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New High-Speed Rail Plan Approved, Includes Pact to Electrify Caltrain

April 12, 2012 Update
Meeting in San Francisco, the California High-Speed Rail Authority Board today unanimously passed a 2012 revised business plan that will provide for high-speed rail service within a decade, connect the state’s major metropolitan areas, utilize existing rail infrastructure in northern and southern California and provide earlier statewide benefits to commuters in the Bay Area and Los Angeles at a cost of $68.4 billion. 

In another unanimous decision, the Board approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with MTC and other Northern California transportation partners that would electrify the popular Caltrain commuter train from San Jose to San Francisco. The MOU, which was approved by MTC on March 28 (see item below) calls for local and regional entities to provide funding for just over half the $1.5 billion agreement. The Authority would provide $706 million from 2008 Prop 1A bond monies. 

The state Legislature still needs to vote on whether to start building the high-speed rail line. A vote is expected in June. If the plan goes forward, construction could begin soon, and electric trains could be speeding up and down the Peninsula between San Francisco and San Jose by 2020. The plan envisions the electrified Caltrain line connecting with the rest of the high-speed system about 10 years later.

Landmark Agreement Puts Caltrain, High-Speed Rail on Fast Track

March 28, 2012
The Metropolitan Transportation Commission today unanimously approved a multi-agency Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that charts a course for electrification of the Caltrain corridor between San Jose and San Francisco; extension of the corridor to the new Transbay Transit Center now under construction in downtown San Francisco; the eventual accommodation of high-speed rail service in the Peninsula rail corridor; and development of new high-speed rail stations in San Jose and Millbrae as well as San Francisco.

The MOU — between and among MTC, the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board (Caltrain), the California High-Speed Rail Authority, the San Mateo County Transportation Authority, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, the city of San Jose, the City and County of San Francisco, and the San Francisco County Transportation Authority — aims to improve, enhance and expand the integration of local/regional and high-speed rail systems. The MOU also targets cost-effective near-term solutions in areas that share existing commuter rail facilities to reduce both the costs and the environmental impacts of the planned statewide high-speed rail system. The MOU:

  • establishes an Inter-related Program of Projects that addresses capacity, operational efficiency and public safety issues required to accommodate high-speed rail, commuter and freight services in the corridor;
  • identifies this program to include corridor electrification and new Caltrain rolling stock; installation of an advanced signal system; extension of the service to the Transbay Transit Center (designated by the Proposition 1A bond measure approved by California voters in 2008 as the northern terminus of high-speed rail); new high-speed rail stations at Diridon Station in San Jose and a Millbrae Station at San Francisco International Airport; and a Core Capacity project of necessary upgrades to stations, tunnels, bridges, passing tracks, and other track modifications such as selected grade separations; and
  • recognizes the most substantial and tangible near term investment benefits will be realized when the corridor electrification/rolling stock and advanced signal system projects are delivered. 

The MOU also proposes a $1.5 billion funding plan with a mix of local, regional, state, and federal dollars to pay for the electrification and advance signal system projects needed for the so-called blended service that would accommodate both electrified Caltrain operations and long-distance high-speed rail trains. Of this amount, roughly half, or $706 million, is expected to come from statewide high-speed rail sources. The remaining funds would include local sales taxes, Proposition 1B transit bond funds, Federal Transit Administration funds, bridge tolls and Bay Area Air Quality Management District funds.

Caltrain electrification has had broad public support for many years. The project is included in the expenditure plans for half-cent transportation sales tax measures approved by voters in Santa Clara County in 2000 and San Mateo County in 2004. Caltrain electrification also was identified as a high priority project in the San Francisco Prop K Expenditure Plan approved in November 2003. The electrification project and the switch-over to lightweight electric-multiple units also is included in the Regional Transit Expansion Program approved by MTC as Resolution 3434 in 2001, and was further analyzed and included in the Regional Rail Plan adopted by the Commission in 2007

The Advanced Signal System project is another foundation for improvements along the Peninsula rail corridor, necessary not only to meet safety requirements, but also to operate the blended Caltrain/high-speed service and to control train traffic during all future construction work and upgrades.