Local officials plan to create a safeguard requiring California high-speed rail to blend with Caltrain’s existing two track system when it whizzes through the Peninsula.
State Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) is unveiling legislation Friday at the Palo Alto Caltrain station that would close loopholes and ensure that money from Prop 1A, the high-speed bond measure approved by California voters in 2008, would be used to build a two-track blended system from San Francisco to San Jose. Funds originally allocated to the Peninsula segment cannot be transferred to other segments of the high-speed rail.
Over the past few years, local officials and hundreds of residents have expressed concerns about a four-track option through the Peninsula, in which the high-speed rail was designed to race along its own track.
Authority officials last year assured Hill that a four-track system would not be built when the senator helped strike a deal providing $705 million from high-speed bond money – that will be matched with local funds – to electrify Caltrain by 2019. With Caltrain electrified, high-speed rail could share the same existing tracks.
“Caltrain electrification has been needed for years, but prior to the State's appropriation, obtaining funding was an obstacle,” said Jerry Hill in a statement.
The bill clarifies that the $1.1 billion appropriated by the legislature last year will include $600 million for Caltrain electrification. Combined with an additional appropriation of $105 million for Caltrain’s advanced signaling system, the state has committed a total of $705 million for the Caltrain electrification project.
The switch to electric power will allow Caltrain to run faster, more frequent trains and accommodate increased ridership, Hill said. In addition to being quieter than current trains and reducing emissions by 90 percent, the increased ridership and revenue from an electrified system could reduce Caltrain's operating subsidy by almost 50 percent.
At the news conference, Caltrain officials will provide an update on the first phase of the electrification project. The initial $40 million allocation is funding work on an advanced signaling system that will increase safety.
Tell us in the comments below: Would you be okay with high-speed rail if it cruised along Caltrain's existing tracks?