A new bill that’s being advanced in California (AB 1889) by Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, may lead to the freeing up of “funds” intended for use by the troubled San Francisco to Los Angeles high-speed rail project, with the funds being made available for other projects such as the electrification of Caltrain’s Gilroy to San Francisco route, according to recent reports.
To be more clear, the “funds” in this case refer to the sale of $1.1 billion in voter-approved high-speed rail bonds (the sale of ~$10 billion in such bonds was approved by state voters back in 2008). The state treasurer’s office sold the aforementioned $1.1 billion in bonds following the vote, but these funds have since been legally tied up.
The previously approved high-speed rail project also included plans for the upgrade of various Caltrain routes — such as the electrification of the 55-mile Caltrain commuter line that connects Silicon Valley to San Francisco. It’s not completely clear, though, what the legalities of the situation are.
KQED News notes that “Mullin’s legislative director, Andrew Zingale, said the bill is meant to clarify a portion of prior legislation that authorized $1.1 billion for transit improvements at both ends of the high-speed rail project. Zingale said there was a concern that the wording of existing law could mean high-speed rail would have to be up and running to fund an electrification project, which was not what lawmakers intended.”
In his own words, Zingale stated: “What we’re trying to clarify is that this does serve the purpose of that, but we don’t have to wait for the entire corridor of high-speed rail track to be built for the money to be ready to be spent.”
A spokesperson for the San Mateo County Transit District by the name of Seamus Murphy commented, “officials are poised next month to approve the first portion of the approximately $2 billion Caltrain electrification project to speed up travel times and train frequency, and they want to get financing in place. He said the state’s share of the cost would be about $713 million.”
He added: “This is a critical improvement for Caltrain service. We’re experiencing a capacity crisis.”
Considering the “necessity” of such upgrades, and the increasingly troubled outlook for the San Francisco to Los Angeles high-speed rail project, it would probably be a very good thing for this legislation to move forward.