New federal grant program could fully electrify Caltrain from San Francisco to San Jose

In early January, Caltrain is applying for $80 million in funding from a new federal grant program that could electrify Caltrain service from San Francisco to San Jose. The new program is funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that passed in 2022. 

The current electrification project in the works will only replace 75% of the diesel trains, because of the amount of initially available funding. With a goal to fully electrify, Caltrain negotiated an option with Stadler, its electric train car vendor, to purchase more “electric multiple units” if funding becomes available. 

The new federal funding program is offering $600 million over two years to replace aging rail cars. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law invests a total of $1.5 billion in new funding over the next five years for FTA’s Rail Vehicle Replacement Program, so there will be additional windows to apply if Caltrain does not get full funding from this application.

Getting to 100% electric service will not only eliminate diesel pollution for residents along the line, it will open additional options for Caltrain to operate more cost-effectively

Applications are due on January 5, 2023 and the grant awards are expected to be announced this coming April. 

Next step: electric service from Tamien to Gilroy

The Caltrain line is being electrified with poles and wires from San Francisco to San Jose’s Tamien station, just south of downtown San Jose on the part of the line that Caltrain owns.   However, the remainder of the line from Tamien to Gilroy is owned by Union Pacific.   

That section is eventually planned to be electrified with poles and wires as part of the High Speed Rail project, but that will take over a decade. To provide zero emission service from Tamien to Gilroy in the meantime, Caltrain is working with Stadler to explore the use of batteries to move trains from Tamien to Gilroy.