Feds Sign Off On $647 Million Grant to Electrify Caltrain

Federal transportation authorities announced Monday that Caltrain will get the $647 million it needs to electrify the commuter line, which runs from San Francisco to Gilroy.

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.”

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.”


  1. I hadn’t realized Caltrain had been running diesel train back in 1863, how progressive we on the west coast have decided to electrify, trains something that was done in the early 1900’s in the east. But then again we are still trying to be good communist out here in spite of the fact that, that nightmare fell appart some 30 years ago.

    Now if we could please spend that much on adding lanes to 280 and 101 you might get a seat on those over crowded trains!

    • Clearly you know nothing about transportation management. Widening highways creates more congestion, not less. Automobile traffic is like a fish that grows to the size of its tank – or like a gas, rather than a liquid: compress it and it gets smaller, give it room and it gets bigger. This is proven fact.

      • Vanessa,
        Clearly you know nothing about transportation management , physics, math or fish. I can tell by the color of your hair you were brainwashed as a child in government schools. The road is = to the size of the tank or river. The bigger the river the more fish you can put in it. It’s a proven fact! It even works with trains.

        • Unless you fill that river with manmade barriers, then the Salmon stop running. I agree with you empty. Either roads need to be bigger, or we need to take advantage of the fact that there’s nothing but empty lanes going southbound in the morning, and empty going northbound in the evening.

          No more housing. We did more than our share. We need to start talking a few VC firms into moving here so the startups follow.

          • Our transportation management is very fond of putting more and more free thinking Red Lights in the river stopping the salmon. They seem to thin the more time you spend idling at a location the more likely you are to breed there.

            Where I am going they are taking out the stop lights and replacing them with a very old european Idea the traffic circle.
            How progressive and it works!

            Isn’t it nice to go to a place where progress doesn’t mean gumming up the works?

  2. Who doesn’t like choo-choo trains. Only $2 billion dollars! Who knew diesel gas was used by CalTrain 154 years ago? Let’s all get on board with this project and the $65 billion dollar Brown express from LA to SF! We’re all idiots so jump on board! Many thanks to all politicians advancing us into the 21st century. So where is the other $1.4 billion to fund this project coming from?

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