Emergency vehicle access, quiet zones and bike and pedestrian access were all top of mind during a joint meeting between the Menlo Park City Council and the Menlo Park Fire Protection District on May 30.
The city of Menlo Park is currently planning for grade separation at three of Menlo Park’s four Caltrain crossings, on Ravenswood Avenue, Oak Grove and Glenwood Avenue. The grade separation would include raising the tracks and lowering the road, opting against a fully elevated option. The city is also working to get quad gates for Ravenswood Avenue and Oak Grove in order to establish a citywide “quiet zone” in which trains no longer have to sound their horns.
Menlo Park Fire Protection District (MPFPD) Director Chuck Bernstein questioned why quad gates are needed when the city is pursuing grade separation. Although separating the tracks from the road would eliminate the need, the quad gates can be installed in a shorter time frame.
Since only three of the city's four crossings are being considered for grade separation, Mayor Jen Wolosin said that the crossing at Encinal Avenue could be closed and only available for bike and pedestrian crossing. There is also a proposal to close the crossing in Atherton at Watkins Avenue to only bike and pedestrian crossing.
“That concept … wasn’t totally met with excitement by everybody,” Wolosin said. “Having the realization that they might lose access through towns.”
There will soon be an increase in train services, but construction of these grade separations is still “decades away,” according to Wolosin.
“I feel like (grade separation) should have really been decided and constructed, you know, 20 years ago to prepare us for the increase in trains that are going to come,” Wolosin said. “Which are really going to impact emergency response times going across the city.”
Council member Betsy Nash said that Menlo Park needs to have emergency access through town, and that these services are needed on both sides of the tracks.
"Whatever happens to the grade crossing greatly affects emergency access (and) access from the freeways to the hospitals," Nash said.
Bernstein said that the MPFPD has already assumed the district will be cut in half by the train tracks, and that they have a ladder truck on each side of the tracks and have doubled the number of battalion chiefs stationed on both sides.
The city is currently working with Caltrain on an environmental review for the project.