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Caltrain: Federal government finally signs off on funding

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$650 million delay on tracks cleared

A caltrain engine crossing a bridge. Hank Shiffman

A particularly long, grueling Caltrain delay, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao agreed to sign off on nearly $650 million worth of grants that the state and agency have been waiting on to fund the rail system’s expensive service upgrade.

Senator Dianne Feinstein announced via Twitter today that Chao called her over the weekend and agreed to the long-delayed grants.

A celebratory Governor Jerry Brown confirmed the news in a statement that described the decision as “not only good for California, it’s good for America.” The California governor also played up his role lobbying on Caltrain’s behalf.

The news comes just in time for Caltrain as they approach a June 30 deadline for contract negotiations.

The entire project has been stuck in limbo and in danger of derailing entirely ever since Chao put the brakes on funding earlier this year, apparently in response to lobbying by California Republican lawmakers.

Chao herself framed the delay as a practical consideration rather than a political one, telling the San Jose Mercury News, “I cannot [agree to funding] if the funding is not there,” saying it was up to Congress and the White House to provide moneys for the grants.

Caltrain responded that this position seemed to misunderstand the process, as every federal grant it’s ever received came in the form of a promise to appropriate funds later.

But it seems that lightning finally struck over the weekend and put the plans back in motion. Caltrains hopes to have the first of its new vehicles in hand by 2019.