Caltrain Electrification Approved

After Months of Back and Forth, Trump Admin Signs off on Caltrain Electrification Project

Overhead electrification in Connecticut. Caltrain electrification will survive the Trump Administration after all. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Overhead electrification in Connecticut. Caltrain electrification will survive the Trump Administration after all. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

After months of back and forth, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced that it is approving $647 million in funds for Caltrain electrification. The grant approval will allow Caltrain to begin construction of its electrification project almost immediately, bringing smoother rides and cleaner air to the Bay Area.

“We are very thankful to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao and the Trump Administration for recognizing the value that Caltrain Electrification will create for the Bay Area and the nation by easing congestion in one of the country’s most economically productive regions,” said Jim Hartnett, General Manager and CEO of Caltrain, in a prepared statement.

As Streetsblog readers know from previous posts, this has been a long and frustrating journey starting a few months ago when, spurred on by a letter against the project from California’s own Republican congressional delegation, Chao failed to sign the authorization for the $647 federal grant for the electrification project (the entire project costs nearly $2 billion).  As late as Tuesday, it was still unclear if the funds would be forthcoming or if the project would even happen. But strong lobbying in favor of the project from Silicon Valley business leaders and others seems to have done the trick.

“Thanks to our Bay Area members of congress, business community, riders and community leaders for pushing the federal funding across the finish line,” said Adina Levin of Friends of Caltrain. “Electrification is a transformative step, setting the stage for greatly improved, more convenient, higher capacity regional transit service over time. ”

Barring any more unexpected developments, the project can begin construction shortly with electrified passenger service starting in 2021. “This is a huge win for Bay Area commuters and more broadly for public transit across the country,” said Stuart Cohen, Executive Director of TransForm. “The outcry in support of Caltrain should make the administration think twice before cutting funding for other strong public transit projects.”

Let’s hope so.

Meanwhile, here’s Caltrain’s video, complete with visualizations, about the project:

  • Drew Levitt

    The (tens of?) millions of wasted dollars and months of completely unnecessary delay can never be recovered. But the project will go forward, and for that I’m very glad.

    I intend to thank Dianne Feinstein for her vocal and ultimately effective protestations on behalf of this vital project.

  • Mario Tanev

    Based on the previous article on this ( it seems Secretary Chao was confused about how such grants worked. The indication was that she expected all funding to be ready before spending it. In reality, even the 100M that was ready couldn’t be spent without her approval. A Catch 22.

    So much basic institutional knowledge has been lost with the Trump administration, even though Secretary Chao is in fact experienced in government.

  • voltairesmistress

    Good suggestion, Drew. I just did so, because of your post. For anyone who has ever written Senator Feinstein to question or criticize, now would be the time to thank her. Our reps are only human and respond positively to well-earned praise.

  • senorroboto

    Hurray for nepotism!

  • Vooch

    Now onto the SD – LA -SB electrification 🙂

    Increase door-to-door average speed from 30 mph to 50 !

  • Richard

    Much larger corridor, might be more feasible to cut it into pieces.

  • SCAG actually did a study on electrifying the LA Basin back in the early 1990s, which would’ve included some of that corridor.

  • Vooch

    good idea, maybe LA-SD first then LA -SB

  • Drew Levitt

    Thanks! I’m sure Anna Eshoo and Jackie Speier, among others, were also working very hard on this. And the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, etc. It takes a village.

  • Richard

    I think the best bet would be to try couple it with the LAUS through running. Electrify LAUS to SD and to Burbank. Then you can work west from there but also east to San Bernardino.


Image: Caltrain

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Possible paint schemes for Caltrain's electric trainsets. Image: Caltrain

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