Caltrain advisory committee put on three-year hiatus

Work on grade separations won’t happen for a while; focus now on safety upgrades

SAN BRUNO — The Citizens Advisory Committee on Caltrain grade separations has been put on hold, since their input won’t be needed until roughly 2009.

The CAC held a brief final meeting this week to discuss the Caltrain grade separations, where Caltrain officials assured the group that their long-awaited project was a priority. Caltrain officials in August postponed the start of work on grade separations in San Bruno and South San Francisco — initially scheduled to begin this year — to 2010, citing other projects as higher priorities.

Council members Jim Ruane and Ken Ibarra added that the group would be kept up to date as safety improvements, set to start next year and finish in 2008, are made to the track area adjacent to downtown and the tracks. Those improvements will include fencing and safety medians that will almost completely block a driver’s ability to drive around a lowered crossing arm. Similar barriers for pedestrians crossing the tracks will also be installed.

Officials said they are looking forward to a welcome byproduct of the safety improvements, both short and long term: the creation of a more pedestrian-friendly, transit-oriented zone around the tracks.

Housing and Redevelopment Manager Mark Sullivan said there were three key properties vacant in the area, including a former bank building, a former Hanlon’s Tire Service and a former gas station all on San Bruno Avenue. Safety improvements might make those properties more attractive, he said.

“Part of the problem is that it’s a main, busy street that can be difficult to walk on,” Sullivan said.

Planning manager Aaron Aknin said that as the city moves forward with General Plan revisions in the next several months, city staff hopes to rezone the area to accommodate transit-oriented development. The long-vacant bank site, for example, would be zoned to also allow for some housing in the commercial-zoned spot.

Aknin said some minor landscaping from the temporary improvements could help make the area more attractive, but the grade separations would be the key to the area becoming true transit-oriented development. Caltrain also plans to raze the former San Bruno Lumber site, a two-acre parcel owned by Caltrain since 2002, to eventually make room for the new San Bruno BART station.

tramroop@examiner.com

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