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Tonight: Menlo council examines rail-crossing options

How many rail crossings should Menlo Park separate from the Caltrain tracks?

The Menlo Park City Council will discuss that question and others on Tuesday, April 4, at a meeting that starts at 7 p.m. in the Menlo Park Senior Center at 110 Terminal Ave. in Belle Haven.

The council will be faced with three options:

● Option A: Tunnel Ravenswood Avenue under the Caltrain tracks.

● Option B: Combine elevating the tracks with lowering the roads at the Ravenswood and Oak Grove avenues crossings. The tracks would be raised about 14 feet at Ravenswood Avenue and about 6 feet at Oak Grove Avenue. Ravenswood Avenue would be lowered about 8 feet and Oak Grove Avenue would be lowered about 15 feet.

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● Option C: Adds the Glenwood Avenue crossing. According to a staff report, the tracks at Ravenswood and Oak Grove Avenues would be elevated about 10 feet, and about 5 feet at Glenwood Avenue. Ravenswood be lowered about 12 feet, Oak Grove, about 11 feet, and Glenwood Avenue, about 15 feet.

The council previously discussed the matter, but told staff it needed more information before it could make a decision.

Passing track

One of the biggest question marks about the current study is how seriously the city needs to consider the possibility of a third rail track through Menlo Park. The city has a policy that it does not support adding a third rail line, but the study was funded in large part by the San Mateo County Transportation Authority, which made it a requirement that Menlo Park factor in a potential third line in its plans.

While Caltrain representatives have said that a passing track would be useful for its own operations, such a track could also be used for high-speed rail, if the California High Speed Rail Authority decides to cut through Menlo Park as part of its route from San Jose to San Francisco.

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The rail authority has proposed six possible routes through the Peninsula, one of which would cut through Menlo Park. The rail authority is expected to make its recommendations this summer, according to a staff report.

The council could also decide whether the theoretical third track should be on the outside of the existing rails, or in the middle. Staff recommend that the city consider a center-loading station platform, with the possibility of adding a third track to the east side.

Staff salaries

The council could also vote to approve, without discussion, some changes in the city's staff salary schedule. First, it would add the positions "senior accountant" and "enterprise applications support specialist." These are in response to the results of an IT master plan, which senior accountant would have a salary range of $94,022 to $113,221 and the enterprise applications support specialist would have a salary range of $89,498 to $107,888.

In February, the council agreed to allow the city's administrative services department to hire more people to work on information technology as part of a plan to continue staff support and upgrade technology programs.

The position of sustainability manager would also be increased to a salary range of $110,963 to $138,704, up from a salary range of $92,114 to $111,081.

• See the meeting agenda or watch the meeting online.

--

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Tonight: Menlo council examines rail-crossing options

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Tue, Apr 4, 2017, 11:33 am

How many rail crossings should Menlo Park separate from the Caltrain tracks?

The Menlo Park City Council will discuss that question and others on Tuesday, April 4, at a meeting that starts at 7 p.m. in the Menlo Park Senior Center at 110 Terminal Ave. in Belle Haven.

The council will be faced with three options:

● Option A: Tunnel Ravenswood Avenue under the Caltrain tracks.

● Option B: Combine elevating the tracks with lowering the roads at the Ravenswood and Oak Grove avenues crossings. The tracks would be raised about 14 feet at Ravenswood Avenue and about 6 feet at Oak Grove Avenue. Ravenswood Avenue would be lowered about 8 feet and Oak Grove Avenue would be lowered about 15 feet.

● Option C: Adds the Glenwood Avenue crossing. According to a staff report, the tracks at Ravenswood and Oak Grove Avenues would be elevated about 10 feet, and about 5 feet at Glenwood Avenue. Ravenswood be lowered about 12 feet, Oak Grove, about 11 feet, and Glenwood Avenue, about 15 feet.

The council previously discussed the matter, but told staff it needed more information before it could make a decision.

Passing track

One of the biggest question marks about the current study is how seriously the city needs to consider the possibility of a third rail track through Menlo Park. The city has a policy that it does not support adding a third rail line, but the study was funded in large part by the San Mateo County Transportation Authority, which made it a requirement that Menlo Park factor in a potential third line in its plans.

While Caltrain representatives have said that a passing track would be useful for its own operations, such a track could also be used for high-speed rail, if the California High Speed Rail Authority decides to cut through Menlo Park as part of its route from San Jose to San Francisco.

