U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao will sign a deal disbursing the money over the next five years. The federal dollars will cover about a third of the $2 billion project. The state and local government agencies will have to drum up the rest of the money.
Federal transportation officials had formally recommended the grant, but Chao held off on approving it until she got more details about President Donald Trump’s spending plan for the coming year.
Silicon Valley leaders applauded Chao’s approval, which came despite opposition from California Republicans. San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo called the decision a “triumph of sound policy over discordant politics.”
“There’s not a more shovel-ready project in the United States,” Liccardo said in a statement. “Electrifying Caltrain will pave the way to expand rider capacity, reduce emissions and improve service. This will provide our region with a great lift and help alleviate some of the daily commuter congestion along [state interstates] 101 and 280.”
— Sam Liccardo (@sliccardo) May 22, 2017
Liccardo also commended San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and Silicon Valley Leadership Group CEO Carl Guardino for their assiduous advocacy of the project. Assemblyman Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto) said the project will help bring one of Silicon Valley’s main transit lines into the 21st century.
“It’s time that transit on the Peninsula reflects the innovative and technological advancement that is so often spearheaded by our region,” Berman said.
Matt Mahood, head of the Silicon Valley Organization—formerly the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce—noted that public transportation is not only good for the region’s image, it’s good for business.
“Transportation infrastructure is a critical need for the businesses and citizens of Silicon Valley,” Mahood said. “Because of that, our public policy team made Caltrain electrification a top priority issue when they were in Washington three weeks ago representing our members to Congress.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein apparently played a big role in securing the funding. After Republicans rejected funding for electrification, she led an aggressive campaign involving Bay Area politicos, techies and commuters to get enough money to modernize the 154-year-old rail line’s energy source from diesel to electricity.
The upgrade will allow Caltrain to run its locomotives faster and more often along the 47-mil route, Feinstein said in a press release Monday. The project will also put an estimated 9,600 people to work in 13 states. Once completed, it’s expected to double ridership to 110,000 daily trips and cut greenhouse gas pollution by 97 percent.
“Almost two decades of planning for this … project hinged upon this grant agreement,” Feinstein said. “For the past three months we’ve waited to hear the status of the grant, while Caltrain was forced to spend roughly $15 million to hold its contractors in place. With this agreement, the project can finally begin.”