Decision near on bike tunnel under Caltrain tracks

One of the proposals Menlo Park city officials are considering for a tunnel under the Caltrain tracks.

BY EMILY MIBACH
Daily Post Staff Writer

A bicycle and pedestrian tunnel under the railroad tracks in Menlo Park that’s been in the works for 23 years could be completed in as little as four days.

But first, the city needs to decide between three variations of the tunnel. The city’s Complete Streets Commission will weigh in on the matter on June 12. The City Council will make its decision on July 16.

The cost of the three variations ranges between $14 million and $40 million, according to a presentation put together by the city’s Transportation Department.

Option 1 may cost $20 to $25 million, but could be engineered in a way that it costs less, around $14 to $18 million.

The tunnel would exit on Alma Street between Burgess Drive and the basketball court. Once exiting the tunnel, travelers would not be able to go directly across the street, but would instead have to cross at Burgess Drive or at a crosswalk across from the basketball court.

Four-day project

Workers can do the project over four days. Workers would have to remove the tracks, put up beams, fill in the hole and replace the tracks.

Option 2 is a similar route to the first one, but the tunnel itself would be longer and deeper. The hole for the tunnel would be dug out without removing the tracks. In order for the tracks to not collapse, the tunnel needs to be deeper. This would cost more, between $35 and $40 million.

Option 3 lines up the tunnel with the lot just next to the basketball court at Burgess. There would be a crosswalk across Alma that would end near the basketball court. However, with the tunnel shifted, there could be underground utilities that the Planning Department is not currently aware of. This iteration can be completed similarly to Option 1, and could cost between $20 and $25 million.

Stanford to pay part of the cost

The city has at least $5 million for construction. That money comes from the city’s development agreement with Stanford for its housing and office project called Middle Plaza. Where the rest of the funding will come from is not determined.

The tunnel on the Allied Arts side will end in the plaza that will be built as part of the project.

In a previous report to council, Senior Transportation Engineer Angela Obeso said the goal is to get the project done by 2022, and plans for construction ready by this summer.

This is because Obeso is racing to get the project shovel-ready before Caltrain installs overhead poles and wires at the end of the year, according to the report. In order to construct the tunnel, crews would have to remove tracks, put up beams, cover the tunnel back up and replace the tracks.

If it’s not possible to line up with Caltrain’s construction plans, the city could bore a tunnel under the train tracks, but that would require a deeper and longer tunnel, which would be in line with the more expensive Option 2.

This will not be the first bike and pedestrian tunnel the area has seen. In 2004, Palo Alto built a tunnel under the tracks at Homer Avenue, which cost $5.4 million. Most of the funding came from grants, the city only had to pay $600,000 toward the project, according to Daily News articles from the time.

Plans of the proposed tunnels can be found at https://bit.ly/30Mc2Sd

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