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Rail Corridor Timeline 2008 to Present

The following timeline summarizes key local, regional, and state decisions and milestones which have shaped Palo Alto’s rail corridor planning efforts to date.

XCAP to provide report to City Council to inform Council decision-making.

City Council to decide on rail grade separation options. 

The Virtual Town Hall launched (open from August 19 to September 7).

XCAP initiates deliberation on Churchill Avenue location.

June – July:
Updated noise & vibration analysis, layouts, renderings, fact sheets and traffic study provided to XCAP based on comments received.

Staff presented report to City Council and described how the Virtual Town Hall  will provide greater flexibility and extended period for community engagement and feedback within the COVID-19 environment.

XCAP provided an update to City Council. Also, XCAP unanimously voted to eliminate two trench alternatives (with and without freight) from their deliberation process.

XCAP provided an update to City Council on their review of grade separation alternatives.

Rail Town Hall meetings discussing the rail grade separation alternatives for greater community engagement and participation.

City Council discusses new and existing alternatives that were narrowed down to seven alternatives for further evaluations. Also directed staff to include two new ideas presented by community members to the City.

Citywide Community Meeting was held where the City started the first of many community conversations about the alternatives still under consideration. It was a comprehensive sharing of information about all seven (7) of the remaining alternatives. 

XCAP had meetings on October 10, 16, and 30. They chose a chairperson and vice chairperson, adopted guiding principles, and established ground rules for how they will function as a group and work towards consensus. They also reviewed materials for community outreach.

XCAP had meetings on September 5 and September 25. They discussed proposed design workshop questions, looked at South Palo Alto animations, and discussed the new organization of the XCAP. Council voted to expand XCAP’s role, and the panel now has a chair and co-chair. XCAP decided to postpone the design workshop to a later date.

City Council sent a letter to Caltrain regarding the Caltrain Business Plan.

Staff presented an idea to establish a Rail Blue Ribbon Commission to Council. XCAP had a meeting on August 21. XCAP discussed Measure B and a traffic analysis for Churchill Avenue.

City Council approved a $1.2 Million amendment to the AECOM contract to continue services.

City Council further refined the list of alternatives to remove the Citywide Tunnel alternative and to reaffirm consideration of both options for the South Palo Alto Tunnel alternative.

City Council approved the rail work plan and provided direction to staff regarding the alternatives analysis, check-in meetings, and the AECOM contract. The approved work plan moved the selection date for the preferred alternatives from April 2019 to October 2019.

City Council convened as the Committee of the Whole to discuss the grade separation alternatives and directed staff to return to the City Council with a rail work plan and a few other action items.

Community Advisory Panel (CAP) received the traffic analysis for the Churchill Avenue Closure alternative and reviewed the bike/ped crossing options. CAP also prepared for the community meeting.

The City of Palo Alto hosted a community meeting focused on Churchill Avenue and the Citywide Tunnel alternative.

Community Advisory Panel (CAP) debriefed the recent City Council meetings, reviewed the north portal animation of the Citywide Tunnel alternative, reviewed the pedestrian crossing options for Churchill Avenue the closure alternative, and planned for the March community meeting.

City Council continued the discussion from December 2018 to narrow the alternatives. City Council also amended the list of alternatives through the following actions:

  • Separated the Palo Alto Avenue crossing from study and including it in a separate comprehensive Coordinated Area Plan process.
  • Separated the bicycle and pedestrian crossing in the vicinity of Loma Verde Avenue from study and including it in another planning process.
  • Directed staff related to the Citywide Tunnel alternative as well as the South Palo Alto Tunnel ideas.
  • Adopted a modified list of grade separation alternatives:
    • South Palo Alto | Rail Tunnel;
    • Churchill Avenue | Full or Partial Closure and add Improvements (CAX);
    • Meadow Drive and Charleston Road | Hybrid (MCL);
    • Meadow Drive and Charleston Road | Rail Trench (MCT);
    • Meadow Drive and Charleston Road | Viaduct (MCV);
    • Citywide Tunnel (WBP);
  • Provided direction to staff regarding funding, mitigations, evaluation criteria, and timeline.

The Community Advisory Panel (CAP) meeting was rescheduled to February.

The City Council received public comment regarding the alternatives still under consideration. They held off a vote until January 2019.

City Council Rail Committee recommended staff to further explore the South Palo Alto tunnel alternative with freight separate from passenger rail.

Community Advisory Panel began a discussion about the Evaluation Matrix as well as the detailed review of the Meadow-Charleston exhibits, renderings, and animations.

The City of Palo Alto hosted a Community Meeting focused on receiving feedback about the alternatives for Meadow-Charleston.

City Council Rail Committee further discussed the alternatives under consideration and also recommended that the City Council add a South Palo Alto tunnel with single-track freight rail at-grade. The Committee also accepted a work plan and requested a running list of key issues. The Committee also finalized the letter to Caltrain regarding electrification.

