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Caltrain Gets Financial Green Light for Electrification

Agency officials announced Thursday morning the California High Speed Rail Authority and more than a half-dozen Bay Area public agencies will fully fund the electrification and modernization of the Caltrain system.

Caltrain is one step closer to receiving the electrification and modernization officials say the system desperately needs.

An agreement between the California High-Speed Rail Authority and more than half a dozen Bay Area public agencies will entirely fund an upgrade to the system, which includes modernization, agency spokeswoman Christine Dunn announced in a statement Thursday morning.

According to Dunn, the funding agreement uses local, regional and federal dollars to leverage hundreds of millions of dollars matched by the high-speed rail authority.

The electrification and modernization of Caltrain have been in the works for more than a decade, and are "critically-needed improvements that will dramatically improve the service and help ensure the long-term viability of the commuter rail system," Dunn said in the statement.

The announcement comes just a week after Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, Peninsula residents at a news conference at the San Mateo Caltrain Station to get on board with the electrification of Caltrain.

Once the system is electrified, Caltrain will be able to operate lighter-weight electric vehicles with major performance advantages compared to the existing diesel rail technology.

Trains will be faster, cleaner, quieter and more efficient, according to Caltrain officials.

In addition, riders will see more frequent service to more stations, which will result in increased ridership and prepare the system to accommodate future job growth.

Modernizing Caltrain is also an important step in stabilizing the rail agency’s long-struggling finances. Caltrain is one of the few transit agencies in the country that does not have its own, dedicated tax base or source of revenue.

“Electrification is an essential improvement that is critical to the future of the system,” Executive Director Mike Scanlon said in a statement.

“This is an enormous step forward that prioritizes these improvements and delivers early benefits to the Caltrain system, its riders and surrounding communities,” he said.

Plans for the electrification of Caltrain still need to be approved by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission at its meeting next week, as well as the boards of all the public agencies, and the state legislature will also need to sign off on the bond, Caltrain spokesman Seamus Murphy said.

If approved, Caltrain could be electrified as soon as 2020, more than a decade before it is assumed in the most recent version of the High Speed Rail Business Plan.

Caltrain is currently assessing the possibilities of various blended system alternatives to the four-track system, which the agency opposes, to determine what specific infrastructure improvements will eventually be needed to support high-speed rail and how they can be designed to minimize impacts on surrounding communities.

Joe Russo March 24, 2012 at 04:09 AM
I live in SoCal and travel to Silicon Valley and SF often. We can only dream of a BART system here.. It should replace CalTrain. $10 billion sounds like a lot of money to some people but these days $10 billion changes hands in a nanosecond on the NYSE. The SF Terminal located such as it is, is a big turnoff to taking CalTrain. If the trains ran under Market Street, the ridership would probably triple. Also, what is more dumb than that transfer between CalTrain and BART at Milbrae, fumbling for change at the few ticket machines available. How about applying some Silicon Valley brainpower to solving this rather basic problem?
Austin Choi March 24, 2012 at 04:57 AM
I used to take Caltrain to San Bruno and sometimes to San Jose. It's a fairly good reliable system, just like Bart. I think if it connects to downtown SF, Caltrain ridership would rise, though likely at a high cost to riders.
Jeffrey Castaline March 29, 2012 at 03:40 PM
So, in other words, limiting public transportation will keep the undesirables out of your backyard? And 'hangin' ghetto', sounds like a mildly discriminating turn of a phrase. Perhaps people would pay more attention to what YOUR 'opinions' are if you posted with your real name instead of hiding behind the name of a rabble rousing fictional chicken.
katie January 19, 2013 at 03:01 AM
What is the status of electrification of Caltrain? Can we start taking these trains underground the horns are unbearably loud at night.
Adina Levin January 20, 2013 at 11:23 PM
Electrification is scheduled to be done in 2019. The electric trains themselves will be quieter horns are needed because of at-grade crossings. San Mateo is applying for grade separation funding, but not for all of the at-grade crossings.

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