BY BRADEN CARTWRIGHT
Daily Post Staff Writer
The Palo Alto City Council tonight (Aug. 23) voted against building a viaduct to separate the train tracks from the street because they said a 20-foot structure would be imposing on views and unpopular with residents.
The decision comes as the council tries to figure out how to best separate the tracks from the Charleston Road and Meadow Drive rail crossings.
The council is pursuing the project because high-speed rail, more Caltrain trips and increased vehicle traffic are anticipated to create significant gridlock at the crossings.
Eliminating alternatives wasn’t on the agenda
City Manager Ed Shikada’s report for tonight’s meeting did not say that the council would be eliminating an alternative; it said they would be reviewing the alternatives, and the scope of additional studies.
The council also voted to perform a preliminary geotechnical study at an estimated cost of $130,000 to $160,000.
With the viaduct option eliminated, three alternatives remain: a road underpass under the tracks, an underground trench for the train, or a hybrid design, with the tracks raised and the streets lowered.
The hybrid design received a lukewarm response because of its height, but it was not eliminated from consideration because questions remain about the other two designs.
The council will further explore the underpass option, which comes with the drawback of sending cars to a roundabout on East Charleston Road near Mumford Place to facilitate turning onto or off of Alma Street.
A roundabout would likely require the city to acquire right-of-ways to build two lanes. Council members asked to make the roundabout smaller, but transportation manager Philip Kamhi said a traffic consultant found that both lanes are necessary.
The trench comes with the heftiest price tag, between $800 million and $950 million, and the longest construction timeline of six years. The council voted to get a second opinion on the cost from a company with experience on trenches, and to use the geotechnical study to see if a trench would be viable.
Only Alison Cormack voted against the motion. The conversation that council was having did not align with the goals laid out in a matrix that committees and consultants have spent years to come up with, she said.