Is Grade Separation Right For Broadway?

The Burlingame City Council discussed an elevated rail track at the Broadway exchange.

The Burlingame City Council moved forward with discussing a Broadway railroad grade separation, aimed at alleviating traffic congestion in the area.

While council members have been advocating for underground or trenched railroad tracks as high-speed rail plans its position on the Peninsula, with the funding available, they discussed a possibly elevated solution at Broadway. With the looming electrification of Caltrain, more trains could soon be zooming through Burlingame, putting an even larger burden on the congested stretch of Broadway.

After much discussion on costs, potential funding sources and impacts on surrounding businesses, the council agreed on moving forward with grade separation at the Broadway exchange, preferably with an elevated train, although the design remains under consideration.

“I don’t think [a trench] is ever going to happen,” said Mayor Jerry Deal, noting the high cost and the other demands on transportation funding.

While a trench option runs at around $500 million, other options range between $114 million and $328 million.

Public Works Director Syed Murtuza said the remaining options impacting surrounding businesses the least include keeping the street at grade and elevating the rail tracks ($179 million) or partially elevating the rail and partially depressing the street ($214 million).

Other options, including keeping the rail at grade and elevating the street, keeping the rail at grade and creating a street undercrossing and partially depressing the rail while partially elevating the street all have significant impacts to surrounding properties.

The county has $225 million available for grade separation funding through Measure A, a half-cent sales tax that funds transportation projects.

Vice Mayor Ann Keighran disagreed will an elevated option.

“We need the grade separation, there’s no question about that. But I’m not sure where they’re going to get the funding to do it even if we want to do it,” said Keighran. She expressed concern that if they backtrack from their trench-only argument, they may be hurting themselves in the long run, especially in regard to high-speed rail.

Councilmember Michael Brownrigg said he understood the problem breaking an adherence to a trench-only option would open up, but given the likelihood of increases trains, increased traffic and uncertain revenue, other options merited consideration.

Currently, gate downtime per gate is at 35 to 59 minutes per day. The Broadway exchange has been rated at a service level of F since the 1960s, said Murtuza.


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George Chrisman October 17, 2012 at 04:48 PM
An elevated grade separation would be a disaster for Broadway and Burlingame. If they can't afford to go underground to create a tunnel, then just leave it at grade and be done with it.
Reality Check October 18, 2012 at 03:11 AM
What on earth are you smoking? Whatever it is, it'm making you sound irrationally paranoid about elevated rail lines. Well-designed elevated grade separations work well in the US and all over the world. What's more, they create opportunities for improved and increased at-grade connections between opposite sides of the rail line -- connections where motor vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians can cross under the rail line with zero chance of being hit by a train, allowing quiet electric trains running on smooth (jointless, therefore quieter) continuously welded rail to glide through areas without a single blast of their FRA-mandated 90-100 decibel horns (which the FRA mandates they must blow 4 times per at-grade crossing).


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