Thursday, March 22, 2012

Caltrain cites deal with CHSRA

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Caltrain said Thursday a regional agreement between the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) and more than a half-dozen Bay Area public agencies, including Caltrain, " will fully fund the electrification and modernization of the Caltrain system— a long-planned, critically-needed improvement that will dramatically improve the service and help ensure the long-term viability of the commuter rail system."

The agreement would tap local, regional, and federal funding to leverage hundreds of millions of dollars in HSR matching funds for investment in electrification and modernization of Caltrain, using an incremental approach favored by many rail advocates, including some within the rail supply industry. "The result is a modernized, electrified Caltrain far sooner than previous estimates," Caltrain claims.

Once the system is electrified, Caltrain will be able to operate lighter-weight electric [multiple-unit, or EMU] vehicles with significant performance advantages compared to the existing diesel rail technology," the agency said. "Electrification will mean faster, cleaner, quieter, more efficient rail system, more frequent service to more stations, significantly increased ridership, and will prepare the system to accommodate future job and population growth in the region."

Modernizing Caltrain is a significant step in stabilizing the rail agency's long-struggling finances; the agency notes Caltrain is one of the few transit agencies in the country that does not have its own, dedicated tax base or source of revenue.

"Electrification is an essential improvement that is critical to the future of the system," said Executive Director Mike Scanlon. "This is an enormous step forward that prioritizes these improvements and delivers early benefits to the Caltrain system, its riders and surrounding communities."

Caltrain has been working to electrify its system for more than a decade, but until now adequate funding had not been identified. If approved, Caltrain could be electrified as soon as 2020, over a decade before it is assumed in the most recent version of the High Speed Rail Business Plan.

The agency notes it has "expressed opposition to a four-track system" originally envisioned as part of a shared rights-of-way design with CHSRA. Caltrain says the " agreement specifies that future improvements would be limited to support blended high-speed and commuter rail operations on a system that is primarily two tracks."

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