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Caltrain Electrification Approved

Overhead electrification in Connecticut. Caltrain electrification will survive the Trump Administration after all. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

After months of back and forth, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced that it is approving $647 million in funds for Caltrain electrification. The grant approval will allow Caltrain to begin construction of its electrification project almost immediately, bringing smoother rides and cleaner air to the Bay Area.

"We are very thankful to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao and the Trump Administration for recognizing the value that Caltrain Electrification will create for the Bay Area and the nation by easing congestion in one of the country’s most economically productive regions," said Jim Hartnett, General Manager and CEO of Caltrain, in a prepared statement.

As Streetsblog readers know from previous posts, this has been a long and frustrating journey starting a few months ago when, spurred on by a letter against the project from California's own Republican congressional delegation, Chao failed to sign the authorization for the $647 federal grant for the electrification project (the entire project costs nearly $2 billion).  As late as Tuesday, it was still unclear if the funds would be forthcoming or if the project would even happen. But strong lobbying in favor of the project from Silicon Valley business leaders and others seems to have done the trick.

"Thanks to our Bay Area members of congress, business community, riders and community leaders for pushing the federal funding across the finish line," said Adina Levin of Friends of Caltrain. "Electrification is a transformative step, setting the stage for greatly improved, more convenient, higher capacity regional transit service over time. "

Barring any more unexpected developments, the project can begin construction shortly with electrified passenger service starting in 2021. "This is a huge win for Bay Area commuters and more broadly for public transit across the country," said Stuart Cohen, Executive Director of TransForm. "The outcry in support of Caltrain should make the administration think twice before cutting funding for other strong public transit projects."

Let's hope so.

Meanwhile, here's Caltrain's video, complete with visualizations, about the project:

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