Tuesday: Palo Alto City Council reviews plans for Caltrain trench, including local funding

On Tuesday evening at a meeting starting at 6pm, Palo Alto City Council will be reviewing the city’s planning for grade separation of the Caltrain tracks, which would improve safety and traffic flow, and facilitate more frequent rail service.   Palo Alto’s preferred option is a trench depressing the tracks below three streets: Charleston, Meadow, and Churchill. The topic is time-sensitive because of the renewed planning for High Speed Rail on the Peninsula corridor, and the upcoming 2016 Santa Clara County transportation sales tax.
The Santa Clara County sales tax and High Speed Rail are expected to bring funding to the table; to take advantage Palo Alto needs to be ready.  Palo Alto’s preferred trenching option is more expensive than a grade separation with an overpass, underpass, or split design (like in Belmont/San Carlos).
Palo Alto City Council is starting to consider raising local funds to supplement federal, state, and regional sources to get the best local outcome.   The staff report talks about the potential for local taxes to enable the city to issue bonds.  It doesn’t mention “value capture” – using the increased value of real estate development on right of way, which San Francisco has used for the Transbay/Downtown Extension project, and VTA is considering for Silicon Valley BART.
Palo Alto is also concerned that because their project is more complex and less ready than some other cities, that they are less likely to get funded, and want a way to confirm funding.
 Palo Alto At-Grade Crossing - Charleston and Alma