Business Group Says Modernizing Caltrain Will Boost Economy


A Bay Area business group says a plan to convert Caltrain from diesel to electric could give a big boost to the region's economy. 
A study released Tuesday by the Bay Area Council says electrifying Caltrain from Santa Clara County up to San Francisco could deliver as much as $2.5 billion in economic benefits, including 9,600 new jobs in the Bay Area.
Bay Area Council Chief Jim Wunderman called on state lawmakers to approve the use of high-speed rail funds to support the $1.5 billion project.  
"We need to keep investing, we need to do it in smart ways, we need to build the kinds of systems that are going to keep us working as a society and make us competitive now and into the future," said Wunderman.
The Legislature is expected to consider the funding issue later this week. 
Modernizing the Caltrain corridor means electrified trains and  an updated signal systems. 
The 40-page report, called "The Economic Impact of Caltrain  Modernization," was discussed Tuesday  by transit advocates and elected officials at Caltrain's Sequoia Station in Redwood City.
Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, who last year called for the California High Speed Rail Authority to work toward developing a blended rail system on the Peninsula that would accommodate both Caltrain vehicles and high speed trains, called on state legislators to include Caltrain modernization funding in the state budget.
Wunderman said the rail modernization project, which if started in the next year could bring an electric train system between San Jose and San Francisco by 2019, would decrease carbon emissions, reduce congestion on nearby US Highway 101, and carry up to 30,000 additional passengers per day.
Besides providing around 9,600 jobs in construction, delivery and production, the Caltrain Modernization Program could generate billions of  dollars in benefits, including short-term economic stimulus and long-term increases in real estate values, and improvements in the region's productivity by speeding up traffic mobility and decreasing the number of hours lost on congested roadways, according to the report.
In May, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission approved a memorandum of understanding with the California High-Speed Rail Authority to provide $1.5 billion toward modernizing Caltrain and preparing the corridor for a blended rail system.
San Mateo County Supervisor and MTC Chair Adrienne Tissier said that nine different Bay Area transit agencies and local governments approved the memorandum of understanding, which was ultimately approved by the CHRSA.
Tissier and Eshoo called on the public to continue to support Caltrain modernization by contacting state representatives, whose state budget negotiations will determine how much money is designated for  high-speed rail and its associated projects.
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