Train overpass finally moves forwardBy Edward Carpenter
Residents have given the go-ahead nod to a railroad overpass project meant to eliminate Caltrain crossings from streets and sidewalks, following a three-month delay.
A citizen's advisory committee, which last met at the end of April, accepted the latest proposal at its July 28 meeting. The committee plans to consider some of the details of landscaping and materials in the remaining three or four meetings before year's end.
"For all intents and purposes, what came out of the July 28 meeting is the final project; what's left is the frou-frou," said City Councilmember Ken Ibarra, who co-chairs the advisory committee for the project. After earlier becoming bogged down in the minutiae, the committee made good progress at the July meeting, Ibarra said.
In spite of already being four months behind schedule, he is confidant Caltrain will begin project construction on schedule by mid- to late-2006, Ibarra said. "This isn't a schedule-driven project," Caltrain Program Manager Steve Minden said regarding the delays. "Frankly, we feel like it's more important to involve the public stakeholders if it means we are going to get a better product and more buy in from the community."
Caltrain plans to overlap the final project design with the beginning of construction to make up for lost time, Minden said. "Another advantage is that contractors, because of their experience, are able to come with better, faster, money-saving solutions" on some projects.
The committee is overseeing the raising of tracks at four locations in San Bruno. The total cost of design and construction is estimated at $140 million to $175 million. The end result will be overpasses, called grade separations, at Angus, San Bruno and San Mateo avenues and Scott Street in San Bruno. An overpass will also be added at S. Linden Avenue in South San Francisco.
The grade separations come after three people died and another was seriously injured in two separate accidents in 2000. A female driver and a 5-year-old boy were killed March 4, 2000, when their car was hit by a train at San Mateo Avenue. Authorities determined the driver tried to drive around the barrier arms. Another passenger was seriously injured in the accident.
On Oct. 16, 2000, 16-year-old Michael Bulnes Jr. was killed at the same crossing. A retrial on his civil case, which ended in a mistrial in March, is scheduled for November. "I think [grade separations] would be a real good thing," Bulnes Sr. said. "When you look at the cost of a grade separation, you have to ask how much a life is worth and multiply it by the amount of people who have been hit on the tracks."
Caltrain officials said they hope to award the construction contract on the track-raising project by late 2006. Construction completion is currently projected for October 2008, officials said.
Copyright ©2005 Peninsula Examiner. Published 08/24/2005.