Another milestone has been reached in Caltrain's quest to pay for the modernization of its rail system on the Peninsula.
The approval Tuesday by the city of San Jose is the last endorsement needed for a regional agreement to fully fund the modernization of the Caltrain system, agency officials announced late Tuesday afternoon.
The agreement leverages local, regional and federal funding to secure hundreds of millions of dollars in state high-speed rail funds for the Peninsula, Caltrain spokeswoman Christine Dunn said.
The next step will be the State Legislature’s approval of funding later this month through the annual budget process.
If funding is approved, riders could see an electrified and modernized Caltrain system as soon as 2019.
The electrification and modernization of Caltrain have been in the works for more than a decade, and are "critically-needed improvements that will dramatically improve the service and help ensure the long-term viability of the commuter rail system," Dunn said in a statement.
In addition to funding Caltrain modernization, the agreement also calls for future improvements to accommodate integrated Caltrain and high-speed rail service between San Francisco and San Jose.
This “blended system” was first proposed by Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-Palo Alto), State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) and Assemblyman Rich Gordon (Menlo Park) to control high-speed rail project costs and minimize impacts on surrounding communities.
To protect surrounding communities, the agreement specifies the blended system will be limited to design alternatives that are primarily two-tracks and exist substantially within the existing Caltrain right-of-way.
Under the agreement, before the blended system is built, Peninsula communities will benefit from electrified Caltrain service, which will provide faster, cleaner, quieter, more frequent service to more stations and more riders between San Francisco and San Jose.
Caltrain continues to experience record ridership growth, but the system’s current diesel operations are near capacity and are consistently threatened by an ongoing structural deficit.
The electrification and modernization of the Caltrain corridor will help accommodate increased ridership and reduce the subsidy required to operate the system, while also helping to prepare the corridor for future high-speed rail service.
In addition to the city of San Jose and the high-speed rail authority, the MOU has been approved by the California High Speed Rail Authority, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, the San Mateo County Transportation Authority, the City and County of San Francisco, the Peninsula Corridor joint Powers Board and the Transbay Joint Powers Authority.