February 20, 2017

Caltrain electrification “in jeopardy” as federal grants deferred

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CALTRAIN has warned that the viability of its project to electrify the 83.7km San Jose - San Francisco line may be in jeopardy after newly-appointed United States Transportation Secretary Mrs Elaine Chao ordered the Federal Transit Administration to defer federal funding for the project.

The FTA says a decision on whether to proceed with the $US 647m Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) for the Peninsula Corridor Electrification Project (PCEP) will be deferred until the Trump Administration develops its budget for the 2018 financial year.

Last September Caltrain awarded Balfour Beatty a $US 697m contract to electrify the route, while Stadler Rail was selected for a $US 551m contract to supply 16 six-car double-deck EMUs. Caltrain says a notice to proceed must be issued to the two contractors by March 1, but it cannot take this vital step without the FFGA. Deferral of the decision to execute the FFGA will prevent Caltrain from issuing the notice by this date and “may jeopardise the viability of the project itself.”

Balfour Beatty and Stadler are currently preparing for the project under a limited notice to proceed, which was issued last September.

In a statement issued on February 17, Caltrain said it is “evaluating options for maintaining a viable project in the face of uncertainty about the timing of FFGA approval and the question about whether it will be approved at all.”

The project has secured $US 1.3bn in local, regional and state funding and with Federal funding would be ready for the start of construction. Caltrain has worked with federal officials for two years to complete a thorough evaluation of the project, including intensive engineering assessments and federal vetting. Following the completion of this process the project was rated positively and met all of the statutory requirements needed to qualify for an FFGA.

Caltrain says Federal investment in electrification of the commuter rail line will create over 9600 jobs both in California and other states including Utah, Florida, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Colorado.

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