separation and that
someone else should so you're loathed to even look at funding sources. 
Have you even asked maybe we the residents would like to easy the
traffic an are willing to pay a little?

As far as the costs of a trench.  Everyone says, "Oh, that's way to much
we can't even consider it."  Really?  Look at how much excavating they
have done at the Station 1300 site.  Surely they've excavated more and
will have poured more concrete than would be required to do the train
though Menlo Park and that project can't be costing what the numbers
I've seen for a trench.

Ugly:

People hate the idea of a berm.  We already have the train on a berm. 
Look at where it crosses into Menlo Park.  The tracks are about 8 ft
above Alma.  That's only 2' shy of the 10' option C calls for.  Look at
Glenwood.  It's 3' above the either side of the crossing.  Granted not a
great amount but the point is we say ugly without really thinking
through it.

The area along Alma between Ravenswood and the Palo Alto is already
divided by the sloping berm and the trees.  One can't see across the
tracks there at all so raising the tracks there isn't changing any sight
lines.

As many have suggested, put the train on open trestles or open viaducts
between Ravenswood and Oakgrove.  Surely that wouldn't raise the price
that much.

I'm not sure why the Felton Gables folks have much of a say in this at
all.  There are no plans to do anything about Encinal.  They are all
beyond Encinal so any of the options under consideration don't affect
them.  Plus when do we let 15 or so single family homes along the tracks
hold the rest of Menlo Park hostage?  We will all get to suffer going
over these crossings the rest of lives so 15 people who don't seem
affected can object.  What am I missing?

Here's something to consider.  How about banning long tall trucks from
Oakgrove and Glenwood.  Then these grade separations wouldn't need to be
as tall which would cut down on the visual objects and reduce costs. 
The height of an RV is about 10'.  The project clearance is 15.5', 1.5'
taller than the max height CVC allows for a vehicle.  So you'd need the
clearance to be about 11.5'.  That 4' would make a difference.  By the
way this was suggested at one of the community meetings but probably
didn't trickle up.

Construction:

Yes it will be disruptive.  Would I rather spend the rest of my life
waiting at one of these at grade crossings or a few years of pain now
for a safer (think of the people killed or hurt at one of these
crossing) and traffic improving solution?  Oh, not to mention high
number of kids who cross at Oakgrove every school day.  Not a hard
decision.  If we used the argument of, "Oh, it's too disruptive to
construct X.", we'd never construct anything.  How much interruptions
are we dealing with with the new Willow 101 over crossing?  Ask the
folks in the Willows if they're happy with it. Yet we decided it was
worth the pain.  The Station 1300 folks have some gumption complaining
about potential impacts considering their construction is going to
impact the traffic around it for quite a while.  What, my construction
is OK but yours isn't?  The pot calling the kettle black.

Other:

The number of cars per day per crossing is pretty meaningless.   You
really have to consider the backup and number of trips across the tracks
during rush hour.  Averaging the trips out per day far too heavily
discounts the traffic that use Ravenswood any other time of day but due
to heavy volumes use Oakgrove or Glenwood.  Go and watch the traffic
across these two any late afternoon and still say these are low volume
crossings.

This cost per car trip calculation that some "clever" Felton Gable
resident calculated is also ridiculous for the same reason.  Also, this
person lives 460' away from the tracks as the crow flies through three
other houses.   Hard to say they really would be impacted.


Finally, we live in a very special place.  The number of things invented
and developed here is higher than most cities.  Meaning we have a lot of
smart people living here.  Surely we can come up with a better solution
that A.  Solution A is a copout average under resourced cities might
choose.  We are not that and we deserve better.  Please reconsider and
make a better choice.

Paul Hugo
Resident since 1985
Ringwood Ave.
Received on Mon Jun 11 2018 - 19:36:46 PDT

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