Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Regional agreement to fund Caltrain modernization is approved

The approval by the city of San Jose, Calif., is the last endorsement needed for a regional agreement to fully fund the modernization of the San Francisco Bay area Caltrain system.

The agreement leverages local, regional and federal funding to secure hundreds of millions of dollars in state high-speed rail funds for the peninsula. The next step will be the state Legislature's approval of funding later this month through the annual budget process. If funding is approved, riders could see an electrified and modernized Caltrain system as soon as 2019.

In addition to funding Caltrain modernization, the agreement also calls for future improvements to accommodate integrated Caltrain and high-speed rail service between San Francisco and San Jose. This blended system was proposed to control high-speed rail project costs and minimize impacts on surrounding communities.

To protect surrounding communities, the agreement specifies that the blended system will be limited to design alternatives that are primarily two-tracks and exist substantially within the existing Caltrain right-of-way.

Under the agreement, before the blended system is built, peninsula communities will benefit from electrified Caltrain service, which will provide faster, cleaner, quieter, more frequent service to more stations and more riders between San Francisco and San Jose.

Caltrain continues to experience record ridership growth, but the system's current diesel operations are near capacity and are consistently threatened by an ongoing structural deficit. The electrification and modernization of the Caltrain corridor will help accommodate increased ridership and reduce the subsidy required to operate the system, while also helping to prepare the corridor for future high-speed rail service.

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