Redwood City residents have a big transportation decision to make in the coming months: whether to of Caltrain.
Joined by Caltrain and San Mateo County officials, Assemblyman Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) held a news conference at the downtown San Mateo Caltrain Station Tuesday morning to encourage residents to get on board with the electrification of Caltrain.
Electrifying Caltrain would make the trains quieter, faster and more frequent. It would also reduce emissions by 90 percent.
"Hear that noise?" Hill shouted during the news conference as Caltrain sirens blared and a train approached the station, screeching to a halt. "With electrification you wouldn't hear that anymore."
Rosanne Foust, President of the San Mateo County Economic Development Association (SAMCEDA), added that electrification would provide better, more efficient service and less impact on the environment. Hill said if Caltrain were electrified, ideally it would be merged with high-speed rail along the Peninsula, in a two-track blended system as opposed to a four-track system.
A four-track system, according to Hill, would infringe upon each community along Caltrain. Peninsula cities the four-track system.
The electrification of Caltrain by 2019 would cost about $1.5 billion. Right now a plan is in the works to leverage high-speed railbond money from Proposition 1A with local transportation funds; each would provide about $750 million.
Foust added that a half-cent sales tax in San Mate County was reauthorized in 2008, of which 22 percent of those funds goes directly for transit.
Hill compared the magnitude of the decision to electrify Caltrain with another transportation possibility San Mateo County residents faced in the 1960s: whether to bring BART all the way through the Peninsula.
"It's time for us to get involved and study the issue," Hill said.
Foust echoed Hill in saying it was important to get involved early in the electrification process, an "early investment."
"By getting in on the early investment, we would already have the existing infrastructure if and when improvements or repairs need to be made,” she said.
However, some residents living along the corridor simply oppose Caltrain altogether, Foust said, an opposition she sees this as a non-issue.
“There are 44,000 Caltrain trips everyday,” she said. “Do we want more gridlock on the freeway instead?” she said.
Foust saw the electrification as an investment in the economic viability of San Mateo County, in which Caltrain makes 11 stops. As the start-up sector continues to grow along the Peninsula, providing a better form of public transportation was crucial, she said.
The Metropolitan Transportation Commission is scheduled to release the details of the funding for electrification next week.
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