Caltrain received nearly $40 million in state funds to pay for the first phase of modernizing and electrifying the popular Peninsula rail system.
Transit advocates, regional politicians and Caltrain officials gathered at Millbrae Station Thursday morning, Sept. 27, to celebrate the decision of the California Transportation Commission, which approved the release of $39.8 million for advancing the Caltrain Modernization Program.
The initial influx of state money will help pay for installing an advanced signal system that will allow more trains to run per hour per day.
The advanced signal system and additional trains will accommodate a growing demand for daily rail service in the region, while preparing the Caltrain right-of-way between San Jose and San Francisco to eventually coexist with high-speed trains.
"This is a turning point in the history of Caltrain," U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier said today. "From this point forward, change will accelerate so that by 2019, we will have an ultra-modern electric train system to serve our 21st Century economy."
Speier referred to the modernized trains as "brainiacs," because computerized locomotives will operate with the signaling system to prevent train-to-train collisions, enforce speed restrictions and improve the overall safety of the transit system.
Assemblyman Jerry Hill agreed that the modernized Caltrain system will offer a safer, quieter, and more environmentally friendly alternative to the current diesel-powered system, while potentially taking thousands of driving commuters off congested roadways.
"This project will take cars off the road, create local jobs, lead to more frequent Caltrain service and reduce emissions," Hill said.
Joining Hill and Speier at this morning's ceremony were Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, state Sen. Leland Yee, Caltrain Joint Powers Board President and San Mateo County Supervisor Adrienne Tissier, and San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board Chairman Tom Nolan.
In May, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission approved a memorandum of understanding with the California High-Speed Rail Authority to provide a total of $1.5 billion toward modernizing Caltrain and preparing the corridor for a blended rail system.
Work on the advanced signal system is an essential first step in the electrification of the Caltrain system, which is expected to be finished in 2019.