Caltrain’s plan to replace four aging bridges in San Mateo got a mostly glowing review from the city’s Public Works Commission last night but some members of the public do not like the idea of cutting down dozens of heritage trees to accommodate the project.
About 115 trees in Caltrain’s right-of-way will have to be removed with about 70 of them being heritage trees based on trunk size.
Claremont Street resident Kathy Sumner said the North Central neighborhood already has a lack of trees and that cutting down trees on Caltrain’s right-of-way will have a big negative impact on the area.
Resident Brian Skinner asked whether the trees will be replaced once the project is complete in 2016.
“The trees should be replaced,” Skinner said.
Caltrain has agreed to compensate the city for lost trees but it will be years before they can be planted.
City staff agreed that most comments from the public were related to the loss of trees as Caltrain has conducted an outreach effort to explain the potential impacts of the project.
Four aging railroad bridges in San Mateo that had their foundations rebuilt in 2011 will be replaced and lifted up to 4 feet to meet Caltrain’s future needs, including electrification.
The work, however, will cause street closures up to eight weeks and some residents will also lose access to their driveways for a couple months along Tilton, Monte Diablo, Santa Inez and Poplar avenues where the bridges are located.
The four bridges were built in 1903 and are old, small and seismically unsafe. Caltrain had the foundations rebuilt on the four bridges in 2011 at a cost of $2.4 million.
The replacement project will cost about $31.2 million and is expected to be completed by 2016.
Project Manager Rafael Bolon told the commission that street closures of up to eight weeks will be necessary as the old bridges are rolled out and the new ones rolled in.
Berms between the bridges will also be raised up to 4 feet and new retaining walls will be built and sidewalks will be widened, Bolon said.
Contractors will be penalized if they cannot complete the work in eight-week time frames.
The four bridges will be replaced one at a time to lessen traffic impacts in the neighborhood, he said.
Work will also be done at night when trains are not running, he said.
The four bridges will be replaced with single-span structures to comply with federal and state seismic safety standards, according to Caltrain. The construction of the single-span bridge combined with updated vehicle clearance regulations requires a more robust design that raises the height of the tracks, according to Caltrain.
Site clearing will start in November and last about three months. Street closures are not expected until late 2015 and last the duration of the project.
The public can track the project by visiting www.caltrain.com/smbridges.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 106