Electrification of Caltrain approved by board

Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board approves regional agreement to fund modernization

Caltrain has received a unanimous thumbs-up by the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board to electrify the Peninsula commuter-rail system.

The Joint Powers Board, the agency that owns and operates Caltrain, approved a regional agreement Thursday, May 3, to fully fund the railroad electrification.

The memorandum of understanding between the California High-Speed Rail Authority and seven Bay Area public agencies would use local, regional and federal funding to secure hundreds of millions of dollars in high-speed rail funds for the project. Riders could see an electrified Caltrain system as soon as 2019, Caltrain announced.

Electrification will bring a faster, cleaner, quieter, more efficient train service, with more frequent service to more stations. The result would be an increase in riders and an increase in revenue, Caltrain stated in an announcement.

Board Chair Adrienne Tissier urged the board to support the agreement.

"Today is the day. This is the beginning of making sure that we have a cleaner train, a faster train, more service, more stops, less noise and cleaner air," she said.

The agreement is based on a "blended system" first proposed by Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-Palo Alto), state Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) and Assemblyman Rich Gordon (Menlo Park).

A blended system would allow Caltrain and high-speed rail to operate on the Caltrain tracks using the current infrastructure. A larger project would be developed in phases over the next 25 years.

"The recent action taken by the several transit agencies will produce an historic accomplishment -- the modernization of Caltrain. A 21st-century system will serve Silicon Valley commuters well, while stimulating local economies and alleviating traffic congestion. This is a huge win for the people of the Peninsula," Eshoo said.

The agreement clearly spells out Caltrain's ownership of the right of way and the agency's responsibility to represent the needs of the community it serves, Caltrain noted.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the California High-Speed Rail Authority have already approved the agreement.

In the next few weeks it will be considered by the City and County of San Francisco, the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, the City of San Jose, the San Mateo County Transportation Authority, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, and the Transbay Terminal Joint Powers Board.


Like this comment
Posted by Bart
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 4, 2012 at 12:23 pm

Why do this? BART should be linked around the bay for maximum efficiency. Ridership would increase dramatically due to convenience. Run on the current cal train right of way. Worth a couple of years of bus bridges

Like this comment
Posted by J.H.
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on May 4, 2012 at 3:38 pm

Now there's a market for N.J. Transit's ALP-44 electric locomotives.

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 4, 2012 at 4:41 pm

Great. The camel's nose under the tent.

Like this comment
Posted by Railfan
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on May 4, 2012 at 11:01 pm

Caltrains needs electrification with of without HSR funds.


The cost of Caltrain electrification without new grade separations or tunnel modification is far less than what the public has been told. The billion dollar plus cost often quoted in the media is inflated by a factor of about two if you do not electrify the San Jose to Gilroy segment.. I will itemize as follows:

1. Equipment(REF:
Based on the contract Amtrak has placed with Siemens, the existing 28 “road” locomotives can be replaced for about $175 million assuming a very conservative estimate of the value of the old locomotives. The new units would be equipped for use with either overhead wires or a third rail which would be necessary in the tunnels of San Francisco.
please note that Siemens is building the Amtrak locomotives at their facility in Sacramento.

2, Electrification(REF.}
A recent reference stated that a complete over 100 KM(62 mile) system in Australia is being built over five years at a cost of $400 million. Since Caltrain is a 52 mile system this is a good comparison.

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 5, 2012 at 8:46 am

Lower cost or not Railfan, the TRUE reason they want to electrify Caltrain is to make it easier to push the HSR boondoggle down our throats.

I live near the tracks. The deisels don't bother me. Frankly from a noise standpoint, I hear far more "noise" from the train horns than I do from the deisel engines. Without grade seperations that is not going to change.

Like this comment
Posted by Donald
a resident of another community
on May 6, 2012 at 9:18 pm

Menlo Voter: Who is the "they" to whom you refer? Caltrain has been seeking electrification for many years (approx 2004), long before the HSR bond issue was on the ballot. Furthermore, this is really a modernization project with electrification being only one part of it (although a major part). Of course the Caltrain JPB would support it, whether HSR existed or not.

