State lawmaker urging $1.5 billion for early Caltrain electrification 

click to enlarge Electrifying Caltrain's trackway would allow trains to run faster and more frequently, and would reduce noise and pollution. - SF EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • SF Examiner file photo
  • Electrifying Caltrain's trackway would allow trains to run faster and more frequently, and would reduce noise and pollution.

State Assemblyman Jerry Hill is trying to energize Caltrain’s trackway electrification by urging regional and state officials to come up with $1.5 billion to have the project done by 2019—more than a decade earlier than currently planned.

Electrification of the rail system, a longtime goal of Caltrain, would allow trains to run faster and more frequently. Trains also would be quieter and less damaging to the environment.

Funding has always been lacking, but Hill, who represents the Peninsula, said a financial plan can be hammered out to combine regional sources with state bond money.

To do this, the California High-Speed Rail Authority would have to contribute $750 million in bond funds. Under Proposition 1A, the voter-backed initiative to provide high-speed rail with $9.95 billion, money was set aside for local “connectivity” projects. Hill said that source would be ideal for the Caltrain work.

Under the lawmaker’s plan, the remaining $750 million would be cobbled together by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the Bay Area’s lead transit financing agency.   

Work on the project could begin next year and be completed by 2019, Hill said.

However, the governing bodies of both the rail authority and MTC would have to sign off on the proposal.

The authority is currently revising its business plan for high-speed rail, and that process will include recommendations for early investment projects such as Caltrain electrification, said spokesman Lance Simmens.

“No decisions have been made on projects or dollar amounts for allocation,” said Simmens, “but we’re seriously entertaining ideas about how to make early investments.”

The MTC is expected to release a plan later this week that could detail where the region would come up with $750 million for the project. It will vote on the funding March 28. The authority’s vote is expected April 5.

If the funding doesn’t materialize, Caltrain would likely have to wait to upgrade its trackway until the build-out of high-speed rail. Currently, the San Jose to San Francisco portion of isn’t expected to be finished until 2033.

Caltrain electrification

$1.5B Cost of plan

70,000 Daily Caltrain passengers projected under electrification

45,000 Current daily Caltrain passengers

90 Percentage of Caltrain emission reductions under electrification

Sources: Caltrain, Assemblyman Jerry Hill

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Will Reisman

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