Community Advisory Panel discussed the work plan, the traffic scope, the alternatives, and the financial information. The panel also heard a presentation regarding separating the Palo Alto Avenue crossing out of study for this and into a Coordinated Area Plan. The CAP recommended a focus on the Meadow-Charleston crossings first then the northern crossings.

City Council Rail Committee discussed the proposed Cooperation Agreement with the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board regarding the Caltrain electrification project. They also reviewed the scope for the traffic study for the Palo Alto Avenue Closure and Churchill Avenue Closure alternatives.

Community Advisory Panel discussed the scope of the traffic study, received an update on the recent community outreach and the alternatives still under consideration, and began discussing financial considerations for grade separation.

City Council Rail Committee received a presentation about the remaining grade separation ideas under consideration.

Community Advisory Panel held their first meeting and received orientation information about their role and purpose.

The City of Palo Alto hosted a Community Meeting to hear feedback from the public about the grade separation ideas still being considered as well as the existing conditions.

City Council Rail Committee met Eileen Goodwin of Apex Strategies (sub-consultant to AECOM) to discuss the community engagement strategy.

City Council approved the Community Engagement Plan, including the creation of a Community Advisory Panel (CAP). City Council also amended the list of ideas through the following actions:

  • Eliminate the Churchill Avenue Hybrid (CAH) idea from consideration;
  • Eliminate the Churchill Avenue Reverse Hybrid (CAR) idea from consideration;
  • Break out Churchill Avenue closure option into full closure and partial
  • closure;
  • Remove the language regarding widening Embarcadero Road underpass from the description of the Churchill Avenue crossing closed (CAX) idea;
  • Add to Churchill Avenue crossing closed (CAX) idea, “study additional options for addressing traffic in the Embarcadero Road underpass area including actions to minimize redirected traffic onto residential streets in adjacent neighborhoods and commit to adopting appropriate mitigations to address the impacts; and
  • Direct Staff to analyze and return to Council in August or earlier with a report on the impacts to properties for hybrid options for Charleston Road and Meadow Drive.

Palo Alto City Council Rail Committee meeting is canceled.

The City Council discusses the Master List of Ideas and narrows the alternatives to the following:

  • Churchill Avenue roadway under the railroad
  • CAH – Churchill Avenue roadway under railroad hybrid;
  • CAR – Churchill Avenue roadway over railroad reverse hybrid;
  • CAX – Churchill Avenue crossing closed; improvement options include: widen existing Embarcadero Road undercrossing, add new traffic signals at Embarcadero Road ramps, build bike/pedestrian crossing at Churchill Avenue, and/or build Seale Avenue bike/pedestrian crossing to connect to Peers Park and Stanford Avenue bicycle boulevard;
  • MCL – Meadow Drive and Charleston Road railroad over roadway hybrid and build Loma Verde Avenue bike/pedestrian crossing to connect to Margarita Avenue bicycle boulevard;
  • MCR – Meadow Drive and Charleston Road roadway over railroad reverse hybrid and build Loma Verde Avenue bike/pedestrian crossing to connect to Margarita Avenue bicycle boulevard;
  • MCT – Meadow Drive and Charleston Road roadway over railroad trench or tunnel; Alma Street would not be within trench or tunnel (maintains Alma Street connections to Meadow Drive and Charleston Road) with Alma Street in its existing alignment or a new alignment;
  • MCV – Meadow Drive and Charleston Road railroad over roadway viaduct;
  • PAH – Continue proposed Menlo Park railroad over roadway hybrid and/or viaduct across San Francisquito Creek and Palo Alto Avenue;
  • PCX – Palo Alto Avenue crossing closed; improvement options include: build an Everett Avenue bike/pedestrian undercrossing and widen University Avenue;
  • WBP – City-wide deep-bore railroad under roadway tunnel within Palo Alto city limits with two new underground rail stations with or without freight;

City Council also directed staff to return with an enhanced community engagement plan and to explore the future of freight and the possibility of 2 percent grade. They also requested staff to engage with lobbyists regarding funding and other matters.

City Council approves a $1.2 Million contract with AECOM to lead the engineering and engagement process for the City’s grade separation process.

Palo Alto City Council Rail Committee is introduced to the new AECOM team and continues to discuss the Master List of Ideas for grade separation.

The City of Palo Alto hosts the Community Roundtable Discussions to discuss the Trench and Tunnel White Paper with the community and to receive feedback.

Palo Alto City Council Rail Committee hears a summary (80 MB) of the Community Roundtable Discussions and also receives a report on the initial screening of the Master List of Ideas for grade separation.

