Caltrain: Electrification project costs increase, start date pushed back

The estimated cost for the Caltrain electrification project has jumped more than $200 million over budget from original projections and the anticipated completion is now more than a year behind schedule, according to the transit agency.

In a presentation Thursday before the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board, which owns and oversees the Caltrain rail service, project planners said the cost for electrification of the system, which was originally estimated at $1.2 billion, is now projected to be between $1.47 and $1.5 billion. Additionally, the projected cost for the overall Caltrain modernization program, which was initially estimated at $1.45 billion, has risen to between $1.7 billion and $1.76 billion, according to the presentation.

Caltrain is planning to run its trains along the 51-mile stretch between San Jose and San Francisco on an overhead electrification system as part of its modernization program, paving the way for a future blended system with the planned California high-speed rail system. The electrification will improve trains' performance, reduce pollution and allow for a projected increase in ridership in future years, according to the environmental impact report.

The service was initially slated to begin in winter 2019, but the agency now expects that the electrified system will be ready between winter 2020 and spring 2021.

According to planners, the increased cost is a result of inflation, updated industry information, additional engineering and challenges associated with constructing the project.

“We are all anxious to get Caltrain electrified so our communities can benefit from expanded and improved service,” said Adrienne Tissier, a member of the Caltrain board of directors and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which is helping to fund the project.

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