Palo Alto, Calif., officials endure resident complaints, pick solution for grade crossing

Written by RT&S Staff
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A rendering of the partial underpass at Churchill Avenue.

Not many are being neighborly in Palo Alto, Calif., these days.

City officials have been trying to come up with a solution for at-grade railroad crossings, and one site in particular has created quite the divide. Alternatives for the Churchill Avenue rail crossing had fire coming from all directions before the city council voted to move forward with a partial underpass design. Churchill Avenue will be lowered to allow eastbound drivers to move under the railroad tracks before turning left or right on Alma Street.

Two other alternatives pitted neighborhood against neighborhood. One design closed the rail crossing on Churchill Avenue, but those in Southgate complained about losing a major access point across Alma while people in Professorville were worried about further deterioration of traffic conditions around Embarcadero. The other option called for the construction of a railroad overpass, but residents along Churchill Avenue did not like the idea of trains essentially moving through their yards.

The city council’s selection of the partial underpass is going to cost between $160 million and $200 million. Constructing an overpass would be as much as $400 million while closing Churchill Street would run as high as $66 million. The Churchill Street closure idea is still alive. It will be the backup plan to the partial underpass. The partial underpass is expected to take about three years to build and will likely call for a temporary shoofly track to keep trains moving during construction.

With the city council voting on Churchill Street, attention will now turn to grade crossings at Charleston Road and Meadow Drive.

Read more articles on passenger rail.

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