Caltrain grade separation funds drained

A $147 million grade separation under way at an accident-prone crossing in San Bruno is likely to be the last such project until Caltrain finds more funding or gets final word on plans for a high-speed rail line running up the Peninsula, officials say.

The long-planned project elevating the tracks above the roadway at San Bruno, San Mateo and Angus avenues is intended to help make the area around the San Bruno Caltrain station where cars, pedestrians and trains interact safer.

The intersection has long been a trouble spot, a fact underscored by the death of a man near the station Monday in what officials say was an apparent suicide. Since 2000, when officials began studying safety improvements to the area, the space has seen at least 11 fatalities on the tracks, according to Caltrain.

“We’re really looking forward to it,” said Mayor Jim Ruane of the project. “It’s just going to improve traffic circulation and safety.”

Caltrain has no plans to do any more grade separations on the Peninsula, however, because it simply doesn’t have the money for the “incredibly expensive” undertakings, though it has been making other safety improvements to various crossings, Caltrain spokeswoman Christine Dunn said.

However, if the state high-speed rail project, which would use the Caltrain right of way, moves forward, it could provide new funding for further projects on the Peninsula. Tracks for that project must be completely grade-separated, Dunn said.

The San Bruno platform will be large enough for two additional tracks to accommodate a future bullet train, she said.

“At this point in time we would not want to be building anything that is not compatible with high-speed rail,” Dunn said.

Most of the funding for the San Bruno project, which also includes a 191-space parking lot and a “kiss-and-ride” drop-off area, is covered by the Measure A transportation sales tax, with Proposition 1B and state utilities funds making up the rest.

Crews are expected to start construction this month on the San Bruno project’s “shoofly,” temporary tracks to re-route the train during construction, which is expected to run through mid-2012.

Next year, the heavy work is expected to start on the platform, which will raise the railroad tracks by 18 feet and replace the current station at Sylvan Avenue. San Bruno, San Mateo and Angus avenues will be lowered by about four feet.

Deadly crossing

A list of recorded train fatalities in the area of the San Bruno grade crossing project over the past decade:

2010 — Oct. 4: Apparent suicide near San Bruno Avenue

April 2: Apparent suicide at San Bruno station

2008 — April: 15-year-old boy on a skateboard accidentally killed at San Bruno station

June: Apparent suicide at San Bruno station

2005 — May: Man accidentally killed near Linden Avenue

July: Man accidentally killed north of San Bruno station

2003 — January:
Apparent suicide between Linden Avenue and Scott Street

December: Accidental death at San Bruno Avenue

2000 — March:
A car with three passengers struck by a train at San Mateo Avenue, killing the driver and a 5-year-old boy

October: A 16-year-old was accidentally killed at San Mateo Avenue

sbishop@sfexaminer.com

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