Grade separations postponed to 2010

Caltrain officials Thursday released a tentative timetable for system-wide upgrades to the commuter-rail system through 2025, officially postponing long-awaited grade separations in some cities until 2010.

The Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board readily endorsed the Project 2025 plan at yesterday’s meeting, setting a rough timeline for the capital projects outlined in a 2004 strategic plan, San Mateo County Supervisor and JPB board member Jerry Hill said. The 2004 plan estimated about $4.9 billion in capital projects through 2023, Hill said.

Construction on grade separations separating train tracks from streets at certain intersections in San Bruno and on South Linden Avenue in South San Francisco was scheduled to begin this year.

Though the grade separations have been postponed, Caltrain does plan on making some grade crossing improvements at San Bruno and San Mateo Avenues in San Bruno within the next few years. This work would involve straightening out the streets at that intersection, so they don’t curve at an angle and confuse drivers, SamTrans chief engineer Stephen Hill said.

Higher priorities in the next five years will be repairing and replacing old infrastructure such as the nearly 100-year-old rail bridges up and down the line, said Robert Doty, SamTrans director of rail transportation, engineering and construction.

So-called “quad gates,” which would prevent people from driving around the lowered crossing arm, are also planned system-wide in the next five years as a precursor to the grade separations, Hill said.

Police in June cited a man who survived after he drove under a crossing arm in Redwood City and was hit by a train.

Last month, a Caltrain slammed into a car after its driver, who also survived, inadvertently drove around the crossing arm near San Bruno and San Mateo avenues, one of the intersections for which a grade separation is planned. City officials said then that the accident underscored the need for safety improvements at that intersection.

San Bruno Mayor Larry Franzella told the board he understood the postponement but wanted significant safety improvements in the next five years. Councilman Ken Ibarra echoed these concerns, saying he hoped something would be done for safety at the rail crossings.

SamTrans staff are scheduled to present a more solid plan to the board by the end of the year, which will include a funding analysis and timeline.

tramroop@examiner.com

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