More than 120 Silicon Valley business and leaders fired off a letter Friday to President Donald Trump and Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, asking them to make good on federal promises to allocate $647 million to electrify Caltrain from San Jose to Francisco.
The Federal Transit Agency had been expected to approve money March 1 in what is called a Full Funding Grant Agreement. But it reneged on the deal after 14 House Republicans who oppose another project — the state’s high-speed rail — voiced their objections, as electrification would be necessary to run those trains.
“Why the last-minute attempt to derail two decades of work?” wrote Carl Guardino, CEO and president of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, saying that it’s “a belief by 14 well-meaning Republican members of Congress that defunding Caltrain will somehow kill California’s controversial High-Speed Rail project.”
Caltrain ridership is surging, from 25,000 a day a decade ago to 65,000 now. Riders often have to stand or sit in the aisles.
Electrifying the line would cut the 90-minute trip by at least 30 minutes, run more trains and help pay for overpasses so trains and cars don’t compete for space.
Trains now lumber along on diesel and the trip takes two minutes longer than in 1863 when they first began running along the Peninsula when Abraham Lincoln was president, the letter noted.
“The economic importance of electrifying Caltrain cannot be overstated,” said Guardino, adding “it’s time for an upgrade.”