Caltrain electrification cost soars 40% to $601M
- Published Tuesday, October 9, 2001, in the San Mateo County Times
Caltrain project cost soars
By Justin Jouvenal
SAN CARLOS -- The cost of replacing Caltrain's diesel fleet with
sleek electric engines has shot up nearly 40 percent to $601 million,
but the transit line's board of directors still firmly stands behind
the project, officials said Monday.
The latest estimate has ballooned because of inflation, unanticipated
costs such as extra locomotives and more track, and $104 million that
will likely go for planning and studies, said Jayme Maltbie, a
Caltrain spokeswoman. Despite the jump, the project should stay on
schedule to be completed in 2006.
The spiraling costs will likely renew questions about the
controversial project, which some have criticized for being too
costly and having too few benefits.
Caltrain officials want to electrify the line to eliminate diesel
pollution, make trains quieter and shave minutes off the commute up
and down the Peninsula.
The cost increase did not surprise many on Caltrain's board of
"It happens to most large transportation projects," said board member
Sue Lempert. "The big questions are, where is the extra money going
to come from and can those extra costs be more precisely defined?"
Lempert said Caltrain officials will look to the Metropolitan
Transportation Commission to make up the difference between the
original 1998 estimate of $375 million and the revised one. Caltrain
officials will also bring in a peer-review board to take a look at
the budget to make sure it's as cost-effective as possible.
Electrification is the second project to rise dramatically in cost in
recent months. In August, Caltrain officials announced a San Jose
maintenance facility originally slated to cost $66 million in 1989
has increased to $95 million today, largely because of inflation.
The sharp increase in costs led one member of the Caltrain board of
directors to question whether the transit line can fund its ambitious
slate of projects, including express service and rail upgrades.
"Every one of the projects before us is shooting up," said board
member John McLemore. "There are political realities, where all three
counties can't always belly up to the bar and pay for these
increases. There may be a point where we will have to make tough
You can reach staff writer Justin Jouvenal at 650-348-4331 or by e-
mail at jjouvenal@....