Caltrain will finally go electric thanks to FTA funding

It took decades to win an upgrade for the Silicon Valley corridor's outdated diesel fleet.

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Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images
Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images

The future of California's high-speed rail project relies in part on an initiative to migrate Silicon Valley's Caltrain corridor from a fleet of outdated diesel engines to a more modern electric system. That electrification project was put in jeopardy earlier this year when state Republicans asked Trump's Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to block a $650 million federal grant, claiming it should be shut down due to cost overruns. Now, in response to Caltrain's petition, the Federal Transit Administration has announced it will approve the funds and the upgrade can finally move forward after decades of delays.

The project is not only expected to bring faster, cleaner and more reliable train service to the 51-mile Caltrain system that connects San Francisco to Silicon Valley and San Jose, but according to the San Jose Mercury News, the project is expected to create 10,000 jobs in California and around the country. Beyond Silicon Valley, the electrification project is intertwined with the plan to build a bullet train between the Bay Area and Los Angeles.

The commitment from the FTA comes at the last possible moment. As recently as last week, Secretary Chao had said that she couldn't approve the grant because her department didn't have the funds to spare and if the funds hadn't been approved by June 2nd, Caltrain would have lost key contracts for the work. The announcement means the project will get $100 million to start, but the remaining $550 million in federal funding is still subject to future approval by Congress. The rest of the project's $2 billion budget will come from state and local sources.

"I did not predict this," San Jose Mayor told the Mercury News. "I'm thrilled to witness the triumph of sound policy over senseless politics. There's not a project in the United States that's more shovel-ready than this one."

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