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Caltrain electrification cost soars 40% to $601M

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  • 10/9 SMCo. Times
    Published Tuesday, October 9, 2001, in the San Mateo County Times Caltrain project cost soars By Justin Jouvenal Staff Writer SAN CARLOS -- The cost of
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 9, 2001
      Published Tuesday, October 9, 2001, in the San Mateo County Times

      Caltrain project cost soars

      By Justin Jouvenal
      Staff Writer

      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
      directors.

      "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
      decisions."


      You can reach staff writer Justin Jouvenal at 650-348-4331 or by e-
      mail at jjouvenal@....
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