By Matier & Ross : sfchronicle – excerpt
Freshly empowered California Republicans in Congress are pushing the Trump administration to hold off on approving $647 million for the Caltrain system to go electric — something that could kill the redo of a line that carries more than 60,000 riders a day between the South Bay and San Francisco.
“It’s critical that we get the funding,” said Caltrain spokesman Seamus Murphy.
In a Jan. 24 letter to newly sworn-in Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, all 18 members of the state’s GOP congressional delegation called for the Caltrain money to be put on hold until a full audit is done on Gov. Jerry Brown’s high-speed rail project.
The Republicans don’t have anything against Caltrain electrification per se — it’s the high-speed rail line they can’t stand. And high-speed trains will have no way of getting from San Jose to San Francisco if the Caltrain line isn’t electrified.
Caltrain says that if its federal funding is delayed — even for a couple of months — it could mean having to rebid the work already being contracted out. Losing the money entirely would effectively kill electrification of the line.
Republicans have long seen high-speed rail as a boondoggle, but they’ve been up against an Obama administration that refused to spike its funding. That’s not a problem anymore.
Caltrain and its advocates hope the tech titans along the Peninsula and in the South Bay can convince the Trump administration of the project’s pluses. One such plus: the jobs that electrification will create both here and in red states like Utah, where 500 people are to be put to work building new train cars for the line.
A decision is due soon — the funding renewal will be on Chao’s desk for signing by mid-February.