The Caltrain Draft Electrification Environmental Impact Report (EIR) was released, Friday, February 28th. The public has 60 days to comment. On Tuesday night, March 18th, 6-8 pm. at their San Carlos headquarters, the Caltrain organization will conduct the first of four public meetings to discuss the roll out of the long awaited electrification plan for the 51-mile corridor from San Jose to San Francisco.
The public will be able to make comments at the meeting but if you want a response you will have to send in a written comment. What happens next? After 60 days, April 29th, the Caltrain organization will review the public comments and issue a final document. Here’s the sequence of what will happen.
Final EIR: Fall of 2014
Project Design: Winter of 2015
Construction: 3 to 4 years
Begin Caltrain’s service: 2019
Here is a Question and Answer document you might find handy. http://www.caltrain.com/Assets/Caltrain+Modernization+Program/Documents/PCEP+FAQ.pdf
Many organizations are in the process of examining the 872 page document.
Early indications are there could be issues and delays in finalization of the document and/or implementation:
· Key financial data usually found in a draft EIR is missing data. This perhaps points to a premature release of this Draft EIR. Example it says this under 2.4.3 Operating and Maintenance Costs and Revenues: “ The prior 2009 EA/EIR (FTA and JPB 2009) presented estimates of operating and maintenances [sic] costs and revenues for the electrification project. The JPB is presently developing new estimates that reflect current assumptions and the recent ridership estimates. The updated operations and maintenance costs will be presented in the Final EIR." Some experts say that this kind of data should be in the Draft EIR, not filed later after the sixty-day comment period is over.
· Union Pacific Railroad and BNSF worry about electrification because of electro-magnetic fields as per filing to PUC January 31, 2014. The filing said this, “The California High-Speed Train Project (“CHSTP”) is a project that has been defined by its uncertainty: uncertainty about when construction will start, how it will be paid for, where it will run, and how it will achieve its statutory performance requirements. “ This could slow down high-speed rail and even Caltrain’s project since electrification is the worry. https://www.pge.com/regulation/High-SpeedRailElectricSafetyOIR/Pleadings/Joint-BU/2014/High-SpeedRailElectricSafetyOIR_Plea_Joint-BU_20140131_295470.pdf
· The Electrification project is being funded with $600 million dollars out of Prop 1A money and represents about half of the funds they need for the electrification project. What happens if the high-speed rail project ends due to legal entanglements?
Marian Lee, Executive Officer for the Caltrain Modernization program, made rather candid comment to the Daily news, "We have to hurry up and spend the money, because if they [High-Speed Rail] disappear, they disappear with the money," she said. "Then we are half short." http://www.mercurynews.com/my-town/ci_25244905/caltrain-releases-draft-report-rail-electrification-project.
No Plan B was presented at the March 6, 2014 Caltrain board meeting. There was no indication as to what would happen if they didn’t receive the funds. That is the elephant in the room.
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