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3 Street Solution - Summary

From: domainremoved <Jen>
Date: Tue, 15 Jan 2019 16:08:51 -0800

Dear City Council Members,

As I wrote in earlier, I am urging you to pursue a 3-street solution for
grade separation. Below is a summary of various options that people in the
community may be leaning towards and my understanding of the issues
involved. I hope this is helpful to you in making your decision.

Grade Separation Options

Do nothing/No grade seps - This approach is even more detrimental from a
circulation/safety perspective than Option A. Menlo Park must grade
separate. In 2022, with electrification, there will be more trains coming
and the gates will be down more. Caltrain is also planning a massive uptake
in service by 2040. At that time, we will absolutely need grade separation.

Tunnel - Please do not pursue a tunnel at this time. While a tunnel is
alluring, it is not feasible because:

   -

   There is significant county/state/federal funding available for grade
   separation along Caltrain–but it is designated for utilitarian purposes.
   Any costs incurred for aesthetic purposes, above and beyond a bare bones
   grade separation, yield no additional value to the grantors and will
   therefore need to be borne entirely by Menlo Park residents. If Menlo Park
   opts for a tunnel (which would cost at least $600 million and likely $1+
   billion more than the hybrid/elevated/undercrossing sorts of separations
   that we see elsewhere on the Peninsula), Menlo Park would be on the hook
   for raising all of that additional capital through bonds or parcel taxes.
   -

   Some have argued that value capture of nearby land could be used in
   conjunction with additional property taxes or bonds to pay for a tunnel.
   However, the amount of density needed to make that idea viable would be
   skyscraper amounts. Menlo Park still hasn’t decided if it’s comfortable
   going higher than 3 to 5 stories in many areas. In this case, buildings of
   20-40 stories that include thousands of housing units and millions of
   additional square feet of office would be needed. In addition, it is not
   clear if Menlo Park would have any say into what could be done with that
   land given that it is on Caltrain’s right of way.
   -

   There is also the issue of Old Palo Alto and the San Francisquito Creek.
   While a tunnel may be able to go under the creek (though it would likely go
   into Palo Alto), a trench (another option that is often bundled together in
   conversations about the tunnel) would need to go through the creek. This
   would require a pumping station and would affect living organisms in the
   creek.


Option A - You have been getting a lot of emails already by those in
Linfield Oaks opposing Option A and I agree with their concerns. In
addition:

   -

   It is unclear if Option A took into account new developments coming
   online for Greenheart and 500 El Camino, in addition to other development
   happening (Stanford, Facebook) and the need for cross-town mobility.
   -

   This would also be a disaster for emergency responders. If the gates are
   down at all but 1 crossing, and Ravenswood is backed up, how will fire
   trucks/ambulances get through?
   -

   Moving forward with Option A would effectively rule out grade separating
   other intersections at a later time. We would not be able create similar
   under-crossings at Oak Grove and Glenwood without significant eminent
   domain (and probably not without complete cutting off access to Alma and
   Garwood, possible even Mills Ct.) .
   -

   For high speed rail, grade separating the most streets along the system
   is a high priority. Therefore, they will likely be ranking those cities who
   grade separate more streets higher. We want to position ourselves favorably
   for the most money.


3-Street Solution. There are really 3 sub-options for this. This is our
preferred option due to circulation and safety issues. It allows the most
mobility across town and makes the most sense for the future. The question
isn't IF to grade sep 3 streets, but HOW:

   -

   1 - What was formally called "Option C". This is a hybrid approach, the
   train is up in places and the road is down in places. This was studied and
   is the most ready for prime time (less disruption to other work plan items,
   most likely to allow us to get Middle tunnel done on time, etc.).
   -

   2 - Viaduct. This is raising up the tracks and keeping the roads at
   grade (though there may be some talk now about multiple viaduct options at
   different heights that lower some roads to varying degrees (see Dana
   Hendrickson’s email). People like this option because it is see through
   (though Option C may also have some see through elements/possibilities).
   Also, if the fully raised option is pursued, streets wouldn't need to be
   dug up, this may also make constructing the Middle Avenue Undercrossing
   easier. There is concern about the height and feasibility.
   -

   3 - Keep trains at grade, but dig under at all 3 streets. It basically
   rounds out the "HOW" options (1 is train goes up and streets go down, 2 is
   train goes up and 3 [this one] is streets go down). It is my understanding
   that this option was ruled out early on due to property takes. If this were
   to be pursued then eminent domain would definitely need to be invoked and
   it would involve taking homes, etc. This would also likely close off access
   to Alma and Garwood, and possibly Miss Ct.


Summary

A 3-street solution is the best option from a circulation/safety
perspective. Either the original Option C (hybrid) or a viaduct should be
pursued. Using the safety/circulation lens (not necessarily cost,
aesthetics, noise, etc.), questions to ask to determine which of those
3-street solutions to pursue may include:

   -

   Construction impacts of each
   -

   Timing impacts of studying the viaduct. The Bay Area Council may be
   putting a mega funding measure on the ballot in 2020 or 2022. We must be
   ready to get those funds if/when they become available. Furthermore, more
   trains will be coming soon. We don’t want to be in a situation where we
   have the gates down more and more, and no funding to do anything about it.
   -

   Timing impacts with regards to Middle Avenue Bike/Pedestrian
   Undercrossing
   -

   Timing impacts to other Public Works/Transportation projects


Please help move Menlo Park into a safe and sustainable future and move
forward with a 3-street solution. We should not waste time with studying a
tunnel. If time allows, let’s look at a viaduct. Otherwise, it’s important
to move forward and make a decision.

Sincerely,

Jen Wolosin (with help and input from Adina Levin and Katie Behroozi)
Received on Tue Jan 15 2019 - 16:05:46 PST

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