Caltrain is one step closer to receiving the electrification and modernization officials say the system desperately needs.
An agreement between the California High-Speed Rail Authority and more than half a dozen Bay Area public agencies will entirely fund an upgrade to the system, which includes modernization, agency spokeswoman Christine Dunn announced in a statement Thursday morning.
According to Dunn, the funding agreement uses local, regional and federal dollars to leverage hundreds of millions of dollars matched by the high-speed rail authority.
The electrification and modernization of Caltrain have been in the works for more than a decade, and are "critically-needed improvements that will dramatically improve the service and help ensure the long-term viability of the commuter rail system," Dunn said in the statement.
The announcement comes just a week after Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, Peninsula residents at a news conference at the San Mateo Caltrain Station to get on board with the electrification of Caltrain.
Once the system is electrified, Caltrain will be able to operate lighter-weight electric vehicles with major performance advantages compared to the existing diesel rail technology.
Trains will be faster, cleaner, quieter and more efficient, according to Caltrain officials.
In addition, riders will see more frequent service to more stations, which will result in increased ridership and prepare the system to accommodate future job growth.
Modernizing Caltrain is also an important step in stabilizing the rail agency’s long-struggling finances. Caltrain is one of the few transit agencies in the country that does not have its own, dedicated tax base or source of revenue.
“Electrification is an essential improvement that is critical to the future of the system,” Executive Director Mike Scanlon said in a statement.
“This is an enormous step forward that prioritizes these improvements and delivers early benefits to the Caltrain system, its riders and surrounding communities,” he said.
Plans for the electrification of Caltrain still need to be approved by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission at its meeting next week, as well as the boards of all the public agencies, and the state legislature will also need to sign off on the bond, Caltrain spokesman Seamus Murphy said.
If approved, Caltrain could be electrified as soon as 2020, more than a decade before it is assumed in the most recent version of the High Speed Rail Business Plan.
Caltrain is currently assessing the possibilities of various blended system alternatives to the four-track system, which the agency opposes, to determine what specific infrastructure improvements will eventually be needed to support high-speed rail and how they can be designed to minimize impacts on surrounding communities.