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5/19/2017



Rail News: Passenger Rail

Chao won't OK Caltrain electrification funding just yet


Chao plans to wait for Congress to approve all the needed funds.
Photo – U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation

Caltrain again finds itself in a catch-22 over federal funding for its electrification project. Earlier this week, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said she won't sign off on the full funding grant agreement for the project until Congress approves all the necessary funds, The Mercury News reported yesterday.

At a U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works hearing Wednesday, Chao said she couldn't sign the funding agreement "if the funding is not there," according to the newspaper.

The federal omnibus bill approved by President Donald Trump earlier this month includes $100 million for Caltrain's electrification project. However, Congress hasn't authorized the full $647 million needed for the project, which calls for electrifying Caltrain's corridor from San Francisco to San Jose, Calif.

And Caltrain won't be able to use any of the $100 million if the U.S. Department of Transportation doesn't approve the larger grant, Caltrain spokesman Seamus Murphy told The Mercury News.

Chao also testified that she couldn't approve the full funding grant agreement because Trump may not request sufficient funds for the project next year, U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) said in a joint statement.

"[Chao's] decision should not be about whether the president will request new funding, but rather about whether she will commit to release any funds Congress provides —both now and in the future," the senators said. "Congress provided $100 million for Caltrain in the recent funding bill, which is in addition to $73 million available from previous years. All of the funding Congress makes available depends on signing this agreement."



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