Trump administration halts $674M Caltrain improvement grant

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Late Friday the Trump administration announced it's delaying grant money that would electrify the train line between San Francisco and San Jose.

The delay is now threatening the state's high-speed rail project.

At the urging of Republicans in the California Congressional Delegation Trump's new transportation secretary, Elaine Chao is putting the $674 million grant on hold.

The administration's first big blow to the Bay Area is leaving Caltrain in the lurch. The grant, which was meant to electrify old diesel trains has been put on hold to save money and increase ridership.

To Caltrain officials, the decision to defer the money is a potential deal killer because their construction contract deadlines are in 12 days.

"It's shovel ready now so we're ready to proceed with construction but we can't do that unless we issue a notice to proceed," said Caltrain's Seamus Murphy. "And if we can't meet that March 1 deadline, the viability of the project is really in question.

60,000 people ride Caltrain between San Francisco and the South Bay every day. Many are concerned without the $647 million the train service won't continue to grow.

When asked if more trains and service were needed Caltrain commuter Sharon Rylander said, "Absolutely yes. Some days we're bursting at the seams," she added. "It's completely crowded. Just wall to wall people because the demand is very very high for sure."

"We live in the Silicon Valley and we should be more advanced than having diesel trains," said another rider Guadalupe Molina. "Our trains should be electrified."

Former state senator Judge Quentin L. Kopp, often called the father of the high-speed rail, didn't like how Caltrain appropriated the money for the project in the first place. "That $647 million was destined to be stopped," he said.

President Trump will consider the Caltrain grant in his upcoming budget proposal.

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