At first blush, it would seem that the topic of this post would have very little to do with San Carlos, and even less with the real estate market that happens inside of its borders. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. The booming local economy has created wealth and jobs on a scale that has never been seen here before, and with that growth has come unavoidable gridlock that is the byproduct of a woefully dated and strained transit infrastructure.
In other words, our roads suck and you are paying the price with excruciatingly long commutes.
Because of this rapid increase in residents and commuters along the Peninsula, CalTrain has suddenly been transformed from an agency that was mired in debt and with a very uncertain future into a critical and necessary element of the daily commute for thousands of Peninsula residents who are desperately in search of an alternative to the hour plus daily commute into Silicon Valley. The exponential increase in ridership on CalTrain is now pushing the system to capacity — during peak commute hours, you may end up standing the entire ride home. And you’ll get nice and cozy with dozens of your newest friends if you’re trying to take CalTrain to AT&T Park.
Electrification of CalTrain has been discussed for many years as a way to increase the overall capacity of the line. Electric trains can run more quickly, frequently, and closer together than can the existing diesel-electric trains that run along the line. More frequent trains means more capacity — the estimate from this article in the Mercury News estimates that ridership will be able to double from 60,000 up to nearly 110,000 riders per day.
The electrification project has been steadily coming together, with contracts being inked and funding being secured. But the change in the federal administration put a significant portion of the funding at risk, with the final $647 million suddenly in limbo. But this week, CalTrain announced that the final piece of federal funding has been committed, and the project can now proceed. The expected completion date is sometime in 2021. The full letter is below.
So how does this impact San Carlos real estate? To reference an overused cliche, “it’s location, location, location.” The current state of affairs with our mass transit (or lack thereof) has absolutely changed the wish lists for many buyers all along the Peninsula. Many residents now use CalTrain as their main source of transportation to and from work, and consequently many home buyers are placing the proximity to a CalTrain station as one of the top priorities when deciding on which neighborhood to call “home”. That’s why Redwood City has put such an emphasis over the past decade on creating thousands of units of housing within walking distance to Sequoia Station, and why San Carlos is developing the Transit Village adjacent to the San Carlos train station. The close proximity to the north stretch of Laurel Street (and the CalTrain station) has pushed Howard Park to be the most expensive neighborhood in San Carlos.
Below is the entire entire letter from the CEO of Caltrain:
The Following Statement is attributed to Jim Hartnett, General Manager and CEO of Caltrain
“Today the Federal Transit Administration announced that they will execute a Full Funding Grant Agreement committing $647 million to the Caltrain Electrification project.
Caltrain has worked for over two decades to plan this critical improvement. Over the last few years, more than $1.3 billion was secured from local, regional and State commitments, and contracts were awarded to design, and eventually construct the project. This agreement commits the final funding needed to start construction of a project that will transform and improve the way people travel along one of the region’s most congested corridors.
We are very thankful to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao and the Trump Administration for recognizing the value that Caltrain Electrification will create for the Bay Area and the nation by easing congestion in one of the country’s most economically productive regions and creating almost 10,000 American jobs in the process.
We would not be able to take this step without the dedicated support from a tireless group of advocates. Caltrain’s Congressional delegation, including Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, Congresswoman Jackie Speier, and Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris have been unwavering in their support, and can be credited with helping the project endure its most daunting challenges.
Our private sector partners led by the San Mateo County Economic Development Association, The Silicon Valley Leadership Group and the Bay Area Council have led the effort to expertly convey how critical this project is to our region’s ability to remain economically competitive.
Lastly, Governor Jerry Brown, and California Transportation Secretary Brian Kelly have been instrumental in guiding this project forward every step of the way. The work that they have done on our behalf is testament to their enduring commitment to prioritize investment in the modernization of the State’s transportation systems.
Of course, this milestone is only possible because of widespread and vocal support from the communities we serve. Throughout this effort, Caltrain riders, businesses and residents throughout the region have been resolute in their support for a better Caltrain. We are very grateful, and we look forward to rewarding those efforts by getting to work right away building the transit system this region deserves.”
Caltrain has been planning for the electrification project since the 1990s and the PCEP has received broad support from the business community, labor and environmental groups, regional transportation advocacy groups, local, state, and federal elected officials.
In September 2016, Caltrain awarded two contracts:
- to a contractor to install the infrastructure to electrify the corridor
- to a contractor to build and deliver high-performance electric commuter rail trains.
A Limited Notice to Proceed (LNTP) has been issued to those contractors to advance design of the project. A Full Notice to Proceed (NTP) must be issued in order to maintain the terms of the contracts and avoid costly penalties and project delays.
Caltrain has secured all local, regional, state, and Federal non-Core Capacity funds for the project. The only funding that is needed is $647m from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Core Capacity program.
Over the last two years, Caltrain and the other PCEP funding partners have worked with FTA to meet all of the Core Capacity FFGA requirements to secure the $647m grant. The project has already received $73m in previous appropriated Core Capacity funds and the FFGA allows Caltrain to access those funds in addition to future Core Capacity funds.
Link to FAQs about the project: http://www.caltrain.com/Assets/Caltrain+Modernization+Program/Electrification+Documents/PCEP+FAQ.pdf
Link to the jobs that will be created by this project: http://www.caltrain.com/Assets/Caltrain+Modernization+Program/Electrification/CalMod+Jobs.pdf
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