Congressional letter to Transportation Sec’y attacks Caltrain electrification with “alternative facts”

The letter from California’s Republican delegation to incoming Transportation Secretary Chao opposes the federal grant for Caltrain electrification based on “alternative facts.”

The letter alleges that the grant application for $647 million for federal funding was put forward by the High Speed Rail Authority for “its line” from San Jose to San Francisco.

In fact, the grant application was made by Caltrain, for a project that has been in the works for many decades.   The tracks from San Francisco to San Jose are owned by the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Authority (Caltrain), which has an agreement to share the tracks with High Speed Rail when that service goes forward.

Caltrain electrification is expected to be in operation for years, providing faster, more frequent commute service well before High Speed Rail trains start sharing the tracks from San Jose and San Francisco.

The letter alleges that the grant should be put on hold while Congress investigates the overall financial health of the High Speed Rail project.  But Caltrain electrification is separate from, and doesn’t depend on the progress of the High Speed Rail project at completing the tracks being built in the Central Valley, or extending those tracks to San Jose.  In the current funding agreements to electrify Caltrain, the State of California has backstopped the High Speed Rail Authority’s contributions, in case there is any delay in High Speed Rail’s ability to come up with its share of the funding.

In fact, the Federal Transit Administration has required – and Caltrain’s funding partners have delivered – additional backup funding commitments in case there are cost over-runs on the electrification project.

In summary, the request to deny the grant funding is based on false statements that the grant proposal is from the High Speed Rail Authority and depends on the progress of the statewide High Speed Rail project.

Only one project in history has ever been denied funding at this stage of the grant application process – and that project had a low ranking – whereas Caltrain electrification is ranked “medium-high”, which is a clear passing grade by FTA’s standards.

Do you want Secretary Chao to make the country’s decisions on transportation funding based on actual facts, not “alternative facts.”  If so, send her a letter urging her to approve the grant for Caltrain electrification without delay.

Supporters of High Speed Rail will find other questionable statements in the letter opposing the grant – feel free to add that critique in comments, since this blog does not focus on the High Speed Rail project overall.

By Kabelleger / David Gubler ( - Own work:, CC BY-SA 3.0,

By Kabelleger / David Gubler ( – Own work:, CC BY-SA 3.0,


Supporters of the high speed rail project will find other factual issues with the letter – feel free to add them in comments to this blog post.


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It is erroneous on a number of points, particularly in suggesting that HSRA is seeking the FTA grant.  Caltrain needs to be electrified whether or not the HSR project ever arrives.  Crazy, vindictive and sloppy work.