Caltrain Electrification–Has Caltrain Lost its Way?

Electrification–Has Caltrain Lost its Way?

04/30/14 Filed in:

Caltrain issued its
very large
Draft Environmental Impact
for its Peninsula Corridor
Electrification Project, which depends on HSR
funding to electrify the tracks from San Jose to
San Francisco. TRANSDEF filed extensive

Comments and Attachments, making the case for studying a
fully worked-up DEMU (Dual-mode diesel-electric
multiple unit) alternative. This alternative would
accomplish many of the goals of the
electrification project while remaining within the
financial reach of Caltrain, now that HSR seems to
be crashing. Because it would eliminate most if
not all the proposed electrification that is
controversial for a significant portion of the
public, it would improve Caltrain’s public
support. A
policy letter to the Joint Powers Board makes
the case that Altamont Corridor access to the Bay
Area should be reconsidered and supported, because
it would preserve Caltrain’s capacity to grow in
the future, and because it would allow Caltrain to
determine its own future, independent of the fate
of HSR.

Jack Ringham filed an excellent set of
comments. Paraphrasing him, the JPB’s
thinking and the environmental review process have
been distorted by its eagerness to build its
long-desired electrification project and by the
availability of ARRA funds. Neither JPB nor CHSRA
is able to do a legally defensible EIR for Blended
Service because HSR construction is at least 10
years away (alleged service start is no sooner
than 2026) and is totally undefined. Without that
analysis, the electrification EIR is violating
CEQA by failing to provide an adequate analysis of
the cumulative impacts of HSR on Caltrain, despite
the accommodation of HSR being the number one
purpose for electrification, and also being its
main funding source. This is known as chopping or
piecemealing, and is forbidden. Also, because the
Blended Service is so undefined, there is a
substantial risk of wasted funds, where new work
would have to be moved. In short, if the fleet
needs changing because of aging, Jack says change
it over to DMUs and get significant air quality
and transportation benefits now.

CC-HSR submitted a legal powerhouse of a
comment letter, well worth a read.

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