Where did the money for the Rengstorff Ave. rail bridge go?

This illustration from the city of Mountain View shows proposed train bridge at Rengstorff Avenue and the Central Expressway.

Daily Post Staff Writer

The city of Mountain View is ready to build a train bridge, or grade separation, above Rengstorff Avenue and Central Expressway. But the city is waiting on funds from VTA, which were approved by voters three years ago.

“There is funding to get this done, but the question is when we can get the funding,” said Dawn Cameron, the city of Mountain View’s public works director.

The city plans to lower the Rengstorff Avenue and Central Expressway intersection so that Rengstorff Avenue runs beneath the Caltrain tracks. The city estimates that the Rengstorff Avenue grade separation project will cost about $120 million, and some of the funding would come from VTA, which will use proceeds from the 2016 Measure B half-cent sales tax.

VTA spokeswoman Brandi Childress said the agency is working with the city and Caltrain on a “cooperative agreement” to fund the project.

“The amount of 2016 Measure B funding is under discussion,” Childress said. “We hope to execute the agreement in early 2020.
In 2016, voters approved the $6.3 billion sales tax measure by 71%. Of the $6.3 billion, $700 million is set aside for grade separations.

Long process

It’s been 15 years since the city first looked at separating Rengstorff Avenue from the train tracks. Last year, the city council decided to move forward with the initial design and environmental review phase of the project, which will cost about $3.5 million.

At the time, VTA had just untangled itself from a lawsuit that had prevented the agency from tapping the money from Measure B. On Jan. 30, 11 months ago, the legality of Measure B was upheld and the money was freed up.

Cameron said funds from Measure B will be used to fund eight grade separations: Two in Mountain View, at Castro Street and Rengstorff Avenue; four in Palo Alto, and two in Sunnyvale.

The city of Palo Alto is evaluating grade separation options at Charleston Road, Meadow Drive and Churchill Avenue. The city plans to make a decision for the crossings by April. A decision on the crossing at Palo Alto Avenue by the creek has been put off until a study is done of downtown traffic.

Cameron said VTA is still working out on which projects get funding and when.

“That’s why we’ve been using city funds to take both projects through preliminary engineering and environmental clearance,” Cameron said.

‘Shovel ready’

The transit agency has previously said that it would deliver funding based on how “shovel ready” a project is. Mountain View and Sunnyvale are the closest to having projects ready to be built.

The public works director said that if VTA delivers the funds for the projects on time, construction on Rengstorff Avenue could begin in 2024. Construction on Castro Street could begin in 2021. The Castro Street grade separation will be a pedestrian and bicycle tunnel under Central Expressway. The city is looking into closing the 100 block of Castro Street to vehicle traffic to create a pedestrian mall.