New risk: urge Transportation Secretary Chao to approve $647M electrification grant

This weekend, we found out about a new risk to the approval of the $647M federal grant to fund Caltrain electrification, which is slated for final approval this month.  The grant will need to be approved by incoming Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao – read on, and then click here to encourage her to approve the electrification funding without delay.

Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren reported that California’s Republican legislative contingent had sent a letter to incoming Transportation Secretary Chao encouraging her to reject the grant for Caltrain electrification, at a presentation on Saturday to the Shasta/Hanchett Park neighborhood association annual meeting.

Caltrain and our region’s business leaders are making their voices heard on the ground in Washington, DC.  It is also valuable for the administration to hear from you – commuters, drivers, and transit supporters – that this project is essential for our area’s transportation system, to support the economy and address some of the worst traffic congestion in the US.


The misleading letter opposing the funding for electrification was in the context of ongoing opposition to the High Speed Rail project. The opposition falsely claims that the application was made by the High Speed Rail Authority – in fact it was made by Caltrain – and that the tracks belong to High Speed Rail – in fact they belong to Caltrain, and will be shared with HSR when service arrives in the future.

The opposition ignores the fact that Caltrain electrification will provide major benefits to our area independently and for years before High Speed Rail is operating on the Peninsula.  Also, if this approval is delayed beyond the beginning of March, Caltrain will need to revisit its contracts for electrification construction and train equipment, which could lead to a higher cost for the project.

A follow-up letter from our Bay Area contingent states the facts: Caltrain’s application was completed and the project was favorably recommended by staff.  It is in a 30-day review, started on Jan 18 where it sits before congress for 30 days (Congress does not need to take any action). Then the Secretary needs to sign it. Only one project has ever not been signed, and that had received a low ranking.

You can send a customized email to Secretary Chao by clicking on this link.

And please refresh this post for more up-to-date instructions on how to most effectively urge the DOT to approve the electrification funding.

Phone lines in DC have been lit up in recent weeks with constituents demanding responsible government and having an impact. This is another important opportunity.

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

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