The rail authority has proposed six possible routes through the Peninsula, one of which would cut through Menlo Park. The rail authority is expected to make its recommendations this summer, according to a staff report.

The council could also decide whether the theoretical third track should be on the outside of the existing rails, or in the middle. Staff recommend that the city consider a center-loading station platform, with the possibility of adding a third track to the east side.

Staff salaries

The council could also vote to approve, without discussion, some changes in the city's staff salary schedule. First, it would add the positions "senior accountant" and "enterprise applications support specialist." These are in response to the results of an IT master plan, which senior accountant would have a salary range of $94,022 to $113,221 and the enterprise applications support specialist would have a salary range of $89,498 to $107,888.

In February, the council agreed to allow the city's administrative services department to hire more people to work on information technology as part of a plan to continue staff support and upgrade technology programs.

The position of sustainability manager would also be increased to a salary range of $110,963 to $138,704, up from a salary range of $92,114 to $111,081.

• See the meeting agenda or watch the meeting online.

--

Comments

passing track
another community
on Apr 4, 2017 at 4:33 pm
passing track, another community
on Apr 4, 2017 at 4:33 pm
Like this comment

There's plenty of room for a passing track through Menlo Park that will be useful for several reasons. First, it allows the baby bullet to pass at 80mph without threatening those waiting on the platform. Also, the passing track will allow for continued service when there is equipment failure or a collision. Lastly, freight trains have wide loads, so we'll never have level boarding, where the platform meets the doorway (as with BART), unless there is a passing track. The passing track is not an evil plot by California High Speed Rail.


Out of business
Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Apr 5, 2017 at 7:35 am
Out of business, Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Apr 5, 2017 at 7:35 am
Like this comment

Plenty of room? Last night at the City Council meeting officials tumbled to the fact the third rail will cause the inclines at the grade separations will go so far back as to make entry into business located near the rail line impossible in some circumstances.



steve schmidt
Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 5, 2017 at 12:13 pm
steve schmidt, Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 5, 2017 at 12:13 pm
2 people like this



The Almanac asks: How seriously should the city consider a passing track?

How seriously should the city consider anything to do with Caltrain and grade separations?

Since 2006 the MP Council has had opportunities to do something about the dangerous at grade crossings in Menlo Park. The approval of the High Speed Rail Bond in November 2008 was a golden opportunity to leverage local, regional, state and federal money to build infrastructure for a modernized and fully grade separated Caltrain on the Peninsula and through Menlo Park.

For reasons that can only be characterized as short-sighted and political, the 2008-10 Council chose to fight any initiatives that could have benefitted HSR. Close to midnight August 5, 2008 at a City Council meeting with no public notice or comment Rich Cline and Kelly Fergusson voted 2-1 to join a lawsuit against HSR. Council Member John Boyle asked that the vote be taken when a full council was present, but his request was denied. While this Council majority held its power, they also discouraged modest transit-oriented residential and commercial developments on El Camino near the train station.

In 2011, the Council joined Joe Simitian, Anna Eshoo and Rich Gordon in support and the ultimate approval of the “Blended Plan”, which was designed to inhibit HSR function. This one act also became an ongoing operational burden for Caltrain modernization.

Our City Council sided with forces that eventually succeeded in banishing HSR to the agricultural hinterlands of the San Joaquin Valley. Instead of an upgraded usable electrified rail segment from San Francisco to San Jose, we have an isolated project that might serve Fresno, Merced and Bakersfield. Now Trump’s Republicans have stopped Caltrain electrification, and the prospect of any federal money for any federally supported transit projects in the Bay Area are slim to none.

As long as planning money was awarded to MP for a grade separation planning study, the City should use the money responsibly. There needs to be a good faith effort to analyze the best case option for improving safety, elimination of horn noise, retaining access to downtown properties, facilitating east-west mobility for all modes and enabling Caltrain to best serve the region. This calls for a three-track viaduct that grade separates all four of our at-grade crossings. It’s possible and our City Staff should allow the consultant to show us how it’s done!

Let’s have the best solution ready for when sane people return to government and recognize the value of spending big money on transit infrastructure.

The passing track? Oh yes, consideration of it was a condition of the Measure A planning grant and the Council shouldn’t be trying to get around this obligation. Of course it should be included in any design. It works best in the middle. Center boarding platforms are dangerous and have been all but eliminated in the Caltrain system.


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