By Will Reisman, @WillReisman

Responding to community concerns, Caltrain is removing all ballast material from its Chilco storage site in Menlo Park and will complete the project by October, about 1 ½ years earlier than initially projected. Funding for the removal is being provided in part by Facebook.

Ballast—crushed stones that provide stability and structure for the railroad— is needed to ensure safe rail operations and the maintenance of the system in a state of good repair.

Ballast currently stored at the Chilco site will be transferred to an area in Redwood City that is surrounded primarily by industrial and retail uses.

Caltrain began storing the ballast in 2008 in Chilco, an area near the Belle Haven neighborhood in Menlo Park. After meetings with local residents who were concerned about the dust from the ballast, Caltrain agreed to explore options to remove the crushed stone.

Originally, Caltrain projected that removing the ballast would take up to two years. However, after exploring several alternatives, Caltrain identified an approach that would accelerate removal of the material, but at an additional cost.

Cleaning up the Chilco site, prepping the new site and removing the ballast in an expedited fashion will cost $295,000. With assistance from Facebook, Caltrain will be able to accelerate the schedule for removing the material.

“Caltrain and Facebook’s thorough response to this issue is another example of these organizations’ commitment to being engaging and responsive community partners,” said Menlo Park City Councilmember Kirsten Keith. “We thank them for listening to the concerns of Menlo Park Belle Haven residents and taking corrective action.”

Caltrain will continue to work with Facebook, the City of Menlo Park and the community to assess long term strategies and associated costs necessary to minimize or prevent the need to utilize the Chilco site for ballast storage in the future.

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