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SF, Peninsula officials urge feds to OK Caltrain funds

Electrification project in limbo after state Republicans objected

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San Francisco and Peninsula elected officials on Monday called on the Trump administration to approve federal funding for a Caltrain electrification project that is expected to add capacity to the busy transit corridor.

Speaking at an event at the Caltrain station in San Francisco April 24, officials including U.S. Reps. Jackie Speier and Anna Eshoo, as well as San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, argued that electrifying the Caltrain corridor would reduce emissions, save fuel, reduce traffic congestion and create jobs.

It would also increase capacity on the overcrowded Caltrain system, which now carries around 65,000 passengers a day, officials said.

"This wasn't thought of in the last 100 days, this has been in the works for over 25 years," Mayor Ed Lee said today. "That extra capacity is needed now more than ever."

The nearly $2 billion project was expected to receive the final installment of federal funding in February, a $647 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration approved in the last days of the Obama administration.

However, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao declined to sign off on the funds after receiving a letter from members of the California Republican congressional delegation objecting to the fact that the project also draws funds from a high-speed rail project they oppose.

The result has left the project, which is ready to break ground almost immediately after the funding is approved, in limbo, with Caltrain officials paying to extend some contracts while they wait to see if funding is included in the federal budget in May.

Speier, D-San Mateo, said the delay is costing around 9,600 jobs.

In addition, she said the Trump administration is threatening not just the Caltrain project, but the Capital Investment Grant Program that funds transit projects nationwide, at a potential cost of around 600,000 jobs nationwide.

"The president keeps saying 'Make America Great,' but the president's proposal would really make America stop," Speier said. "If in fact you're making America great again then we have got to create jobs."

Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, described Caltrain as an essential transportation system and part of the "economic backbone" of the Bay Area.

Eshoo, whose congressional district includes Mountain View, said that the project, which is backed by major business groups from San Francisco to San Jose, meets every requirement for the federal grant and is supported by state and voter-approved local funds, but is being held up by "bad politics."

"This is bad, bad politics," she said. "It's shameful that anything like this would happen. The American people deserve better, certainly the people of our region deserve better."

— Bay City News Service

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3 people like this
Posted by Jeff D
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Apr 25, 2017 at 3:49 pm

"a $647 grant from the Federal Transit Administration"

This has to be a mistake. If not then I will pay the $647 myself to create 9,600 jobs.

7 people like this
Posted by @@lets get real
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Apr 25, 2017 at 4:35 pm

And yet, you are still here. (Unless, of course, you are actually an out-of-state trollbot...)

27 people like this
Posted by Steve Ly
a resident of another community
on Apr 26, 2017 at 12:08 pm

Steve Ly is a registered user.

I hope that the Carolyn Flowers corruption scandal does not fall though the cracks with this extension. To recap, after approving funding from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) for Caltrain's “modernization program”, the LA Times published an article revealing that former FTA Administrator Carolyn Flowers, has suddenly been employed by AECOM, a major vendor to Caltrain. AECOM has a financial interest in the “modernization” project, which the grant will fund.

It reeks of corruption when a federal official approves a grant then takes a job with one of the beneficiaries of said grant. At the very least, Flowers should be dismissed and AECOM should be disqualified from working on the project.

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