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San Francisco to spend $80 million on electric Caltrain project

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Total price tag: $2.2 billion. Electrifying

In a final meeting before checking out for a late summer vacation, city lawmakers kicked in $80 million toward the long-planned overhaul of the Caltrain corridor.

When all is said and done, Caltrain’s present diesel mode will go the way of, well, diesel railroads, in favor of electric trains and tracks that promise to be faster and more reliable while also sprucing up the region’s eco-friendly credentials.

(They will also reportedly provide infrastructure for future High Speed Rail projects, but that’s an undertaking and a budget all its own.)

The whole thing isn’t going to be cheap, though. Back in 2012, the many civic organs with a hand in the process estimated that the price tag would run more than $1.45 billion. But as always, time is money, and since then the cost has crept up to as much as $2.2 billion.

If the longstanding regional trend of everything always become more expensive at all times forever continues, it could end up costing even a bit more than that before the first volts go through the 52 miles of track between San Francisco and Tamien Station.

Most of that money will come from the federal government, but the present patchwork funding plan means that everyone has to chip in a little along the line. That’s why San Francisco’s contribution bumped up from the initial $60 million to the $80 million just approved.

The extra dough demanded a bit of extra scrutiny and a one week delay in the final vote. Because even though that’s barely a fraction of the overall project cost, at the end of the day it’s still $80 million.

Caltrain estimates that its ridership is up 70 percent since 2010. (The lack of BART service to the South Bay is evidently convenient for them, at least.) The overhaul is supposed to be done by 2020, and the Caltrain board approved contracts comprising the bulk of the estimated budget in July.