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HSR, Caltrain to simultaneously seek $2b in rail stimulus cash

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  • 2/19 San Mateo Journal
    Published Thursday, February 19, 2009, by the San Mateo Daily Journal Rail looking for stimulus funds The California High-Speed Rail Authority is hoping to
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 19, 2009
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      Published Thursday, February 19, 2009, by the San Mateo Daily Journal

      Rail looking for stimulus funds

      The California High-Speed Rail Authority is hoping to grab
      approximately $2 billion of the $8 billion from the recent passage
      of the federal stimulus package. Some of that money may go to
      improve the rail line in San Bruno.

      By Dana Yates

      Both Caltrain and the California High-Speed Rail Authority will
      simultaneously submit applications for part of the federal stimulus
      package to aid in the development of electrified rails on the
      Peninsula, according to both agencies.

      The rail authority is hoping to grab approximately $2 billion of the
      $8 billion available to rail projects through the recent passage of
      the federal stimulus package. Two of the projects the rail authority
      is seeking funding for will also be on the list of projects for which
      Caltrain is seeking federal funding, said Judge Quentin Kopp, chair
      of the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

      Both agencies will apply for funding to pay for two San Bruno grade
      separations -- where the rail and road are separated -- and Caltrain-
      wide electrification, from Gilroy to San Francisco. The projects are
      ready for construction by Sept. 30, 2012, Kopp said.

      The projects fall within Caltrain's long-term goals and the rail
      authority's plan to construct an 800-mile track that will move
      riders through the state at 220 mph. A trip between the Transbay
      Terminal in downtown San Francisco and Los Angeles Union Station
      would take about 2 hours and 38 minutes and would cost about $55
      one way. There would be stops on the Peninsula in Millbrae and
      Palo Alto, according to the state rail authority.

      Caltrain has completed 35 percent of the environmental study
      required before it can begin the electrification process. The
      project is expected to cost $608 million for infrastructure
      upgrades and $397 million for equipment, said agency spokeswoman
      Christine Dunn.

      "The High-Speed Rail Authority is in a position to access large
      amounts of money and they need to obligate these funds by 2012.
      Caltrain is fortunate because it has a number of projects ready to
      go," Dunn said.

      The authority is seeking between $250 million and $300 million for
      automatic train controls and communication technology associated
      with electrification, Kopp said.

      The San Bruno grade separations are estimated to cost $300 million
      and are currently expected to be funded through state and local
      transportation taxes, Dunn said.

      Not everyone is confident the projects will be ready by 2012.

      "I don't think anything high-speed rail in the United States is
      shovel-ready. There is a lot of shovel-ready stuff around but
      high-speed rail is not one of them," said Menlo Park resident
      Martin Engel.

      Engel is an outspoken critic of high-speed rail on the Peninsula.
      Engel is concerned the project will disrupt neighborhoods because
      the high-speed rails will require raised tracks that sometimes go
      through the center of a community.

      He is also concerned that high-speed rail will only be used by those
      who can afford it and will not be available to the average commuter.

      The Department of Transportation will issue guidelines for how
      competitive grants will be awarded within 120 days. Engel argues
      California has a lot of competition. Kopp said the authority is
      ready.

      "We are way ahead of anyone else. I am confident we will receive
      some money and almost half of [the $2 billion of applications] will
      be simultaneous with the Caltrain electrification project," Kopp
      said.

      Dana Yates can be reached by e-mail: dana@... or by
      phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 106.
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