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FTA delays grant for Caltrain's electrification project

The project includes a new fleet of electric multiple units.
Photo – San Francisco County Transportation Authority

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has decided to halt a $647 million full funding agreement for Caltrain's electrification project until President Donald Trump develops his fiscal-year 2018 budget.

The FTA notified Caltrain Executive Director Jim Hartnett last week. In a Feb. 17 letter, FTA Executive Director Matthew Welbes said the delay will allow the project to be considered in conjunction with Trump's FY 2018 budget, as well as the companion FTA report to Congress on annual funding recommendations for its Capital Investment Grant program.

The railroad is evaluating options for maintaining the project's viability in the face of uncertainty over the timing of the grant approval, Caltrain officials said in a press release.

"Clearly, the FTA's evaluation demonstrates that this federal investment should be made based on the merits of the project, and we expect that the [U.S. Department of Transportation] will continue with a fair process," Caltrain spokesman Seamus Murphy said in a statement. "We will continue to work with our congressional delegation, stakeholders and funding partners to support whatever actions are needed to provide our communities with the transit system they deserve."

Late last month, Republican legislators representing California in Congress asked the Trump administration to delay approval for the project, which would lay the foundation for eventual high-speed rail service between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

The lawmakers argued that providing funds for Caltrain's electrification project would be "an irresponsible use of taxpayer dollars." They also called for an audit of California's overall high-speed rail project's finances.

Caltrain has been planning for the electrification project since the 1990s, before voters in 2008 approved selling bonds for the high-speed rail project. The electrification project would allow the railroad to reduce travel times and increase capacity, according to Caltrain.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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