Electrification of Caltrain approved by board

Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board approves regional agreement to fund modernization

Caltrain has received a unanimous thumbs-up by the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board to electrify the Peninsula commuter-rail system.

The Joint Powers Board, the agency that owns and operates Caltrain, approved a regional agreement Thursday, May 3, to fully fund the railroad electrification.

The memorandum of understanding between the California High-Speed Rail Authority and seven Bay Area public agencies would use local, regional and federal funding to secure hundreds of millions of dollars in high-speed rail funds for the project. Riders could see an electrified Caltrain system as soon as 2019, Caltrain announced.

Electrification will bring a faster, cleaner, quieter, more efficient train service, with more frequent service to more stations. The result would be an increase in riders and an increase in revenue, Caltrain stated in an announcement.

Board Chair Adrienne Tissier urged the board to support the agreement.

"Today is the day. This is the beginning of making sure that we have a cleaner train, a faster train, more service, more stops, less noise and cleaner air," she said.

The agreement is based on a "blended system" first proposed by Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-Palo Alto), state Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) and Assemblyman Rich Gordon (Menlo Park).

A blended system would allow Caltrain and high-speed rail to operate on the Caltrain tracks using the current infrastructure. A larger project would be developed in phases over the next 25 years.

"The recent action taken by the several transit agencies will produce an historic accomplishment -- the modernization of Caltrain. A 21st-century system will serve Silicon Valley commuters well, while stimulating local economies and alleviating traffic congestion. This is a huge win for the people of the Peninsula," Eshoo said.

The agreement clearly spells out Caltrain's ownership of the right of way and the agency's responsibility to represent the needs of the community it serves, Caltrain noted.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the California High-Speed Rail Authority have already approved the agreement.

In the next few weeks it will be considered by the City and County of San Francisco, the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, the City of San Jose, the San Mateo County Transportation Authority, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, and the Transbay Terminal Joint Powers Board.


Posted by Jason Tulock, a resident of another community
on May 3, 2012 at 8:31 pm

and Union Pacific. Why are they not in the agreement? The answer is a question the rest of the signatories will not ask. Thus 2019 is a lie the rest of the signatories will not admit.

Jay Tulock, Vacaville

Posted by Otto Maddox, a resident of Monta Loma
on May 4, 2012 at 7:22 am

"Electrification will bring a faster, cleaner, quieter, more efficient train service, with more frequent service to more stations. The result would be an increase in riders and an increase in revenue"

I garantee none of these things will happen. We will end up with a slower, noisier, less efficient train service.

I have a friend who lives near a BART station. Those trains are very noisy.

And then they mix the high speed rail travesty into the mix. Anything related to that mess isn't good for the tax payers.

Posted by Susanna, a resident of another community
on May 4, 2012 at 1:51 pm

It is my understanding that this may be illegal. The bonds for HSR may not be diverted to Caltrain. Smart move--get voters to approve bonds for a specific project, then divert the funds. Bait and switch.

Posted by Zoo, a resident of Whisman Station
on May 4, 2012 at 3:30 pm

Otto, BART's high noise level is due to a poor design choice for their rolling stock (ie. cars). Caltrains vehicles don't have that problem, as you can tell by listening to a Caltrain. The bulk of the noise comes from the Diesel engine, not from track squeal. As such, electrified Caltrain will reduce noise, unless they for some reason switch to rolling stock with fixed axle flat wheels, which is unlikely.

Hopefully BART's new rolling stock will also eliminate this problem for them and BART will become nice and quiet too.

Posted by Alex M., a resident of Willowgate
on May 4, 2012 at 5:08 pm

@Zoo: "The bulk of the noise comes from the Diesel engine"

Actually, from my perspective, the bulk of the noise comes from the horn. The noise from the diesel engine dissipates rapidly with distance, but the horn seems to propagate a lot further. We live 2 blocks from the Mountain View Caltrain stration. At that distance, the engine noise is a faint rumble that's easy to ignore. Not so with the horn.

I don't see the horn going away with an electrified Caltrain. It's required by regulation because the tracks cross through other rights-of-way used by other vehicles and pedestrians.

Posted by Reality Check, a resident of another community
on May 4, 2012 at 6:44 pm

BART is notoriously bad with keeping up with track grinding, which is especially important on systems like BART with very homogeneous trains and train traffic, largely in tunnels or on viaducts, to keep the rail head smooth and passing trains quiet. The conversation-precluding howl BART suffers in many of its subway tunnels is an example of what happens when you fall way behind on rail grinding. BART has talked up purchasing one or two new rail grinders over the past years ... but it seems they're still not doing enough grinding frequently enough to keep the wheel/rail interface as quiet as it should be.

Posted by Doug Pearson, a resident of Blossom Valley
on May 5, 2012 at 7:38 am

I like electrification but wish that all roads that cross trhe tracks would be overpasses or underpasses.

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