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Council Formalizes Palo Alto’s Rail Advisory Panel

Council Formalizes Palo Alto’s Rail Advisory Panel

At its September 9 meeting, the City Council discussed and unanimously approved moving forward with changes to Connecting Palo Alto, the City’s community-based process to address the challenges associated with at-grade crossing on the Caltrain corridor. The rail electrification is expected to increase train service by up to 20 trains per hour during peak times by 2025, and in turn increase congestion near Palo Alto’s four rail crossings at Charleston Road, Meadow Drive, Churchill and Palo Alto Avenues.

The City Council agreed to formalize the structure of the Expanded Community Advisory Panel (XCAP) tasked with neighborhood outreach and evaluating rail grade crossing alternatives in preparation for Caltrain’s electrification project..

The City Council voted to allow the 14-member XCAP group to provide updates directly to the City Council at least once every two months, and to appoint a chair and co-chair. This formalizes a process for the City Council to gain direct updates from the XCAP. Monday’s City Council decision also provides the XCAP to vote on areas of interest to them related to the grade separation options. The XCAP is expected to finish its work by the end of April 2020 which means there will likely be changes to the XCAP meeting schedule to accomplish its goals.

The City Council has already narrowed grade separation alternatives from 37 choices to seven with the help of the former Community Advisory Panel (CAP), which the XCAP group replaced when the former CAP wrapped up earlier this year.

As part of that process, Council is considering options still under consideration for Churchill Avenue, East Meadow Drive, and Charleston Road. The options include the possible closure of Churchill or a viaduct at Churchill; and include a trench, viaduct, hybrid, and two versions of a South Palo Alto tunnel that would start south of Oregon Expressway. In addition, Council has decided to hold off on planning for the Palo Alto Avenue crossing since it will be included in a broader downtown Palo Alto plan.

During Monday’s meeting, Council also discussed the value of creating a Rail Blue Ribbon Commission (RBRC), that would likely be engaged regarding a rail funding plan. Staff will return in December with a more detailed plan for the City Council to consider. 

The next XCAP meeting is Wednesday, September 25, from 4-6 p.m. in the Community Meeting Room in City Hall.

For more about Connecting Palo Alto, click here.

Last Updated: September 9, 2019