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Caltrain's New Grant Will Fund All-Electric Trains

Caltrain in San Carlos, CA, recently received a $20 million grant from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to help fund electrification of the 51-mile commuter rail corridor between San Francisco and San Jose.

“The air district has been a vocal leader and a strong ally in support of Caltrain’s electrification project,” said Caltrain Executive Director Jim Hartnett. “We are honored that the air district is redoubling its commitment to the environmental benefits of electrification through the award of this $20 million grant.”

Caltrain currently runs with diesel trains. Transitioning to electric-powered trains will result in zero emissions locally and the ability to increase service, as well as reduced engine noise and reduced traffic congestion along two area freeways. The agency hopes to begin operating the electric trains by winter 2020.

In preparation for the shift to electrical operation, Caltrain is purchasing electric multiple unit (EMU) railcars. Caltrain spokesperson Jayme Ackemann said EMUs provide the maximum benefit through significantly improved acceleration and deceleration.

“When we first begin electrified service in 2020, we anticipate we will have about 75 percent electric and 25 percent diesel,” she said. “Diesel trains and freight trains will still be able to operate on the tracks underneath the wires. The other primary infrastructure that will be added through electrification are the overhead catenary wires and the wayside electrical facilities.”

A combination of local, regional, state and federal funding sources will cover the total project cost, estimated at $1.53 billion. Funding for the air district’s allocation comes from the Mobile Source Incentive Fund, collected from a $2 fee on motor vehicles registered in the Bay Area.
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