The Caltrain Board of Directors approved $1.25 billion in contracts to begin work on the Peninsula Corridor Electrification Project (PCEP).
The contract for design and construction of the corridor’s electrification infrastructure was awarded to Balfour Beatty Infrastructure, Inc., and the contract for the manufacture of high-performance electric trains was awarded to Stadler US, Inc.
When complete, the PCEP will help address rapidly-growing ridership by allowing the operation of more service that will accommodate more riders. The project will also significantly decrease vehicle-miles traveled and greenhouse gas emissions throughout the Peninsula corridor. Additionally, the project lays the foundation for the eventual operation of high-speed rail service that will connect the Bay Area to the rest of the state.
Caltrain says it is struggling to accommodate unprecedented regional growth, with six consecutive years of record-setting ridership and a near doubling of ridership since 2010. As Hwy 101 and 280 have become more and more congested, Caltrain has become a preferred commute option between San Francisco and Silicon Valley. As a result, peak hour service is well over 100 percent capacity with ridership on some trains exceeding 125 percent of available seats.
Not only will the PCEP improve train performance and increase ridership, it will provide substantial environmental benefits to the region’s air quality through a dramatic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions that would otherwise be present through the use of diesel-powered trains. An electrified Caltrain system will improve regional air quality by up to 97 percent, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 176,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent and take more than 619,000 daily vehicle miles off the region’s roadways by 2040. Reductions in air pollutant emissions represent long-term health benefits and will enhance the quality of life for Caltrain riders, residents and employees adjacent to the Caltrain corridor.
Caltrain says the region cannot continue to thrive without equipping the 150-year-old rail corridor with a modernized transit system capable of accommodating current and future ridership demand.
Funding for the project comes from a variety of local, regional, state and federal sources, which reflects the project’s widespread support from a growing coalition of stakeholders committed to improving public transportation and addressing congestion between San Francisco and San Jose.
The contracts were approved with a “limited” notice to proceed. A full notice to proceed will be issued following completion of a funding agreement with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), which is expected to be finalized later this year. Local and state investment in the project has been secured through a series of agreements between Caltrain and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission; Caltrain’s member agencies in San Francisco, Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties and the California High Speed Rail Authority.
The remaining funds will be secured through Federal programs focused on increasing ridership capacity on existing transit systems. In 2015, Caltrain applied for $647 million from the FTA Core Capacity Program. In February, the Obama Administration allocated nearly $73 million in prior year funding to the project and requested that another $125 million be included in the 2017 Federal Budget.
“The award of these contracts marks an important milestone in Caltrain’s 150-year history,” said Jim Hartnett, Caltrain’s executive director. “The Caltrain Modernization Program is the most transformative project this corridor has ever undertaken. It offers unique economic, environmental and mobility benefits to the region and it is a key link in a high-speed rail network that will transform the way we think about transportation in California.”
Caltrain expects to begin rollout of electrified passenger service in winter 2020.