Friday, March 08, 2013

Caltrain board adopts updated MOU with High Speed Rail Authority

Written by  William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
California’s Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board has adopted an updated Memorandum of Understanding with the California High Speed Rail Authority that “lays the foundation for modernizing the Caltrain system through an early investment in the Peninsula Corridor and the eventual creation of a blended system that would allow high speed rail to operate between San Jose and San Francisco.”

The MOU specifically addresses project investments that include $705 million provided by California Senate Bill 1029 to upgrade existing rail lines and improve train performance through electrification of the Caltrain corridor, installation of an advanced signaling and train control system—CBOSS (Communications Based Overlay Signal System) PTC—and the purchase of new electrified rail vehicles.

Caltrain said it expects the High Speed Rail Authority to approve the MOU at its April board meeting. “The Authority has been directly involved in the preparation of the MOU and has been consistently supportive of the blended system approach,” the agency said. “The Authority included the blended system in the business plan and nine-party regional MOU the Authority passed earlier this year.”

“The Caltrain Modernization Program will provide more service to more people at more stations while also reducing the system’s greenhouse gas emissions by more than 90%, reducing the subsidy required to operate Caltrain service and taking more cars off the region’s roads,” Caltrain said. “The updated MOU is particularly important to the communities along the rail corridor because it reflects many months of work between Caltrain staff and community members in identifying and addressing the major areas of concern with the High Speed Rail Authority. The agreement has the widespread support of state and local elected officials, business and civic organizations, labor organizations, environmental groups, and transit advocates.”

“This agreement is particularly meaningful because it ensures that local interests and concerns are well represented,” said JPB Chair Ken Yeager. “The removal of the four-track system from this MOU, the confirmation of JPB’s ownership and authority over decision-making on its corridor, and the commitment to corridor electrification is compatible with the needs of the blended system.”

“We are very pleased that Caltrain and High Speed Rail are updating their agreement with support for the blended system,” said Adina Levin, co-founder of Friends of Caltrain. “We expect that this MOU will launch the close collaboration that will be needed to design, fund, and operate a blended system that supports our San Francisco Peninsula community transit needs and long distance travel for the state.”

The Caltrain Modernization Program is expected to be completed by 2019. Caltrain will finalize the Electrification Environmental Impact Report over the next 18 months. An EIR for the CBOSS system has already been approved. Work is expected to begin on that project later this year, with electrification work beginning in 2015.