Thursday, March 29, 2012

California’s MTC endorses regional agreement to fund modernization

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The San Francisco Bay area Metropolitan Transportation Commission approved a regional agreement to fully fund the electrification of Caltrain on March 28 and is the first step in bringing modernized rail service to the region spanning San Francisco to San Jose.

The Memorandum of Understanding between the California High-Speed Rail Authority and more than a half-dozen Bay Area public agencies takes advantage of local, regional and federal funding to leverage hundreds of millions of dollars in high-speed rail matching funds for investment in electrification and modernization of Caltrain. This investment could result in a modernized Caltrain system as soon as 2020.

The agreement must be endorsed by all the parties, which include the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, the San Mateo County Transportation Authority, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, the city of San Jose, the city and county of San Francisco and the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board, which owns and operates Caltrain.

With an electrified system Caltrain will be able to operate lighter-weight electric vehicles with significant performance advantages compared to the existing diesel rail technology.

Electrification will bring a faster, cleaner, quieter, more efficient rail system to the corridor, with more frequent service to more stations and significantly increased ridership. A modernized Caltrain system will accommodate future job and population growth in the region.

Additional improvements, which would be done after Caltrain is electrified, would be needed before future high-speed rail service could operate on the corridor.

Currently, Caltrain is studying the feasibility of various alternatives to determine what infrastructure improvements will be needed to support high-speed rail while minimizing the impact on surrounding communities.

The agreement specifies that future improvements would be limited to support blended high-speed and commuter rail operations on a system that is primarily two-tracks.

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