Friday, March 26, 2010

Final environmental report to electrify Caltrain receives clearance

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The plan to electrify Caltrain will achieve a major milestone pending certification of the Final Environmental Impact Report and Project Adoption on April 1 by the Board of Directors. Approval by the board completes the environmental process for the Caltrain Electrification Program, a major element of the plans to modernize the Peninsula rail system, and positions the railroad to seek federal and state funding.

"Electrification is the future of Caltrain," said Caltrain Chair Sean Elsbernd, "and this puts us in an ideal position to pursue federal and state funding. This is a major step forward for our efforts."

Caltrain prepared a combined environmental document for the electrification program: an Environmental Assessment/Final EIR. Approval of the Environmental Assessment and Certification of the Final EIR are critical steps in enabling Caltrain to compete for federal and state funds. Environmental clearance is a key criterion for funding investment decisions.

Under the National Environmental Policy Act, the Federal Transit Administration issued the Findings of No Significant Impact for the Environmental Assessment in 2009. The Final EIR is required by the state under the California Environmental Quality Act.

Public participation has been an important component of the complex project. To solicit input on the Environmental Assessment/Draft EIR, four formal public hearings were held in 2004 throughout the Caltrain service area and the meetings were widely publicized. Additionally, the Environmental Assessment/Draft EIR was available for public review and comment from April 12, 2004 through May 25, 2004. Staff also met with representatives from cities and other public agencies about the project. All of the comments received during this period have been included and addressed in the Environmental Assessment/Final EIR.

Last year, persons who submitted comments on the Environmental Assessment/Draft EIR, as well as elected officials and public agencies in the Caltrain service area, received a newsletter updating them on the status of the electrification program. Public agencies that commented on the Environmental Assessment/Draft EIR within the public review period have received copies of the Environmental Assessment/Final EIR.

The electrification program is the critical modernization program to ensure a vibrant future for Caltrain. It anticipates an electrified rail system from the San Francisco Caltrain Station to the Tamien station in San Jose. The system is powered by overhead wires and designed to minimize visual impact.

In addition, the electrification program calls for converting the Caltrain rolling stock from its current diesel locomotive-powered cars to Electric Multiple Units in use throughout the world. The EMUs feature greatly enhanced performance that will enable Caltrain to provide more service.

The electrification of Caltrain also will result in significant reductions in noise and air pollution. The Environmental Assessment/Final EIR concludes that the electrified system will be quieter than the current diesel equipment and will mean a 90 percent reduction in emissions.

Following the board action, the Final EIR will be filed with the State Clearinghouse. The public has 30 days to review the report.

The Environmental Assessment/Final EIR is posted on the Caltrain Web site: www.caltrain.com/caltrain2025.html.

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