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By Paul Bendix

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About this blog: A 32-year resident of Menlo Park, I regularly make my way around downtown in a wheelchair. This gives me an unusual perspective on a town in which I have spent almost half of my life. I was educated at UC Berkeley, and permanentl...  (More)

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Downtown Collides with Reality

Uploaded: Apr 29, 2014
Homeward from a long trip, the airport van reveals Menlo Park's quiet charms...and one not so quiet. A rush-hour train blasts across Ravenswood Avenue. There is nothing rustic about this oddity of our downtown. Viewed after some time away, our level crossings seem more dangerous than ever.

What's the solution? More important: do we really want to find one? And an even more unpleasantly challenging question...how many fatalities will motivate us to tackle the problem?

All signs point to more accidents involving cars and pedestrians. The Valley is booming, and so is Caltrain's ridership. The commuter line is under enormous pressure to increase capacity and expand its schedule.

So, as readers have asked: (1) what is to be done about downtown's rail crossings and (2) how would we finance any construction?

We have the answers. They lie in the collective – although not openly shared – experience and expertise of our community.

Take the design of M-A's Performing Arts Center. Architectural models from competing firms were on display for weeks. Scores of people got a chance to comment on the PAC's look and layout.

A similar design competition would help us consider grade separation. There's no one way, and no single correct way, to keep our downtown safe and prosperous. We need some new ideas – both in proposals for design and finance.

Grade separation is a civic challenge we have to face. The earlier, and the more proactive, the better.

Comments

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood,
on Apr 29, 2014 at 8:27 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Paul - Great idea. Thanks


Posted by whatever, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Apr 30, 2014 at 2:29 am

Unfortunately the performing arts center is darn ugly on the outside.

Though we do need a solution to the train problem.


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