Caltrain provides commuter rail service from San Francisco to San Jose, with commute service to...

Caltrain provides commuter rail service from San Francisco to San Jose, with commute service to Gilroy.

Photo: Caltrain

Caltrain has announced that the Electrification Project cost has increased to $2.44 billion. The cost will require an additional $462 million over the initial estimate for the project, $129 million over the estimate made by the Federal Transit Administration earlier this year.

The project is still expected to be completed by 2024. 

“This is an inflection point in the project. The civil work is nearly complete and Caltrain and its partners will be focused on completing the signal, system integration and testing. The Bay Area deserves a modern rail service and that is what we intend to deliver,” said Michelle Bouchard, Caltrain acting executive director. “With this agreement in place, that includes a mix of incentives and rewards for meeting the 2024 date, we are better positioned to complete this critical project.”

The cost increase is a result of negotiations and settlement with Balfour Beatty (BBII), the contractor tasked with the construction of the project and an overall detailed project budget update. The settlement resolves commercial issues and additional costs arising from the extension of the project to 2024. 

The detailed overall project budget update reflects COVID-19 related delays, utilities, and real estate work among other items. Both the settlement and budget update were reviewed by outside experts with the goal of setting up the project to achieve cost and project schedule certainty. 

“The electrification of Caltrain is of great importance not only to the region, but also the state and country. The project will help address climate change by replacing our aging diesel fleet with high-performance electric trains and creates jobs from California to Utah to Pennsylvania,” said Dev Davis, Caltrain board chair. “While it hasn’t gone as smoothly as we had hoped, we are confident that we are on track towards electrified service in 2024 that will transform how people commute throughout the Bay Area.”

Caltrain is working with its funding partners, as well as its federal and state legislative delegations to fill the funding gap. To date, Caltrain has received an additional $52.4M from the federal government; has access to $150M financing credit and $60M in Measure RR capital reserve towards the funding gap. Both the recently passed Federal Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act and upcoming State Transportation budget could be additional sources of funding. 

Significant progress has been made on the project that began construction in 2017 and continued throughout the pandemic. The civil work is nearly complete, which will remove a large project risk. Over 3,000 foundations are needed for the project and many unforeseen site conditions were discovered when the foundations were drilled into the 150-year-old right of way. 

Currently, 95% of the foundations are installed with only 59 remaining. While the traction power facilities approach their completion dates, with all ten to be completed early in 2022, the entire overhead catenary system should be installed by summer 2022. The next phase of project construction will be on signal and system integration work. An electric locomotive will be testing the new catenary system in 2022 and the first cars of the new electric fleet will arrive in spring 2022. 

Caltrain said electrification will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and eliminate the particulate matter caused by the aging diesel engines. Electrified service will lay the foundation to meet the goal of tripling capacity by 2040, the equivalent of carrying 5.5 lanes to U.S. Highway 101.