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Fwd: Menlo Park Residents Deserve A Better Grade Separation Option

From: domainremoved <dana>
Date: Tue, 13 Mar 2018 10:59:44 -0700

March 13, 2018

To: Menlo Park City Council

From: Dana Hendrickson

Subject: Menlo Park Residents Deserve A Better Grade Separation Option

The Menlo Park City Council believes it must soon decide where and how to
separate city streets from Caltrain tracks and appear ready to approve
*hybrid* grade separations for Ravenswood, Oak Grove and Glenwood. While
this solution does address the need for grade separations, three major
drawbacks have received little or no attention. First, the 10-foot solid
berm proposed for the train station area between Ravenswood and Oak Grove
would permanently divide and irrevocably harm a business district now
benefiting from multiple new private investments. One only needs to drive
north on Old County Road starting in San Carlos to fully experience the
depressing effects rail berms have on adjacent neighborhoods. Second, this
structure would sacrifice future opportunities to transform this area with
public improvements like a central plaza for community events,
entertainment and informal social activities. The popular Redwood City
Courthouse Square is a sterling example of a potential vibrant hub Menlo
Park might create on a smaller scale. Third, the lowering of Ravenswood,
Oak Grove and Glenwood at the tracks plus parts of Alma, Merrill and
Garwood during 4 to 5 years of heavy construction would severely disrupt
the travel of residents and visitors and harm local businesses.

Given these concerns, I respectfully request the Council study a much less
disruptive alternative that includes *fully elevated *grade separations AND
an attractive fully elevated and open rail structure - with accessible
areas underneath - in the train station area between Oak Grove and
Ravenswood. There is plenty of time for the Council to make the best
possible decision for our community, one Menlo Park residents widely
support. All of us must live with whatever you decide - long after you have
left the City Council - so I hope you support this recommendation.

1. It is clear from council comments that none enthusiastically
supports the hybrid grade separation design due to its extensive use of
solid berms and elevated tracks.

2. The construction of hybrid grade separations will produce
unacceptable disruptions.

3. A fully elevated alternative was ruled out years ago as technically
infeasible and politically unacceptable to Atherton. However, Caltrain has
approved exceptions to its grade standards, and minor ones would allow a
fully elevated design in Menlo Park. Elevated tracks were also once opposed
by Peninsula cities like Menlo Park as a strategy to block a proposed
4–track high-speed rail system, a project that no longer exists.

4. Elevated and open rail structures can be (a) attractive, (b)
environmentally compatible with adjacent neighborhoods and (c) provide
valuable space underneath. (Note: The proposed Broadway grade separation in
Burlingame is an excellent example of a beautiful design. An illustration
is on the next page.)

5. Current residents and businesses might prefer the fully
elevated approach
if they understood its possibilities and advantages and were given the
opportunity to compare it to the hybrid alternative.

6. The City has sufficient time to evaluate the fully elevated
alternative, as future funding would not be put at risk, and a study would
likely be short, as the City and consultant have already learned a great
deal about the challenges of designing grade separations in Menlo Park.

7. A Civic Plaza between the east end of Santa Cruz and the train
station is a major recommendation of the Public Space Section of the
Specific Plan (2012). See Appendix 5 for more information. The fully
elevated grade separation alternative is entirely consistent with this
idea; the hybrid solution would severely limit its potential.

Selecting the best grade separation solution for a particular Peninsula
city is difficult and “course corrections” are often necessary. Palo Alto
recently completed a comprehensive study of tunnels and open trenches only
to find its preferred alternatives are neither practical nor affordable.
And now a fully elevated design has been shown to be feasible in Menlo Park.

*This means the Council is obligated to carefully consider fully elevated
grade separations and offer residents an excellent opportunity to compare
it to the hybrid grade separation alternative.*

During the November 2017 City Council meeting others and I encouraged you
to reconsider fully elevated grade separations. Our team - an architect,
two knowledgeable transportation planners, and former mayors of our city -
have spent well over a hundred hours analyzing Peninsula grade separations;
Menlo Park grade separation planning documents and staff reports; and
Caltrain rail design standards, exceptions and preferences. (Note:
Caltrain appears to prefer elevated separations as lowering tracks creates
drainage and flooding problems.)

Our offer to discuss our findings with council members - largely ignored -
continues to remain open.


1. A Fully Elevated Grade Separation Proposal for Menlo Park

2. Fully Elevated & Open Rail Structures Can Fit Well In Menlo Park

3. Advantages & Objections To Fully Elevated Grade Separations In Menlo

4. Downtown/Train Area Central Plaza Concept

5. Civic Plaza Recommendation – Specific Plan - Chapter D – Public

6. Early Opposition To High Speed Rail And Elevated Rail Systems

Received on Tue Mar 13 2018 - 11:08:50 PDT

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