Assemblyman Jerry Hill, U.S. Representative Jackie Speier, state Senator Leland Yee and Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, along with environmentalists and public transit supporters, gathered Thursday at the Millbrae Caltrain Station in celebration of the approval of allocating $39.8 million towards the electrification of Caltrain by the California Transportation Commission.
“Today is a milestone. We are here to reboot Caltrain,” said Speier of the 150-year-old train system. “It’s a huge step.”
The nearly $40 million is the first amount out of a total $705 million the leaders secured from state high speed rail bond money to upgrade Caltrain by 2019. The funds will be matched by federal and local agencies to complete the $1.5 billion project.
The electrification project is expected to bring 9,600 jobs to the area.
The $39.8 million, approved by the CTC Thursday morning, will go towards an advanced signaling system, the foundation for the planned electrification by providing a safer, more efficient operation.
It includes Positive Train Control, which helps prevent train-to-train collisions and increasing protection on the Caltrain right of way. It will allow for more trains per hour to meet growing ridership numbers.
Electrifying Caltrain, managed by the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board, will provide faster, more efficient, quieter transit, with 90 percent less emissions. Besides putting an advanced signaling system in place, the modernization includes implementing electrification and buying electric multiple unit vehicles.
“One of the great things about the new Caltrain, it’s going to be much quieter and it’s going to be much cleaner,” Speier said. “It going to be faster, cleaner, cheaper…what more could you ask for?”
More frequent trains are expected to bring in higher ridership from about 45,000 to around 70,000 passengers, and therefore higher revenue, which could result in reduced necessary funding from San Mateo, Santa Clara and San Francisco transit agencies by half, Hill said.
Elected officials have pushed for Caltrain electrification for years and even decades, with securing funds as the primary obstacle. Officials said voter approval of Proposition 1A in 2008 is the main reason this upgrade is possible, and that Thursday’s allocation for an updated signaling system is the first step.
“This is probably one of the most exciting days of my political life,” said Hill. “There’s nothing I believe more significant that we can do than we’re doing today.”