Palo Alto, Calif., wants grade separation for high-speed rail project, but authority is not listening

Written by Bill Wilson, Editor-in-Chief
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The California High-Speed Rail Authority is planning on at-grade crossings for a section between San Francisco and San Jose.
California High Speed Rail Authority

Residents in Palo Alto, Calif., have been waiting long enough for high-speed rail, and if plans go accordingly motorists will be waiting for high-speed rail long into the future.

That’s because the California High-Speed Rail Authority is not including any grade separation. A recently released environmental analysis on the high-speed rail segment between San Francisco and San Jose has two construction alternatives, but both propose installing four-quad gates at the rail crossings.

Meanwhile, the Palo Alto City Council is putting the final pieces in place for a grade separation plan that includes elevated tracks at Churchill Avenue, Meadow Drive, and Charleston Road. A business tax will be placed on the November ballot to help raise money for the plan, which will cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

A new report has revealed that 41 out of 49 at-grade crossings between San Mateo and Palo Alto would operate at levels of service of E or F in 2040 if high-speed rail is running. Both levels are the two lowest grades. In addition, 27 of the intersections would be affected by the rail project during the morning and evening peak hours. Some of the worst traffic delays during operation, according to the report, would happen at intersections adjacent to Meadow Drive and Churchill Avenue in Palo Alto.

The Palo Alto City Council is getting ready to adopt guiding principles that state Palo Alto believes the California High-Speed Rail Authority must coordinate with Caltrain as the lead agency and should fund the study and construction of any potential passing tracks and, if needed, grade separations or modifications to grade separations and should not commence service until they are complete. Palo Alto officials also are ready to approve a letter urging the authority to reconsider plans for at-grade crossings.

Read more articles on grade crossings.

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