Caltrain gets $16 million grant for signal upgrades

Federal money would enable design work for 'positive train controls'

Caltrain's effort to upgrade its train service surged ahead Thursday when the Federal Railroad Administration awarded the cash-strapped system a $16 million to design a modern signaling system.

The funds would be used to design a "positive train control" system -- a GPS-based system that would allow Caltrain to more efficiently monitor and control trains. The signal system automatically slows down trains when they reach close proximity, prevents derailments and ensures trains don't go into zones where work is being done on the rails. All rail systems in which passenger trains share tracks with freight are required by federal law to install positive control by 2015.

The signaling system would also allow Caltrain to run more trains up and down the Peninsula -- a key objective of the popular train service that carries 41,000 people per day. Caltrain announced that it will allow "train movements and schedules to be coordinated more efficiently" and enable the ultimate operation of high-speed rail on the Peninsula.

U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo, who helped arrange the federal grant, called the award an "important victory" for Caltrain and for her constituents on the Peninsula. Though the awarded funds are far short of what is needed to install positive train control -- a project with an estimated price tag of $250 million -- Eshoo said the grant represents a commitment from the federal government to modernize the train system.

"The $16 million doesn't cover all the costs, but this is the bridge that will get us to complete the design," Eshoo told the Weekly. "That's why it's so important -- it's an improvement for safety and efficiency.

"It's a significant step to upgrade Caltrain."

The signaling technology is a key component of what Eshoo, state Sen. Joe Simitian and state Assemblyman Rich Gordon described in April as "21st Century Caltrain." The concept also includes new train stock and a switch from diesel to electricity. The Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board, which oversees Caltrain, has been working on the environmental analysis for an electrified system and hopes to have the document certified this summer.

Eshoo has been working since spring 2010 to allocate federal stimulus money for Caltrain improvements. In May 2010, she sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, requesting an allocation for positive train control on the Caltrain corridor. LaHood finalized the deal with the California High-Speed Rail Authority this week.

In a prepared statement, LaHood said keeping people safe is the department's "top priority, and positive train-control technology will ensure California's rail network transports passengers more safely and efficiently than ever before."

"This comprehensive safety technology will improve passenger service along the highly traveled corridor between San Francisco and San Jose and will ultimately benefit the entire high-speed rail system in California."

Caltrain officials welcomed the announcement, with Executive Director Mike Scanlon calling it "an important step forward in our efforts to provide Bay Area communities with a modernized, sustainable commuter rail system that is fully compatible with future high-speed-rail service." Though the proposed rail system is scheduled to launch in Central Valley, it would ultimately be extended to the Peninsula along the Caltrain corridor under current plans.

"The Administration and our Congressional leaders should be applauded for recognizing the importance of optimizing safety and promoting integration with regional systems as we continue to plan a project that will transform the way Californians travel," Scanlon said in a statement.

What is community worth to you?
Support local journalism.


Like this comment
Posted by Morris Brown
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jun 23, 2011 at 9:07 pm

This award represents the worst kind of our Federal and Local government throwing money away.

Rep. Eshoo essentially engineered an "earmark" for CalTrain. The funds are to be used to engineer a new non-compatible system of Positive Train Control" (PTC). Rather than buy off the shelf, well proven technology, CalTrain has been on a rampage to develop their own system.


Web Link

the link to the award on the CalTRain site and read:

June 23, 2011

The Federal Railroad Administration has announced the award of a $16 million cooperative agreement to the California High Speed Rail Authority for the design of a new, modernized signaling system on the Caltrain corridor between San Francisco and San Jose.

The new system, known as the Communication Based Overlay Signal System, includes safety improvements required by federal law and is the first step in the modernization of the Caltrain corridor, which is being planned to support electrified passenger rail service, including high-speed rail, between San Francisco and San Jose.

Here you see the system known as CBOSS will be the object to spend these funds.

A more ridiculous expenditure would be hard to imagine. Why in the world re-invent the wheel?

Congresswoman Eshoo either doesn't know and understand what she has done, or really doesn't care.

Like this comment
Posted by Martin Engel
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jun 23, 2011 at 10:02 pm

The $16 million are political pork for the Peninsula Democrats. The same way that the $715 million awarded to the CHSRA for the Central Valley a week before last November's elections was political pork for Democrat Jim Costa, who was therefore re-elected.

Those $16 million are for the CHSRA to mark its Caltrain corridor territory the way alpha dogs mark theirs. Consider it a down-payment by the CHSRA to Caltrain for the use of the corridor.

All these millions and billions for HSR are not about trains, or jobs, or oil, or the environment or the economy. That's what we are expected to believe. They are about the management of very large amounts of money. They are about bringing massive federal funding (even if borrowed) into California and the politicians taking credit for it.

For those who manage Caltrain, it's about empire building; advancing their hardware (that's what real, manly men do), increasing their headcount and their salaries. They love spending capital development dollars. Electrification is not about improving commuter service. It's code for bringing HSR to the Caltrain corridor.

Same for the CHSRA. Growing Bureaucracies with tax dollars. There won't be private investments, not now, not ever. Why do you suppose it's being called a Boondoggle and a White Elephant?

The high-speed rail project should be terminated in California. The Caltrain organization should be replaced with a Bay Area wide, state-supported transit and commuter service that includes BART and the re-structured Peninsula Commuter Rail Service. It is not necessary to electrify the Peninsula. It is not necessary to convert the rail corridor to BART technology.

And, by the way, Positive Train Control should be standardized at the federal level and required for ALL rail systems in the US.

Like this comment
Posted by Joanna
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 24, 2011 at 6:46 pm

There might be (probably is) some waste here. How much are the big boys in charge making?

Like this comment
Posted by Joanna
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 24, 2011 at 6:46 pm

There might be (probably is) some waste here. How much are the big boys in charge making?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

All your news. All in one place. Every day.

Disposing of Disposables
By Sherry Listgarten | 21 comments | 2,243 views

Couples Counseling, Al Pacino Style
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,711 views

Facing high kitchen turnover, Los Altos' The Post revamps majority of its menu
By Elena Kadvany | 1 comment | 1,504 views

Expect Years of Unprecedented Traffic Congestion and More Empty Storefronts
By Dana Hendrickson | 12 comments | 954 views

By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 275 views