Caltrain project under way 

Despite facing a dire financial outlook, Caltrain began construction Monday on a $165 million grade-separation project in San Bruno, an undertaking the agency says will improve pedestrian safety, relieve traffic congestion and increase transit efficiency.

Grade separation lifts sections of Caltrain tracks above street level, a move that lessens the chance of pedestrian and automobile accidents. The first phase of the major undertaking took place Monday, when workers began erecting a culvert to divert water away from the planned construction sites.

The grade-separation work will focus on three streets in San Bruno that cross the Caltrain tracks — San Bruno, San Mateo and Angus avenues. Along with elevating the trackway at those intersections, Caltrain will also build a new boarding station between San Bruno and San Mateo avenues and add three pedestrian underpasses — at Euclid Avenue, Walnut Street and Sylvan Avenue.

The construction, most of which will take place during the day, is expected to last until fall 2012. There will be intermittent traffic restrictions on First Avenue during construction and passengers using the San Bruno station will have to board down the street at an old lumber site while work is ongoing. The makeshift station will also have
191 parking spots.

Although Caltrain is suffering through a massive crisis — it is currently facing a $30 million deficit in its operating budget — the grade-separation work is funded through the agency’s capital-improvement program. So far, the agency has secured about $100 million for the project, and is expecting the remaining $65 million to come from a combination of local, state and federal sources.

While Caltrain goes forward with its longer-term projects, the agency is proposing a 50 percent service cut — eliminating weekend and midway weekday trips — to help make up its $30 million shortfall for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1. The agency cannot use its capital funds to balance its operating budget.

The grade-separation project is the centerpiece of Caltrain’s effort to upgrade safety conditions near its trackway. The agency recently finished similar grade-separation projects in San Carlos, Belmont and Redwood City. There are no projects planned in the future.

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Will Reisman

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