Officials for the Caltrain electrification project in San Francisco announced February 17 that the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has decided to delay a $647 million Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) for the Peninsula Corridor Electrification Project (PCEP) until the Administration develops the President’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 Budget.

The contracts that have been awarded to complete the PCEP require that a Notice to Proceed be issued prior to March 1. Caltrain officials say the FTA decision will prevent Caltrain from issuing the notice by this date and may "jeopardize the viability of the project itself."

The estimated $1.98 billion Caltrain Modernization Program will electrify and upgrade the performance, operating efficiency, capacity, safety and reliability of Caltrain's commuter rail service. The Caltrain Modernization Program is scheduled to be operational by 2020. The PCEP is planned to be built on the Caltrain owned corridor from the 4th and King Station in San Franciscoto the Tamien Station in San Jose.

Project officials say they are now evaluating options for maintaining a viable project in the face of uncertainty about the timing of FFGA approval and the question about whether it will be approved at all.

In September, Caltrain issued a Limited Notice to Proceed to its contractors to advance design and pre-construction efforts. This work is nearly complete and the federal funding approval would match nearly $1.3 billion in secured local, state and regional investment, and allow construction to begin, say officials.

Caltrain says it worked closely with Federal officials to complete a thorough evaluation of the project including intensive engineering assessments and financial vetting, and the project has met all of the statutory requirements needed to qualify for an FFGA.

“Clearly, the FTA’s evaluation demonstrates that this Federal investment should be made based on the merits of the project, and we expect that the USDOT will continue with a fair process,” said Caltrain Chief Communications Officer Seamus Murphy in a news release.

Last August, Balfour Beatty Infrastructure Inc. was awarded a $697 million contract to undertake electrification of the 52-mile Caltrain rail corridor project, representing the largest contract secured by Balfour Beatty in the US. The company was hired to design and build a 25kv AC overhead catenary system to serve as the power source for new high speed trains and construct two traction power substations, one switching substation and seven paralleling substations. The company will also replace signal systems and earth existing facilities as part of the process to electrify the 52 miles of existing corridor.

Caltrain has secured all local, regional, state, and Federal non-Core Capacity funds for the project. The only funding that is needed is $647 million from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Core Capacity program, says project officials.