People who drive through Menlo Park are aware there's nowhere along the half-mile stretch of Alma Street running from the Palo Alto border (San Francisquito Creek) to Ravenswood Avenue where people can cross the Caltrain tracks to access downtown.
But the fact takes on a greater measure of irritation for the people who get around town by foot or bike – modes in which shlepping a half-mile requires sweat-inducing exertion.
For those travelers, at least, greater convenience may be one small step closer to fruition.
The Menlo Park City Council could approve at its March 14 meeting a $541,635 contract with transportation consultant group AECOM to begin studying and designing a pedestrian and bicycle crossing of the Caltrain tracks at Middle Avenue. The effort is expected to cost $700,000, including contingencies and staff time.
The city of Menlo Park got funding to begin the project in July 2016, when it received a $490,000 Measure A grant, funded by the countywide half-cent sales tax. The grant will be matched by a $210,000 contribution from the city, according to a staff report.
The city sent out a request for proposals in January, and after receiving two applications for the job in February, picked AECOM. City staff are also currently working with AECOM to evaluate potential locations to separate the Caltrain tracks from roads in Menlo Park at Ravenswood Avenue, and possibly at Oak Grove and Glenwood avenues.
In plans submitted by Stanford University to develop its property running from 100 to 700 El Camino Real, a focal part of the design is a public-access plaza at Middle Avenue that will be integrated with the Middle Avenue Caltrain crossing. The project is a city project, but, according to the report, the university has agreed to make a significant contribution "toward the construction of the crossing."
A 2008 study previously earned recommendations from the Bicycle and Transportation commissions that a pedestrian and bicycle undercrossing be made at Middle Avenue.
If all goes according to the project's initial timeline, AECOM could host its first community meeting to gather feedback on the project in the spring, and the City Council could pick its preferred crossing alternative in December 2017.
By the following summer, the idea is to have the consultant complete 30 percent of the project's design work, environmental clearance and final project report.