Stay On Track Blog Series: Materials and Information Available to Help the Community Join the Conversation

City of Palo Alto
Dec 19, 2019 · 6 min read

“Stay On Track” is a blog series sharing information about the process to inform and engage the community on designing Palo Alto’s rail corridor for the future

Follow along in this series to learn about the rail crossing (grade separation) process, share your input, and gain an understanding of the options currently being evaluated by a community-based panel. Our first blog shared details about the process and why this discussion is important. Our second blog detailed which rail crossing options are still on the table. Our third blog recapped the November 7 community meeting and discussed ways the public can join the conversation.

This blog post, the fourth in our series, covers the City’s community conversations phase, what the community can expect in early 2020, and recently released handouts and materials to stay in the know and get up to speed on the City’s community-driven process designing our rail corridor for the future. Learn more about ways the City is increasing public awareness on this important topic and more.

Community Conversations Planned in Early 2020

The City will be hosting several community conversations in the first half of 2020, including three town hall meetings and new, informal conversations with City staff about transportation issues, including rail.

Attend these meetings to learn more about the options being considered, see presentations including renderings and other details, ask questions and share your input.

Save the Dates for Upcoming Community Conversations

Town Hall Meetings

· February 20, Mitchell Park Community Center, 6–8 p.m.

· February 27, Elks Palo Alto, 6–8 p.m.

· March 12, Palo Alto High School, 6–8 p.m.

Word on the Street Informal Meet Ups on Transportation Issues (informal opportunity to meet up with City staff, share your thoughts or ask questions about transportation issues)

· January 30, Ohlone Elementary, 6–8 p.m.

· March 19, JLS Middle School, 6–8 p.m.

· April 16, Gunn High School, 3–5 p.m.

In addition, the City is looking into the option of staffing tables at community meetings and events. In January 2020, a social media survey will be released followed by a more detailed online survey planned in February/March 2020.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an at-grade crossing?

An at-grade crossing or train crossing is an intersection of railroad tracks with roads and pedestrian/bicycle at the same street level. Vehicles and pedestrians are forced to stop at the crossing while a train travels through the intersection. At-grade crossings or train crossings have a significant risk of collisions between trains and any other road user (i.e., trucks, cars, bikes and pedestrians).

What is a rail grade separation?

A grade separation is shifting/separating the grade of the train from the grade of the road. It allows for the safe movement of vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians under or over railroad tracks. Generally, these separations come in the form of either an underpass or an overpass structure (bridge). Grade separations eliminate the risks of collisions with trains, which enhances safety and boosts mobility.

Why is Connecting Palo Alto needed?

There are currently seven roadways where motorists can cross the railroad tracks in Palo Alto. These intersections, called at-grade crossings, differ from other intersections because a train crosses them. Three of the intersections have the road below the level of the tracks (at Embarcadero Road, University Avenue, and Oregon Expressway) and four of them cross the tracks at the same level (at Charleston, Meadow, Churchill, and Palo Alto Avenue/Alma Street). Traffic congestion is expected to get worse at these at-grade locations in the future due to additional trains as part of Caltrain’s electrification effort and potentially high-speed rail. This will mean that railroad crossing arms will come down many more times each day — as much as 45 seconds every 3 minutes — impacting traffic and safety. If we don’t do anything, traffic delays will increase and more traffic will divert to existing grade separations like Embarcadero, University, and San Antonio (in Mountain View) as motorists look for ways to avoid the congestion.

What problem(s) is Connecting Palo Alto trying to solve?

While enhanced rail transit service is important to the City of Palo Alto, the Caltrain corridor creates a physical and visual barrier to east/west connectivity within the City, and is also the source of safety concerns for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists, especially at existing at-grade crossings. The rail corridor also creates issues in surrounding neighborhoods, such as noise, vibration, traffic, and visual impacts. The City of Palo Alto, through Connecting Palo Alto, is seeking to reduce the impact to the community from increased Caltrain services.

What is the purpose of Connecting Palo Alto?

Connecting Palo Alto strives to: recognize and build off of the previous rail corridor planning work, improve safety along the rail corridor, reduce the traffic congestion that occurs at existing at-grade crossings every time a train passes by, minimize right-of-way acquisitions and local road closures, improve circulation and access across the rail corridor for all modes of transportation, separate bicyclists and pedestrians from automobile traffic, deliver grade separations and circulation improvements in a timely manner, reduce train noise and vibrations, minimize visual changes along the rail corridor, and support Caltrain service enhancements.

For more Frequently Asked Questions, go here.

Join the Conversation and Learn More with New Materials Released

The City is encouraging the public to join the conversation about potential decisions on the future of the rail corridor and how it may impact the community. Several new materials are available to support public education on this important topic.

New Website

The City’s Connecting Palo Alto website continues to evolve to provide the community with a comprehensive online source for details about the community-driven process and ways to share your input. Recent updates, informed by the community, include new quick links to popular pages, a community calendar, and recent updates section to share quick news and updates on the process. Go here for more.

Fact Sheets

Several fact sheets are now available and are broken down by various sub-topics related to Connecting Palo Alto. The fact sheet that provides general details about the process and is a good starting point if you are new to the conversation can be found here.

A linked list of the fact sheets can be found below:

Connecting Palo Alto: General Summary Fact sheet

Churchill Options

Meadow-Charleston Options

South Palo Alto Options

Summary of Evaluation with City Council-Adopted Criteria

You can find the full list of fact sheets at connectingpaloalto.org/fact-sheets.

Connecting Palo Alto Calendar of Events

New! Head to connectingpaloalto.com/calendar where you can see a full list and easily add upcoming meetings to your Google Calendar, Apple Calendar, or Outlook.

Quick Survey — Available Now!

Take this quick survey to share your thoughts and let us know what questions you have. We will be updating our FAQs and sharing responses to the questions we receive in a future blog post.

Recent Traffic Analysis Released

The recently released traffic analysis, prepared by Hexagon, is now available for review. Read the full report to learn more about all of the proposed mitigation measures.

For more information, go to connectingpaloalto.com

City of Palo Alto

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Official communications from the City of Palo Alto. Connect about issues of interest to our community. Follow us on social media at www.cityofpaloalto.org

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