California officials on Friday broke ground on Caltrain's nearly $2 billion electrification project.
California’s High Speed Rail Authority got clearance to proceed with a plan to electrify Caltrain tracks between San Francisco's 4th and King Station to San Jose's Tamien Station. The first electric train is expected to start running in late 2020 or 2021.
Friday's ceremony was attended by Gov. Jerry Brown, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and other leaders.
The state Department of Finance approved the expenditure of $600 million in voter-approved bond money. The approval follows the Trump administration’s decision to fully fund a $650 million grant for the project.
The peninsula section is the northernmost piece of the $64 billion bullet train that will link San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Caltrain runs diesel locomotives that are more than 30 years old and need to be replaced, officials say.
An estimated 65,000 people ride Caltrain every day, which is more than double the number of commuters in 2005. With its new electric trains, Caltrain can increase capacity by adding up to six new trains in each direction during peak hours. The new cars will still top out at 79 mph, but will be quieter and less polluting.
High-speed rail opponents have filed a lawsuit challenging the electrification project. They argue that state legislation unconstitutionally allows high-speed rail bonds to be spent on Caltrain, violating promises made to voters in 2008.
A number of people with property along the tracks might be forced to give up some or all of their land to make way for the project. Some of them have also raised safety and health concerns about the electromagnetic field that this project will create.