News

Hill urges support for Caltrain electrification plan

$1.5 billion project would electrify Caltrain line by 2019

Local lawmakers and transit officials are calling on the public to get behind a proposal that would allocate $1.5 billion in public funds to convert Caltrain to an electrically powered commuter system by the year 2019.

Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, today joined Caltrain officials and San Mateo City Council members to preview a new Caltrain electrification proposal that will be released next week by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

Standing trackside at the San Mateo Caltrain station, Hill had to speak over engine noise from a train that arrived and departed during the news conference.

"Hear that noise?" Hill asked. "You won't hear that noise with electrification."

The Caltrain electrification investment proposal comes at a time when the California High-Speed Rail Authority is looking to allocate funds to transit systems in northern and southern California that will eventually connect with the statewide high-speed rail system.

Peninsula politicians have been galvanized by the concept of a "blended" rail system between San Jose and San Francisco, one that would accommodate high-speed trains and Caltrain on a shared, two-track route and prevent the build-out of a larger, more disruptive four-track system.

The MTC proposal seeks to allocate about $750 million in local transportation funds for Caltrain electrification that would be matched dollar-for-dollar by high-speed rail bond money, thereby raising $1.5 billion for the six-year project, Hill said.

Hill said that electrification would allow for quieter, faster trains with more trips and more stops, making the commute between San Francisco and the South Bay much faster than the current schedule or having to drive on gridlocked roadways.

"It takes me longer to get from San Mateo to San Jose than it takes me to get from San Mateo to Sacramento," Hill said.

An electrified Caltrain would be able to accommodate an increase in daily ridership from 45,000 to more than 70,000, and greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced by 90 percent, Hill said.

In order for the electrification proposal to move forward, the High-Speed Rail Authority must include in its business plan the $750 million allocation of Proposition 1A bond money to Caltrain, Hill said.

The Legislature then must include the allocation in the state budget and approve it, he said.

Hill urged public support for the Caltrain electrification project and suggested that Peninsula residents "let their voices be heard" by contacting state and local officials and showing up at upcoming meetings.

Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, tonight is hosting a public informational hearing with the Senate Select Committee on High-Speed Rail in Mountain View tonight. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, located at 500 Castro St.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Andrew
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 13, 2012 at 5:49 pm

While I support electrification (and HSR), that's great that Caltrain could have more trains for 70,000+ people. However, even today they claim they can't afford to run more than 1 train an hour during most of the day.

If Caltrain is electrified, will there at least be a commitment to a certain minimum frequency of service that makes it a viable commuting option for more people?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jason
a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Mar 13, 2012 at 9:27 pm

Caltrain is an unfortunate byproduct of a lack of BART. Rather than upgrading Caltrain wouldn't it be better to extend BART?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Mar 13, 2012 at 9:58 pm

I had a chance to ride alot of trains like the one we are needing to replace Caltrain. The train is a 19th century throwback, slow. If we could build something lighter, quiet and efficent people will ride. I hoping one day BART will go around the Bay


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Christopher Parkinson
a resident of Willowgate
on Mar 14, 2012 at 9:42 am

Electrifying CalTrain is more frequency. They are talking about up to 8 minute frequency. It is also more speed. CalTrain will not do anything for safety, they are doing this with MTC money and will rely on commitments from CAHSRA. They are planting the seed with no EIR to get HSR going down those tracks and all "at grade".

These democrats are selling the Bay Area short. Instead of the rational project of BART where they have a high mind of safety, CalTrain has been given the green light to advance high speed trains with "blended tracks" mixing heavy commercial trains with high speed electric trains including the HSR. It is a political scandal that includes Anna Eshoo, Senator Simitian, ABAG board, the MTC board, and the Air Quality board.

Is this what we want? I say there is a need in Bakersfield to Palmdale. Instead the CAHSRA has huckstered California into a dance with the devil in pushing CAHSRA with "at grade" dividing our cities, creating havoc for anyone living near the tracks and for what? Does this really have to do with ridership? No this has to do with supporting ABAG's projections of migration into the state. If the state builds the CAHSRA (here through electrified CalTrain) they think people by the millions will come to California to live and work. This is about ABAG's power to fulfill for the first time their projects or at least try to. The CAHSRA will be expensive to ride. We must put a stop to all of this and allow BART to fulfill its destiny.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by K Dinsmore
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 14, 2012 at 1:17 pm

"It takes me longer to get from San Mateo to San Jose than it takes me to get from San Mateo to Sacramento," Hill said.

Yeah, right. Such BS statements used to push snake oil products. I'm willing to bet actual money on this if Mr. Hill wants to take me up on it.

NO HSR, NO Caltrain, rip it out, use the line space for BART extensions. HSR is ill concieved and and huge budget lie, once unions get involved the costs will be astronomical and the time will be 10x. Waste of time, money and terrible for everyone for a product that adds no value.

It's already a huge pain in the behind to cross the tracks in Mt. View at Moffet and Rengstorff. They get backed up and the light cycles are stupid. Add more trains and HSR and you'll never cross those roads. All the cars waiting all the time will negate any 'green' savings.

This is all designed to make a few people more wealthy at the cost of everyone else.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by D.Broeder of Los Altos
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Mar 14, 2012 at 3:37 pm

No HSR on the Peninsula !! Just continue BART from Milbrae to San Jose, elevated or under at all road crossing, like we should have 30 years ago. (3 tracks 2 for BART one for freight?).
Then run BART to Sacramento from Concord,Stockton from Dublin .Then if you want to ride HSR you can take BART to Stockton or San Jose
if HSR comes there.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Alex M.
a resident of Willowgate
on Mar 14, 2012 at 3:42 pm

The annoying noise made by CalTrain isn't from not being electric. It's the horns, and those horns are required for trains that cross through pedestrian and automotive rights-of-way. I don't see this changing if the trains were converted to pure electric.

The CalTrain engines are already electric, in that the wheels use electric drive motors powered by onboard diesel electric generators. Making them pure electric like BART or VTA LightRail would quiet the engines but as I said, the dominant noise that carries long distances comes from the horns.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Doug Pearson
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Mar 14, 2012 at 8:04 pm

I want Caltrain to be electrified and I want no at grade crossings. (There are several in Mountain View.) If course, that will cost a LOT of money, so it may never be done.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of another community
on Mar 14, 2012 at 9:46 pm

There are exactly two grade crossings in Mountain View. They are not particularly hard to get rid of, regardless of what runs on the rails--Caltrain, HSR, BART, or whatever.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Christopher Parkinson
a resident of Willowgate
on Mar 16, 2012 at 9:57 am

Christopher Parkinson is a registered user.

Anonymous, The Rengstorff grade separation is about 70 million and can involve lowering Rengstorff and Central Expressway. Castro Street is another issue. The Stevens Creek keeps CalTrain or the HSR from lowering into a trench. BART however does not have the height requirements and a 5% grade might be doable for lowering into a trench. Pushing Castro underground is also about 70 million. The money is HSR related thus no gas tax money can be used. I am sure if you wrote a check to the City they would be able to do your simple fixes. Then it comes to width and that is a touchy subject and CalTrain wants 4 rails throughout the City.

You can make the check out to the City of Mountain View and take it to the City Clerks office.


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