RailPAC flyer from February 1999

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CalTrain downtown SF extension | Electrification of CalTrain

Instead of modernizing Caltrain the Joint Powers Board(JPB) under the "Rapid Rail Study" is planning to spend your money on maintenance and rehabilitation that should have been done during the last 6 years. Federal and State funds set aside for the San Francisco Downtown Extension will be used to upgrade Caltrain to a very good 1940's railroad.

The study indicated that $543 million was available. Rehabilitation of the tracks and replacement of the signaling to allow 79 mph train service would cost $220 million. $330 million would go for "enhancements". These are projects to beautify the stations, expand parking, put up electronic displays, add a 3rd tracks, turnbacks and raise signaling speeds.

The cost for Caltrain electrification is $376 million. The JPB is proposing to do the rehabilitation and enhancements with the money available, and postpone electrification until new money is found. The JPB never requested these funds in the latest federal Transportation Funding Bill.

There will be no Electrification.

The $376 million is inflated due to planned delays and a poor operating and capital plan. Most of the rehabilitation and enhancements can be done incrementally. Electrification and resignaling must be done on the entire route. The cost for electrification calls for delaying it until 2005. It also includes the cost of redoing the signaling a 3rd time to prevent interference from the overhead wires. By coordinating electrification with rehabilitation, the cost of upgrading the signaling to 79 mph, then to 90 mph and then again for electrification could be reduced to a one time project. Doing it right the first time could save $40 million and reduce the construction period. The JPB plan is limited by the low power of diesel locomotives requiring shorter trains and more of them to meet capacity needs. More trainsets and crews increase the operating costs and subsidies. Because of their increased power and reliability fewer engines are needed to run longer trains. A more likely cost of electrification is between $280-310 million.

There is no doubt that the JPB's opposition to electrification stems from the logistics of how the money is spent. The construction of the overhead catenary and power supply is a highly specialized endeavor concentrated primarily on the right of way. More than a third of the cost is the electric engines. The track upgrades are similar.

Caltrain with electrification's reduced cost of operation and increased speeds combined with the new ticketing system can recover its full cost of operation from the fares. The funds that are being spent to subsidize service ($33 million per year) can be used to complete the track and station improvements incrementally. As the tracks are upgraded train speeds and performance can continue to improve.

The JPB plans to ignore electrification also ignores the noise and air pollution to its neighbors and riders. Diesel fumes are highly toxic. Every rider in and out of San Francisco is forced to breathe these poisons in concentrated form in the tunnels.

Just as electrification is gaining more support JPB staff now reports that because the 3 counties who make up the JPB are unwilling to pay their matching funds to do the Rapid Rail Plan, the available funding is down to $340 million. San Francisco has refused to commit any money over the next 20 years. In fact they have been derelict in coming up with their agreed to share of operating costs. Santa Clara, the largest of the 3 counties with nearly 50 of Caltrain's 78 miles uses San Francisco's reluctance as an excuse to not pay its fair share. Samtrans is using the other counties's reluctance to limits contribution to $60 million for its 23 miles Caltrain.

To stop this and save money and up to 20 minutes of your travel, write and call your JPB representative. Urge them to electrify Caltrain first and to pay their fair share. Show up at the March 4th JPB meeting at 1250 San Carlos Ave, San Carlos 10:00 AM.

Santa Clara Co:
Jim Lawson Ch.        (650) 508-6269   fax (650) 508-6281
Sup. Blanca Alvarado. (408) 299-2323   fax (408) 298-8460   
Sup. Jim Beall        (408) 299-2323   fax (408) 298-8460
Charlotte Powers      (650) 508-6269   fax (650) 508-6281

San Francisco Co:
Sup. Leslie R. Katz   (415) 554-5335   fax (415) 554-5338      Leslie_Katz@ci.sf.ca.us
Sup. Sue Bierman      (415) 554-6661   fax (415) 554-6685      Sue_Bierman@ci.sf.ca.us 
Rick Hills                                                     Rick@wfbm.com

San Mateo Co:
Supervisor  Mike Nevin   (650) 363-4572   fax (650) 599-1027
Supervisor Mary Griffin  (650) 363-4571   fax (650) 599-1027
Supervisor Rich Gordon   (650) 363-4569   fax (650) 599-1027
Adele Della Santa,       (650) 595-3551   fax  Same            adeleds@aol.com
Supervisor Jerry Hill    (650) 363-4568   fax (650) 599-1027   jhill@co.sanmateo.ca.us
Stephen M. Schmidt       (650) 322-2707                        smschmidt@menlopark.org
For more information Contact:
Rail Passenger Association of California

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Last updated: April 18, 1999

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