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Posted by Train Tom
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 6, 2012 at 9:28 pm

According to this report:

Web Link

the electrification concept was introduced in 1998 and planning began in 1999. It certainly had nothing to do with HSR at that time.

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 7, 2012 at 8:15 am

Electrification had nothing to do with HSR at teh time, NOW it has EVERYTHING to do with HSR.

"They" is the HSR Authority. They are who want to continue to shove this boondoggle down our throats.

Like this comment
Posted by Donald
a resident of another community
on May 7, 2012 at 9:52 pm

Regardless of how you feel about HSR, you have to admit that the Caltrain board would be crazy to turn down funding to do the modernization that they have been seeking for more than a decade.

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 8, 2012 at 7:40 am


The money would be better spent elswhere.

Like this comment
Posted by morris brown
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on May 8, 2012 at 7:50 am

On Thursday the CalTrain board approved a MOU with High Speed Rail Authority, which CalTrain is celebrating as being the salvation of CalTrain, since it will provide funding for electrification of their tracks.

What a deal! One really wonders if this board, which literally rubber-stamps everything that comes before them, ever exercises any thought on the actions they take.

This MOU replaces the original agreement between the Authority and CalTrain. That agreement would have funded not only electrification, but full grade separations of the line. Under that agreement, CalTrain would not be sharing its tracks with the Authority, but the Authority would have its own dedicated tracks and CalTrain would have its own tracks. Not anymore.

Now, CalTrain must allot time slots on its tracks to the Authority, reducing the number of trains and therefore the service that CalTrain will be able to provide to its commuters. It will prove to be an un-workable arrangement for both parties.

The original full 4 track deal was not acceptable to the communities along the Peninsula. This new arrangement is not be acceptable either. Passing tracks along about one-fourth of the 50 miles from SF to San Jose will be needed, and are not going to be acceptable to whatever communities they run through. San Mateo is already asking for some kind of grade separations, and there is no funding for those or other grade separation anywhere else either.

The fact of the matter is that High Speed Rail does not belong on the CalTrain corridor at all. It should have never been approved in the first place and it should never have been again approved last Thursday.

Like this comment
Posted by Some Guy
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 9, 2012 at 1:39 pm

It would make far more sense to build out BART than upgrade Caltrain.

Just another waste of money on an outdated system.

Like this comment
Posted by kathleen djordjevioch
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on May 10, 2012 at 10:41 am

Please tell me what "blended" means. The high speed trains will be using the old CalTrain tracks on the SF peninsula? Is that possible?
The same trains which will run at 200 miles per hour down the valley on new tracks?

Furthermore, if these high speed trains run regularly from SF to San Jose, all the street crossings must be changed to keep traffic and trains separate...i.e. grade crossings. So the plan is to build grade crossings for the old tracks, and then eventually, as has always been implied, add the needed set of tracks for the high speed trains. And of course rebuild all the grade crossings?
Or make the grade crossings large enough for 4 tracks to begin with. Imagine this mess at every street crossing the tracks!

How blended? Or do they mean running shuttle trains down the peninsula to San Jose, then changing to board the new High Speed Train? (a reasonable alternative) Then say so!

Otherwise, I don't believe you can run these super fast machines on the old tracks, and alternate high speed trains and commuter trains all day long!

No one has said outright that they mean to run these new "bullet" trains on the old tracks, or what kind of grade crossings are envisioned. They just say it will be blended. How blended?
I wish someone would explain

Like this comment
Posted by Donald
a resident of another community
on May 10, 2012 at 9:15 pm

In principle a single system for the Bay Area makes sense, and that system would be BART. However, BART uses non-standard tracks, and all businesees that use the freight trains that now run on the Caltrain tracks at night would be out of luck. BART also has an extremely high cost per mile compared to Caltrain. If you want to keep the tracks for the freight trains and add new tracks for BART you run into the same right-of-way issues that HSR has, and you aren't saving any money.

Like this comment
Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on May 11, 2012 at 6:57 am

Donald is spot on. The O&M costs for BART are staggering. Martin Engel was promoting an idea of invividually powered cars that were non-polluting or very low polluting. Perhaps Martin could give us a refresher course. He has studied this issue very well and seems to have a lot of knowledge.

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