Caltrain Electrification Gets Jolt of Support From Hill

The electrification of Caltrain would make the trains quieter, among other benefits, Hill said.

San Mateo residents have a big transportation decision to make in the coming months: whether to support the electrification of Caltrain.

Joined by Caltrain and San Mateo city officials, Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, held a news conference at the downtown San Mateo Caltrain Station on 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."

Hill said if Caltrain is electrified, ideally it will 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 have widely opposed 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 with local transportation funds; each would provide about $750 million.

Hill compared the magnitude of the decision to electrify Caltrain with another transportation possibly 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.

San Mateo City Councilmembers Jack Matthews and Robert Ross also attended Tuesday's news conference to emphasize the city council's support for the electrification of Caltrain.

Ross echoed Hill in saying it's important for San Mateo residents to get involved early in the process. Ross said joining the discussion now is an "early investment."

"By getting in on the early investment, we can get our needs met," he said.

Ross said he's heard some opposition from residents who live along the rail corridor, though overall it seems San Mateans favor the electrification of Caltrain.

One concern, Ross added, is that no one has seen what the electrification will do to the Peninsula. While it would ultimately aid Caltrain and its riders, the process of electrifying the train tracks could damage city streets or infrastructure, Ross said.

"We haven't seen a real live visualization of the impact," Ross said.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission is scheduled to release the details of the funding for electrification next week.


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Laura Dudnick March 13, 2012 at 06:54 PM
San Mateans, what do you think about the proposal to electrify Caltrain? Anyone who lives near the tracks want to weigh in?
Ted Crocker March 16, 2012 at 06:05 AM
Caltrain needs to be electrified, but not so long as HSR is part of the bargain. FYI, Jerry Hill. We WILL hear "that noise" because a 2-track "blended" approach means two tracks at grade, not grade separated, therefore the horns will still be required. Why? Because there is not enough money to do the electrification, let alone grade separate. I don't think Jerry Hill understands what he is supporting, or he wouldn't be so quick to jump on the band wagon. Has he considered how much downtime the crossing gates will have with the extra number of trains? How many trains per hour each way is too many before people are fed up - 4,5,6...? The entire electrified system will need to be ripped out - the taxpayer money wasted - in order to build a grade separated system when we reach that threshold. Is the HSR Authority, as their EIR still supports, in the end going to build a 4-track system within the Caltrain corridor anyways, despite the fact that many towns don't want it? If so, why is Jerry Hill supporting the MOU between Caltrain and HSR, knowing where this is leading? Is he, in exchange for supporting the electrification of Caltrain now, willing to back a legal contract that protects the towns against a 4-track elevated viaduct in the future - remove it from the EIR? "Blended" sounds so nice until you dig into the details. It is really a way for the politicians to kick the can down the road and let the next generation deal with HSR. It is not THE solution.


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