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About this blog: I hope readers of my blog will join me and other members of the Menlo Park community in a collective effort to transform our downtown into a much more appealing place, one where residents enjoy a lot more positive experiences and ...  (More)

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Good News: The New Menlo Park Rail Subcommittee Hits A Home Run

Uploaded: Jul 17, 2019
The significance of what happened last night during a Menlo Park City Council Rail Subcommittee meeting cannot be overstated. This was the most productive and civil Rail Subcommittee meeting in the past two years thanks to the professionalism of Mayor Ray Mueller, Councilman Drew Combs; city staff Angela Obeso and Nikki Nagaya; and attendees Henry Riggs, Mickie Winkler, Adrian Brandt and Steve Schmidt.

The council members made decisions that will greatly benefit our entire community. They no longer support the further study of an expensive citywide tunnel because funding is so unlikely. Now the city council, staff and residents can focus their attention on more viable grade separation solutions. The council members also instructed staff to modify the statement of work for the study of fully elevated grade separations so that all potentially viable track elevation profiles are considered and construction impacts are evaluated. The initial draft had appeared to unnecessarily limit potential designs. The broader study scope will now ensure that this alternative can be fairly compared to those previously studied.

The positive dynamics of the meeting was strikingly different from past ones. The communications between council members and staff was clear and well reasoned, and resident input was genuinely welcomed. I hope this represents a sea change in how our city conducts a key activity in its project planning process.

Grade separation planning is one of the most important activities for our city, and lots of work and challenges lie ahead. Last night was a major milestone. Congratulations!

What is it worth to you?


Posted by Sue Kayton, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Jul 17, 2019 at 9:50 pm

Do you have a link to the locations for the shoo-fly (temporary detour) tracks? losing Garwood Avenue would make the Station 1300 project and Mariott Hotels unusable due to lack of parking or lack of access to parking. The alternative is the demolition of private homes.

Posted by alternative facts, a resident of Menlo Park: other,
on Jul 18, 2019 at 2:06 am

Dana, you write, "council members made decisions that will greatly benefit our entire community," but there are residents from Felton Gables that are part of our community and may not agree. Your statement should be prefaced with, "in my opinion." With this oblivious attitude toward our residents, it's hard to take anything you say seriously. You may believe it was "unprofessional" for council to respect the wishes of a very vocal group of residents, and it is now "professional" to do something you personally like, but your choice of words here is very poor. If you have a valid point, please just make it without all these alternative facts.

Posted by Reality Check, a resident of another community,
on Jul 18, 2019 at 2:55 am

Reality Check is a registered user.

@Sue: AECOM, the city's engineering consulting firm for grade separation alternatives development and analysis, will need to determine the need for �" and possible/best locations of �" shoofly track(s) in connection with its study of fully-elevated downtown alternative(s). That said, based on the presently-preferred hybrid alternative C, it will likely also be along Garwood ... but whether it results in a period of full or partial closure, and the length of any such period remains TBD.

@alternative facts: obviously, Mr. Hendrickson is stating an opinion ... however, it's hard to see how merely including a full and fair study of a heretofore ignored alternative ... one with numerous potentially significant short- and long-term advantages over the others, and whose true visual and noise impacts on very well screened neighboring residences, the majority of which don't even have a view of the tracks or trains is yet to be formally determined ... is not a benefit as it relates to and supports a more fully-informed community-wide decision-making process.

Posted by looking on, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Jul 18, 2019 at 8:46 am

Having not attended this meeting, I can only say my knowledge of what took place rests solely on what Hendrickson as the Author has written.

This being the case, I would re-title the article to

"Menlo Park rail committee strikes out again on Rail"

Any conclusion reached that elevation of the tracks is in any way in the best interests of MP is NONSENSE!

>>>A Personal Attack Has Been Removed <<<<

Rail committee meetings held rarely and without much staff support (usually changing staff members between meetings -- thus incurring little to any continuity between meetings. They have been a disaster and this appears to more of the same.

>>> A Personal Attacks Has been Removed <<<

My conclusion is to ignore this article and the the Author's conclusions.

Posted by dana hendrickson, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Jul 18, 2019 at 9:02 am

dana hendrickson is a registered user.

Hi Sue: GREAT question!!!!

Both the currently preferred alternative - requires three hybrid grade separations - and the FEGS alternative require a shoofly in order for trains to operate during grade separation construction.

