Palo Alto and Caltrain Solidify Rail Redesign Deal

Written by Jennifer McLawhorn, Managing Editor
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PALO ALTO –The city of Palo Alto has been working with Caltrain to address and redesign three rail crossings owned by Caltrain.

On Monday, May 22nd, the Palo Alto city council voted to pay Caltrain $106,676 for assistance in clarifying plans for grade separation. The agreement between Palo Alto and Caltrain should help the city work with the varied landscape on a project that has proven costly thus far in terms of staff time and consulting fees. The list of the plan’s design options has been narrowed down to five, but it has not yet reached a final decision. In trying to narrow down the options, the final design is dependent on the planning of a future high-speed rail system with four-track segments and the ongoing electrification of the rail corridor. Along with its own design plans, Caltrain is going over its engineering standards. The Palo Alto/Caltrain agreement puts into writing the design process and agrees to use Caltrain’s agency staff to review the grade separation designs. Caltrain uses a cost-recovery model regarding its employees’ time within its agreements with cities.

Previously, Palo Alto used the consulting services of AECOM and its subcontractors for help with the highly technical studies that accompany grade separation designs. Caltrain has also given the Rail Committee regular updates about its plans, including rail electrification and replacement of the San Francisquito Creek. 

Palo Alto city council is going through its options for the three crossings at Churchill Avenue, Meadow Drive, and Charleston Road. There are currently two options the city council is considering regarding Churchill Avenue. The top option is a partial underpass that lowers Churchill Avenue under the tracks and would allow drivers to turn onto Alma Street. The second option would be to close Churchill Avenue altogether and to build and improve infrastructure for drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians. For Meadow Drive and Charleston Road, the city council is optioning a trench, an underpass, and a hybrid alternative that utilizes both raised tracks and lowered roads. The city met on Tuesday, May 23rd to go over the options of Quiet zone implementation and to approve the plans for a Partial Underpass Alternative at Churchill Avenue among others. Another Palo Alto Rail Committee is scheduled on June 20th

There are also other agreements in surrounding areas including Menlo Park and Mountain View, according to deputy chief of planning at Caltrain, Nicole Soultanov.

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