On Wednesday, October 26, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission will decide on its recommendations to the State of California about the priorities for funding the region’s major capital projects.
These priorities will be used for federal, state, and regional funding requests, starting with a current call for funding from the state Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program, which received supplementary funding from the state budget surplus in the last budget year.
The priorities recommended by MTC staff to the Commission are:
• Level 1: Caltrain Electrification, BART Core Capacity, BART to Silicon Valley II
• Level 2: Caltrain Downtown Extension, Valley Link Rail Project IOS
Caltrain electrification, which is scheduled to be complete in 2024, needs an additional $410 million. However, the MTC staff is recommending that electrification receive $300 million from this funding source (see chart below). Caltrain is also requesting funding to complete electrification from the federal budget, but the federal funding is uncertain.
If Caltrain is short ~$100 million to complete the project, it can borrow against Measure RR sales tax revenues. But this would incur financing costs that would be deducted from Caltrain’s operating budget, risking service cuts.
Meanwhile, the MTC is working on a strategy with BART, Caltrain, and other agencies with budgets facing a fiscal cliff as federal Covid relief funds run out. This strategy starts with seeking fiscal gap funding from the state. MTC and agencies will be looking to environmental sources of funds that also feed into TIRCP.
So it seems counterproductive to provide less than full funding to Caltrain electrification, only to come back and ask for more money to cover Caltrain’s even deeper operating gap.
If you agree, you can speak up at the MTC meeting on Wednesday, October 26 seeking full funding to complete Caltrain electrification. The meeting starts at 9:35am, the agenda can be found here, the capital funding item is #13a. The zoom link is here. Also, you can send comments by email to firstname.lastname@example.org by 5pm on Tuesday. Feel free to copy us at email@example.com.