Four Caltrain bridges in San Mateo are due for an upgrade, so the transit agency is working with the North Central neighborhood to ensure construction goes smoothly and disruption is minimized.
Caltrain is hosting an informational public meeting with the Home Association of North Central San Mateo to assess the concerns tomorrow at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center. Members of HANSCM understand the project is a necessity, however, they are concerned with what the brush clearing will unearth, noise pollution, establishing property lines and general street diversion issues including worker parking and where equipment will be stored.
The bridges at Tilton, Monte Diablo, East Santa Inez and East Poplar avenues are well past their prime and are no longer seismically safe, said Caltrain spokeswoman Jayme Ackemann. Replacing the 110-year-old structures will cost approximately $31.2 million is estimated to take about two years. Caltrain will begin with clearing the brush surrounding the tracks in December and construction is set to begin July 2014. Streets will be closed in eight-week rotations beginning at the end of 2015.
Caltrain is working with a technique it used during the replacement of several bridges in South San Francisco. The bridges are pre-fabricated off-site, allowing Caltrain to reduce its effect on the public, Ackemann said.
Construction will primarily occur at night or on weekends so as not to interrupt any train schedules, Ackemann said. While this keeps the needs of commuters in mind, HANSCM board member Karen Jensen said having her son awoken by construction noises and bright lights shined into his bedroom at night is jarring.
Caltrain will work with residents to minimize the impact during construction to the greatest degree possible. Once work begins in December, workers will clear brush surrounding the tracks by removing about 70 heritage trees and vegetation, Ackemann said.
Residents still have questions and Jensen said she isn’t sure if the two 80-foot-tall Monterey pine trees in her backyard adjacent to the tracks near the Santa Inez Avenue bridge will be removed. It’s distressful for a resident’s screening trees to be removed, she said.
Caltrain said it will replant some trees after the project is finalized, however, a concern is what their removal will stir up, said HANSCM Co-president Bertha Sanchez.
Critters like raccoons, opossums and rats that live in the vegetation may be scared up and dispersed into the surrounding neighborhood, Sanchez said. Hopefully, Caltrain will inform residents how they plan to mitigate pest infestation at the meeting, Jensen said.
One of the major components of the project is raising the bridges to account for updated vehicle clearance regulations, Ackemann said. Because of the close proximity to downtown, delivery trucks frequent the area and over the years she’s witnessed several trucks get stuck under the Tilton Avenue bridge, Sanchez said. Extensive measures are needed to free the trucks and it’s “quite a spectacle,” Sanchez said. Raising the height of the bridge will also allow for emergency vehicles to more readily access the surrounding neighborhoods, Ackemann said.
But an unavoidable issue could be where Caltrain’s right-of-way begins and ends. Caltrain hasn’t consistently maintained its property lines throughout the years and residents may unknowingly have structures that overlap, Jensen said.
“They’re keeping their cards tight about their right-of-way and where exactly it lies … there are some people that apparently may have a house or garage on [Caltrain’s] right-of-way that have been standing there for quite a long time,” Jensen said.
This could result in a financial burden on homeowners who, as individuals, have little recourse, Jensen said.
Overall, Caltrain has done a good job reaching out to residents to work with them and mitigate many of their concerns, Sanchez and Jensen said, but they hope to be given more definite answers tomorrow.
Caltrain will be meeting with residents at 6:30 p.m. at the King Center at 725 Monte Diablo Ave. in Social Room B.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 106