The Rail Team, comprised of multiple City departments and the City Manager’s Office, implements a project reset to accelerate the planning, design, and construction of railroad grade separations within Palo Alto. Tentative goals are to narrow the suite of alternatives under consideration in 2018 to get to the locally preferred alternatives by December 2018, completing the environmental analysis in 2019, beginning final design in 2020, and starting construction in 2023.

City of Palo Alto hosts a series of three Community Roundtables to engage the public to help evaluate potential grade separation options at each of Palo Alto’s four Caltrain rail crossings.

Palo Alto City Council Rail Committee receives a presentation by the City of Menlo Park on their Railroad Grade Separation Project at Ravenswood Avenue, Oak Grove Avenue, and Glenwood Avenue.

Palo Alto City Council Rail Committee receives a presentation by City of Burlingame on their Broadway Railroad Grade Separation Project.

Palo Alto City Council Rail Committee reviews the draft Rail Corridor Circulation Study
White Paper and the draft Rail Financing White Paper.

Palo Alto City Council Rail Committee receives a Presentation by the Chief Executive Officer of the Alameda Corridor East Construction Authority on their grade separation trench project.

City council adopts Connecting Palo Alto Problem Statement, Goals, and Evaluation Criteria.

City of Palo Alto hosts a Connecting Palo Alto: Community Workshop #2 to review Connecting Palo Alto’s problem statement, goals and evaluation criteria, and start discussing design alternatives and constraints for grade crossings in Palo Alto.

Palo Alto City Council Rail Committee directs Staff to develop a white paper on trench scenarios, which will address constraints to a longer trench while providing a more extensive look at the Charleston-Meadow trench.

City of Palo Alto sends out Community Questionnaire #1 to capture ideas and feedback from the community about issues/concerns related to grade crossings along the corridor.

City of Palo Alto hosts a Connecting Palo Alto: Community Workshop #1 to engage the public and receive insight on the current challenges and future goals of the rail program.

Palo Alto City Council directs staff to move forward with Context Sensitive Solutions Alternatives Analysis.

Measure B is approved by Santa Clara County voters, which includes $700 million for grade separations along the Caltrain Corridor in Santa Clara County.

Caltrain awards contracts to Balfour Beatty to construct the electrification infrastructure
and Stadler to manufacture high-performance electric trains. The electric trains are anticipated to be in service in 2022.

As part of a study session, the Palo Alto City Council reviews Palo Alto Grade Separation and Trenching Study and discusses the report findings.

City Council authorizes Hatch Mott McDonald to proceed with an analysis delivering a conceptual cost estimate for a range of preliminary grade separation alternatives south of the California Avenue Caltrain Station. This work would become the 2014 Palo Alto Grade Separation and Trenching Study.

Agreement signed between the California High Speed Rail Authority and Caltrain.

State, regional, and local agencies establish a regional funding memorandum of understanding to support the blended system, which was further defined as “remaining substantially within the existing Caltrain right-of-way and will accommodate future high speed rail and modernized Caltrain service along the Peninsula corridor by primarily utilizing the existing track configuration on the Peninsula.

Palo Alto Rail Corridor Study approved by Palo Alto City Council.

State Legislature passes Senate Bill SB1029, providing high speed rail funding for construction of the “blended system” as defined in the Revised 2012 Business Plan.

The Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board (Caltrain) approves the Peninsula Corridor Electrification Project.

California High Speed Rail releases the Revised 2012 Business Plan, proposing Silicon Valley to Merced as the initial operations segment for high speed trains, and adopting the blended systems and operations approach for the San Jose-San Francisco segment along the Caltrain corridor. The blended system along the Caltrain corridor was described as “primarily a two-track system that will be shared by Caltrain, high-speed rail service, and current rail tenants.”

California High Speed Rail Authority technical peer review group supports principles identified in the blended system proposal.

U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo, State Sen. Joe Simitian, and State Assemblyman Rich Gordon officially propose the “blended system” approach for the Caltrain corridor consisting of a primarily two-track system shared between Caltrain and future California High Speed Rail trains.

The Palo Alto Rail Corridor Study is initiated as a component of the city’s response to planned rail investments along the Caltrain rail corridor, specifically the California High Speed Rail project, and potential modifications to Caltrain operations.

Palo Alto City Council authorizes appointment of a 17-member task force to generate a community vision for land use, transportation, and urban design opportunities along the Caltrain corridor, particularly in response to improvements to fixed rail services along the tracks through Palo Alto.

The California High Speed Rail Authority begins the scoping process as part of the project- level environmental review for the San Jose-San Francisco project section. The number of tracks, vertical alignment, and horizontal alignment, among other factors were major issues raised by the City of Palo Alto and other communities along the project section.

California voters pass Proposition 1A, the Safe, Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act for the 21st Century, authorizing issuance of $9.95 billion of general obligation bonds to partially fund a statewide high-speed rail system.