A $647 million grant to help modernize and electrify the Caltrain, which is considered a key part of extending California’s high-speed rail to the Bay area, has been halted by the Federal Transit Administration — and in the process killed any chance of the high-speed rail coming to San Francisco anytime soon.
In a letter to the board that runs Caltrain, the FTA said it would make a final decision after President Trump releases his budget for the 2018 fiscal year, which starts on Oct. 1. The reason stated was they needed “additional time to complete review of this significant commitment to Federal resources.”
Caltrain officials were counting on the funding in March, so they could work to electrify the rail and replace the line’s diesel trains with cleaner electric ones that would allow the agency to run longer and more frequently.
Caltrain has already selected contractors for the electrification project. Without the funding, Caltrain will have to start the bidding process all over again — which could result in a much costlier set of contracts. “We have a March 1 deadline to start issuing contracts,” said Caltrain spokesman Seamus Murphy.
“Last year, Caltrain awarded contracts to advance work on the project, but construction cannot start without the investment that is awaiting approval by the new administration,” said Caltrain Executive Director Jim Hartnett, as quoted in an article by GovTech. “For the project to move forward as planned, the administration must approve the grant prior to March 1. Any delay would result in costly penalties and cost increases may threaten the viability of the project.”
Caltrain has already spent $150 million on planning to go electric. The overall $1.98 billion project will be delayed and go into limbo without the federal and matching funds. All of this comes after the high-speed rail authority was rejected for a $15 billion loan that would help build the initial segment from San Jose to Shafter, northwest of Bakersfield.
Even though Caltrain is delayed, substantial construction on the first segment of the high-speed rail is well underway in Fresno and Madera counties. As for its funding, the entire project still doesn’t have the necessary funding. The viability of the project seems to be on shakier and shakier ground.
We will continue to follow this project as plans evolve, and will continue to represent property and business owners whose properties are being taken for the project. If you think your property or business may be taken for the high-speed rail project, you can learn more about your options by giving us a call at (866) EM-DOMAIN.