Caltrain has instituted new requirements on a planned bike and pedestrian tunnel under train tracks at Middle Avenue in Menlo Park, which could increase the cost of the project by as much as $6.6 million.
The cost has increased for nearly every element of the project, city staff said at the July 11 Menlo Park City Council meeting. The original estimate for the project was $21.5 million, and the city has set aside $21.8 million in funding for the project, mostly from grants. The new cost estimates range from $24.4 million to $28.1 million, which represents a $6.6 million increase.
The differences in possible costs come from the contingency and construction budget estimates, both of which are subject to change based on Caltrain’s review of the plans and the selection of a construction method.
Residents who spoke at the meeting were overwhelmingly supportive of the project but were largely concerned about the cost increase. Jerry Jones, who said he’s been a resident of Menlo Park for 50 years and “anxiously waiting” for this undercrossing for 30 years, asked the City Council what differentiated Menlo Park’s project from the Homer Avenue crossing built in 2005 in Palo Alto, which cost $5 million at the time, according to Jones.
Mayor Jen Wolosin reiterated the question to city staff, asking why a project’s cost would change by $20 million in 20 years. City staff said that inflation was not the only cause, pointing out that the crossing under Middle Avenue required the city to purchase property and was significantly longer than Palo Alto’s project.