The newly projected cost to construct a 1.3-mile section of rail tunnel to extend the Caltrain commuter line to the Salesforce Transit Center in downtown San Francisco was estimated at nearly $6.7 billion by the Transbay Joint Powers Authority last week. The TJPA is responsible for designing, building, operating and maintaining the transit center and rail extension. The estimate is 34% higher than an earlier projection in 2015.
Caltrain operates south from San Francisco to Gilroy, California, serving Silicon Valley. Its ridership has plummeted to about 30% of pre-COVID-19 levels, mainly due to ongoing remote work patterns in the tech industry. The railroad is currently electrifying operations along its line at a projected cost of $2.44 billion. But Caltrain could exhaust federal funds that have kept it afloat as soon as this summer, according to news reports, potentially forcing service cuts.
The Caltrain rail line is also designated as the future route of the California high-speed rail project to San Francisco. But the cost of connecting the high-speed line being built in the Central Valley to the Caltrain line was estimated last year at $19 billion, and there is no funding currently available.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom also cut $2 billion in funding for the state’s Transit and Intercity Rail Program in his proposed 2023-2024 budget to address an estimated $22.5 billion budget deficit, which could affect future projects.