The economic boost created by modernizing Caltrain could reach into the billions of dollars and create nearly 10,000 jobs, according to a report released Tuesday by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute.
The report comes just days before the California legislature’s deadline to submit a budget to Governor Jerry Brown that could commit the state to nearly $6 billion in funding for high speed rail.
Earlier this year, Caltrain with the California High Speed Rail Authority agreeing to pay for half of Caltrain’s modernization effort with high-speed rail funds. The budget deadline, on June 15th, is therefore also a critical date for Caltrain, because if state lawmakers decide against funding high speed rail, it could jeopardize Caltrain’s funding.
US Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto) joined Bay Area Council President and CEO Jim Wunderman Tuesday morning and a coalition of business, labor, community and environmental leaders in announcing the report’s findings.
At its core, the report found that modernizing Caltrain by electrifying the entire system would create 9,581 job-years of new employment, $1 billion in immediate economic activity, and boost property value near rail stations by another $1 billion. Other economic benefits would total about $500 million.
“Our vision for a modernized Caltrain is before us—ready to go, ready to be funded, ready to make Caltrain better and to make our community better. The Bay Area Council study proves that modernizing Caltrain is a win on every level— environmental, economic and assurance of the kind of future we all want for our community,” Congresswoman Eshoo said. “Today, we’re poised to take steps that will assure a vibrant future for Caltrain. It’s time to show again that California can look ahead, can think big and that the little railroad that could, can again.”
Caltrain believes that, with funding from the California High-Speed Rail Authority, it can convert the entire Caltrain system to electric power by 2019.
The estimated benefits were calculated by looking at by adding gross regional product, state and local taxes, increases in residential property values, increased property tax collections, and the value of time saved by Caltrain riders.
“Our region needs this investment, our construction industry needs this, our environment needs this and frustrated drivers on Highway 101 need this. The state Legislature must approve this investment,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council, which has been a strong advocate for investing in the electrification and modernization project. “Caltrain serves one of the most economically productive corridors in California and the nation, and one of the busiest and most congested commuter corridors in the Bay Area region. Electrifying this vital transportation system will boost ridership, clean up our air and remove thousands of cars a day from Highway 101. At the same time, it lays the foundation for high speed rail to come to the Bay Area.”
Adrienne Tissier, chair of both the Caltrain Board of Directors and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, said that modernizing Caltrain is a mandatory part of the Peninsula's growth needs.
“For our region to grow and thrive we must invest in modernizing critical transportation infrastructure like Caltrain,” she said. “Investing in Caltrain will have significant and lasting benefits for our economy, jobs and our environment.”