Legislation Advanced to Release State Funding for Caltrain Electrification

As a result of a critical lawsuit that California high-speed rail opponents lost last March, a bill to release $1.1 billion in 2008 bond funds has been advanced to fund high-speed rail 'bookend' projects, particularly Caltrain electrification.
June 26, 2016, 7am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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Juliet Williams of the Associated Press writes about new legislation critical to urban transportation improvements in southern California and the Bay Area, particularly electrification of the crowded 55-mile Caltrain commuter line that connects Silicon Valley to San Francisco. The diesel-powered line has the third highest 'ridership per mile' among commuter lines in the United States.

Last March, Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny ruled against Kings County and two Central Valley farmers, who claimed that the California High-Speed Rail Authority's plan violated the will of the voters in 2008 who supported the $9.95 billion bond measure (Proposition 1A) that authorized the San Francisco to Los Angeles high-speed rail project.

While the authority had sold $1.1 billion of those bonds, funds were not released due to litigation that hamstrung the authority.

An amended bill, AB 1889: High-Speed Rail Authority: high-speed train operation, written by Assemblyman Kevin Mullin (D-South San Francisco), would allow those funds to be spent on what are called 'bookend' and connectivity projects because they refer to connecting transit systems at both ends of the line. However, legislation was needed to clarify that these funds are separate and not dependent on the 800-mile line being built. 

"What we're trying to clarify is that this does serve the purpose of that but we don't have to wait for the entire corridor of high-speed rail track to be built for the money to be ready to be spent," said Mullin's legislative director, Andrew Zingale.

AB 1889 allows for $1.1 funds to be appropriated to the designated transit agencies.

"This bill would provide for the purposes of that appropriation that the approval by the authority that a corridor or usable segment thereof would be suitable and ready for high-speed train operation is conclusive," states the bill text.

The bill is in the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee having passed the Assembly in its original version that dealt with a different issue.

Other transit agencies that may receive funding from the $1.1 billion include MUNI, BART, Sacramento Regional Transit, Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, Altamont Commuter Express, Amtrak San Joaquin corridor, LA Metro, Metrolink, San Diego Trolley, and San Diego Coaster. For more information, see the authority's "High-Speed Rail Connectivity and Bookends" [PDF].

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Published on Wednesday, June 22, 2016 in Associated Press
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