Published Friday, September 4, 2009, by the San Mateo Daily Journal
Rushing for raised rails in San Bruno
By Heather Murtagh
Elevating train tracks in San Bruno is now on an aggressive timetable otherwise $30 million in state funding for the project could be lost, according to city officials.
An extensive public process ensued years ago about the potential for grade separation in San Bruno, but there has been little movement since. Recently, Caltrain officials learned it needed to go out to bid for the contract by June 10, 2010 or it would lose $30 million in funding from Proposition 1B for the plans. Now both the city and Caltrain are working together to make the accelerated timeline work in hopes of taking advantage of the available funds.
"It's ambitious, but we have to give it our best shot," said Caltrain spokeswoman Christine Dunn.
Public Works Director Klara Fabry agreed the aggressive timeline is the first challenge. The second will be incorporating public input gathered years ago into the plans.
Caltrain approached the city and asked if the two should work together to attempt to make the deadline or sideline the project for an unknown amount of time until money becomes available. The city decided to go for it, Dunn said. Now, San Bruno and Caltrain staff are debating plans for an elevated two-track system with the opportunity to expand to four to accommodate high-speed rail.
The new schedule has the final design finished by January 2010; procurement of needed property by June with underground utility work going on simultaneously; and the award of the construction contract in July. Construction should begin by September 2010, completed by June 2012. There will be street closures, an estimated two weekends per year in 2011 and 2012.
Alice Barnes, a resident who previously served on the city's citizen advisory committee on the topic, is excited that things are getting moved along but remains skeptical due to the years of project delays.
Barnes recalled the awkward and often dangerous intersection near the San Bruno station as the impetus to discuss grade separation. The intersection was reworked last year, creating less of a drive in Barnes to fight for the separation immediately. Once built, the grade separation will create a different environment for people living on First Avenue, she said. Delaying the project for a few years will allow those residents close to the tracks more time without construction of a large wall.
"I guess I'm still skeptical but don't have the fire in the belly any longer," she said. "If we postpone it, every day's delay is a day of relief for the people on First Avenue."
Current plans will include elevating the tracks while lowering the road at Angus, San Mateo and San Bruno avenues, but not Scott Avenue. Pedestrian underpass crossings are planned at the new San Bruno station and at Sylvan and Euclid avenues.
While most of the project is within the Caltrain Joint Power Board's property, some property would be needed to complete the project as currently proposed, according to an August presentation to the City Council.
Among the property needed will be about 160 square yards at Melody Toyota, the relocation of 10 parking spaces at Artichoke Joe's, and temporary loss of parking during sewer line construction at Artichoke Joe's.
Talks of grade separation were brought up in 2000 when citizens and the council voiced concerns about the safety of the crossings at San Bruno Avenue. A committee was formed in 2001 to develop five alternatives for the area. The following year, the council adopted a resolution supporting grade separation, picking an alternative design and creating a citizens advisory committee, which met 10 times before finishing a project report in 2003.
For more information visit <http://www.sanbruno.ca.gov/pw_gradeseparation.html
Heather Murtagh can be reached by e-mail: heather@...
or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 105.
[BATN: See also:
Scramble to beat deadline for $165m San Bruno Caltrain grade seps
Blog: San Bruno Caltrain grade sep must be done right for HSR
Fully-funded $50m SSF Caltrain station revamp delayed for HSR
Caltrain moving ahead with $250m plan to grade-separate San Bruno (6 Nov 08)
Caltrain to begin $4.3m revamp of all 4 San Bruno grade crossings
Safety upgrades planned for Caltrain San Bruno grade crossings
San Bruno may straighten angled Caltrain crossing
Road crossing upgrades slated for Caltrain in San Bruno
Meeting on delayed San Bruno Caltrain grade separations
Caltrain OK's 2025 plan, delays San Bruno grade separations
Caltrain promotes electrification, delays San Bruno grade seps
Caltrain hits car driving around crossing gate in San Bruno
San Bruno worries Caltrain electrification will delay grade separations
Caltrain may delay San Bruno grade separations up to 5 years
Caltrain studying further grade separations
Mis-designed San Bruno Caltrain grade sep may be deferred