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San Bruno, Caltrain and the TA Celebrate Grade Separation Completion

San Bruno, Caltrain and the TA Celebrate Grade Separation Completion

The community of San Bruno gathered today to celebrate the completion of a project that transforms the entrance to its downtown and improves rail safety for the city and for Caltrain, the commuter railroad which has served the city for 150 years.

“This project would not have been possible without the significant financial contribution from the San Mateo County Transportation Authority, “said TA Chair Karyl Matsumoto. “The voters of San Mateo County are to be commended for their foresight in passing Measure A, which provided the funds for this important safety improvement.”

The celebration was held in Posy Park, a pocket park that was reconstructed at a new location adjacent to the mile-long grade separation project that spans three streets in downtown San Bruno. Following speeches by Matsumoto, Caltrain Chair Tom Nolan and San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane, people were invited to attend a community celebration which included live music, neighborhood food vendors, and a children’s face-painter. The celebration was an opportunity to thank the community for their patience during the two-year long construction process.

The $155 million project dramatically improves safety in downtown San Bruno by elevating the train tracks over San Bruno, San Mateo and Angus avenues.

Grade separations reduce accidents by separating vehicle and pedestrian traffic from train tracks at railroad crossings. From 1992, when the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board took over the operation of Caltrain, until 2010, there have been 11 fatalities on the train tracks in the City of San Bruno. Nine of these occurred at either San Bruno or San Mateo avenues. In 2002, the California Public Utilities Commission ranked San Bruno Avenue as the fifth most dangerous crossing in the state of California. The grade separation project is expected to eliminate vehicle-train collisions and greatly reduce pedestrian fatalities.

The project incorporates a new train station with passenger shelters and ticket vending machines on the 800-foot elevated platform. It is accessible to riders via stairs, ramps and an elevator.

In addition to the street crossings, which accommodate vehicles and pedestrians, there are three pedestrian underpasses – one in the vicinity of Sylvan Avenue, one at the new station and another between Euclid Avenue and Walnut Street. A new parking lot with 200 parking spaces and a “kiss and ride” area for dropping off and picking up passengers are located on the west side of the station. 

As well as being a major safety improvement for the city, the project is intended to be a catalyst to support San Bruno’s downtown revitalization goals. Landscaping and an archway over San Bruno Avenue that will be installed in the future will help create an entrance to San Bruno’s downtown. 

San Bruno Mayo Jim Ruane said, “The City of San Bruno and its citizens have worked closely with Caltrain for over a decade to bring this project to reality. The result provides not only a tremendous rail safety improvement but a beautiful gateway to our community. The relocated and enhanced Posy Park is a wonderful new amenity for our residents and train passengers alike to enjoy.  Residents and visitors entering San Bruno will be welcomed with the structure's strong and positive statement that this is a special place.”

Key improvements to the surrounding streets, including repaving and restriping will improve traffic flow in the area. New sidewalks and traffic signals also were installed and a left turn lane was added..

For contractors, the location of the project was one of its most challenging aspects: Interstate 380 is at the northern boundary of the project; San Bruno Avenue is a busy east-west arterial connecting to Highway 101; and the BART tracks to San Francisco International Airport run next to and underneath the project area. In addition, Caltrain operated 92 weekday trains and up to 36 weekend trains during the construction period.

Before construction could begin,  shoofly or temporary train tracks were  built. Utilities, including sewer, water, power and telecommunications lines, were relocated. A box culvert, which increased the capacity of the City’s main storm drain, was constructed. 

Because the site is directly over the BART extension to SFO, the weight of the entire project could not exceed the weight of the soil before the construction of the grade separation. A total of 65,000 cubic yards of soil was removed from the site.  

According to Caltrain’s most recent ridership count, 532 riders board the train at the San Bruno station on weekdays. This is an increase of nearly 22 percent from the previous year when weekday boardings were 437. System wide, Caltrain is enjoying historic ridership numbers with more than 52,000 riders taking the train on an average weekday.

The construction of the grade separation was funded by $92.4 million in sales tax revenues from Measure A, a voter-approved half-cent sales tax for transit and transportation projects in San Mateo County. Those Measure A dollars were leveraged to attract $55.9 million in state funds and $6.6 million in federal funds. Fifteen percent of all the funds collected under the reauthorized measure (approved by voters in 2004) are allocated to Caltrain grade separation projects


About Caltrain: Owned and operated by the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board, Caltrain provides commuter rail service from San Francisco to San Jose, with limited commute service to Gilroy. Caltrain has enjoyed more than three years of consecutive monthly ridership increases, surpassing more than 50,000 average weekday riders earlier this year. While the Joint Powers Board assumed operating responsibilities for the service in 1992, the railroad will celebrate 150 years of continuous passenger service in 2014. Planning for the next 150 years of Peninsula rail service, Caltrain is on pace to electrify the corridor by 2019, reducing diesel emissions by 90 percent and adding more service to more stations. 

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About the TA: Created to administer Measure A, San Mateo County’s ½ sales tax, the Transportation Authority provides funding for transportation and infrastructure improvement projects. In 2004, more than 75 percent of San Mateo County residents voted to reauthorize Measure A for an additional 25 years.

Media Contact: Jayme Ackemann, 650-508-7934