Caltrain closer to electrificationBy Staff
Caltrain's quest to seek approval for electrifying its tracks is closer to reality as the Joint Powers Board of Directors is set to approve the final environmental impact report and project adoption at its April 1 meeting.
Approval by the board completes the environmental process for the Caltrain Electrification Program, a major element of the plans to modernize the Peninsula rail system, and positions the railroad to seek federal and state funding.
"Electrification is the future of Caltrain," said Caltrain Chair Sean Elsbernd in a press release, "and this puts us in an ideal position to pursue federal and state funding. This is a major step forward for our efforts."
Environmental clearance is a key criterion for funding investment decisions, according to Caltrain.
Caltrain prepared a combined environmental document for the electrification program: An environmental assessment/final EIR. Approval of the environmental assessment and certification of the final EIR are critical steps in enabling Caltrain to compete for federal and state funds to pay for electrifying the tracks.
Under the National Environmental Policy Act, the Federal Transit Administration issued the "findings of no significant impact" for the Environmental Assessment in 2009. The final EIR is required by the state under the California Environmental Quality Act.
Caltrain anticipates an electrified rail system from the San Francisco Caltrain station to the Tamien station in San Jose. The system will be powered by overhead wires and designed to minimize visual impact.
In addition, the electrification programs calls for converting the Caltrain rolling stock from its current diesel locomotive-powered cars to Electric Multiple Units. The EMUs will enable Caltrain to provide more service.
The electrification of Caltrain also will result in significant reductions in noise and air pollution. The environmental assessment/final EIR concludes that the electrified system will be quieter than the current diesel equipment and will mean a 90 percent reduction in emissions.
Following the board action, the final EIR will be filed with the state. The public has 30 days to review the report.
The Environmental Assessment/Final EIR is posted on the Caltrain Web site: www.caltrain.com/caltrain2025.html. Questions can be directed to Stacy Cocke, senior planner at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 508-6207.
Copyright ©2010 San Mateo Daily Journal. Published 03/18/2010.