According to the preliminary shoofly designs presented to the City Council in June 2017, Station 1300 would still have access to its underground garage as the shoofly would be installed in the ROW between Garwood Way and the existing tracks. I do not know what would happen at the "Marriot" location but the Caltran ROW might be the same width. I am not aware that there is an issue at this point of city planning.

The environmental impact study will clearly identify potential conflicts - as I would expect the developers and homeowners will.

Posted by Brandon, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown,
on Jul 18, 2019 at 11:41 am

Wouldn't it be cheaper and easier to elevate the roadways over the tracks instead of raising the tracks above the roads?

Posted by dana hendrickson, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Jul 18, 2019 at 11:47 am

dana hendrickson is a registered user.

1. Our city council is responsible for ensuring all VIABLE grade separation alternatives are studied so that our entire community has the opportunity to understand, compare and weigh the associated benefits and negative impacts, and voice their concerns and preferences.

2. All the alternatives that have been studied have BIG drawbacks. That's why our city councils first preferred a hybrid grade separation alternative, then switched to a Ravenswood-only underpass, and then switched back to the hybrid approach. Picking the right one is very difficult, as both the problem and potential solutions are extremely complex.

3. Residents have expressed VALID concerns about the POTENTIAL negative impacts of ALL the studied alternatives and a fully elevated grade separation (FEGS) solution, e.g., noise, aesthetics, construction impacts on traffic, but in the case of the FEGS their opinions are not based on how one could be best designed for Menlo Park. These concerns can only be fairly evaluated with a comprehensive FEGS study.

4. I respect the fact that some residents have these concerns (and I share many of them) but do not believe the right answer is to NOT conduct a FEGS study.

5. Individuals who oppose a study of a a viable FEGS alternative apparently prefer that our city council not exercise its responsibility to fairly evaluate viable alternatives and represent the interests of ALL members of our community.

6. At this point I prefer the fully elevated alternative based on what I know; however, a study will provide a great deal of essential information that No ONE has now so my personal position could change.

7. I will be satisfied If our community prefers a non-FEGS solution once the city council provides the opportunity to fairly compare them, as that is how the city planning process should work.

8. FIFTEEN months ago the city council instructed staff to provide a proposal for an FEGS study. I am pleased that the Rail Subcommittee has finally provided clear direction for this important work. That's a huge step forward!!!

Posted by dana hendrickson, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Jul 18, 2019 at 11:50 am

dana hendrickson is a registered user.

Hi Brandon; unfortunately elevating roads can have huge impacts on private property and future traffic circulation. And the construction impacts can be very painful.

Posted by MP Resident, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows,
on Jul 18, 2019 at 4:39 pm

I'm really happy to hear of action. The inaction of our city leaders has been killing our community. Good for them for making some decisions!

Posted by dana hendrickson, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Jul 18, 2019 at 5:13 pm

dana hendrickson is a registered user.

Alternative facts: please point our anything you believe is INACCURATE in my post. I will gladly make changes if that is the case. (This of course, excludes my opinions which you might dislike).

Posted by Dana Hendrickson, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Jul 18, 2019 at 6:09 pm

Dana Hendrickson is a registered user.

Posted by Reality Check, a resident of another community,
on Jul 19, 2019 at 9:44 am

Reality Check is a registered user.

@Brandon: what easiest and what's best are not the same thing. Getting the tracks and trains completely up and out of the way across downtown allows for new and permanent unimpeded east-west connectivity that we've not enjoyed since the railroad opened in 1863. It avoids excavation and permanent lowering of Ravenswood, Oak Grove, Alma, Merrill, Garwood and all the utilities under and along them. It avoids funneling all bikes, peds and vehicles down and up a few underpasses which are at permanent risk of flooding, and which therefore require failsafe pumping equipment ... or funneling all bikes, peds and vehicles up and then down long and tall (25-30 feet to clear an electrified railroad) overpasses. A FEGS, by getting the railroad fully up and out of the way makes for new unobstructed usable linear space and unprecedented and unparalleled cross-town connectivity across the downtown segment of the rail line.

While it will probably cost more, we also get substantially more lasting benefits for it ... and in terms of the permanent end result, it's the next best thing to the wildly unaffordable/unrealistic construction of a cross-town tunnel and new underground train station which the railroad's owner (Caltrain JPB) and freight operator (Union Pacific RR) both oppose.

Posted by Morris Brown, a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest,
on Jul 27, 2019 at 8:51 am

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