Caltrain Electrification and Positive Train Control

Caltrain Electrification visualization


The Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board’s (PCJPB or Caltrain’s) Electrification project will replace Caltrain’s existing diesel service with a fully electrified service from the 4th and King station in San Francisco to the Tamian station in San Jose. This is one of the main components of the Caltrain Modernization program (CalMod). The CalMod program provides the commuter rail system with the strategic vision to improve system performance while minimizing equipment and operating costs, and is critical to the long-term financial sustainability of Caltrain. The project’s various components include the installation of two substations for traction power, poles, and an overhead contact system; signal and grade crossing circuitry changes, and the acquisition of electric rolling stock, known as electric multiple units (EMUs), to replace the majority of the current diesel trains. The project will extend for 52 miles from San Francisco to San Jose. It will result in faster and more frequent service, reduction of air pollutant emissions, and reduction of noise and vibration.

The vehicle replacement portion of the Caltrain Electrification Project will take place concurrently with the electrification infrastructure portion. The first phase of the vehicle replacement project, part of the CalMod Early Investment Program, will procure 96 new EMU’s to replace 20 locomotives and 73 passenger cars. For the second phase, the remaining diesel locomotives and passenger cars will be progressively replaced as the vehicles reach the end of their useful life.

Caltrain has completed the preliminary engineering and the federal and state environmental phases of the Caltrain Electrification Project. The Environmental Assessment/Environmental Impact Report was submitted to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) in March 2009 and the FTA issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) on December 17, 2009. The project was subsequently put on hold due to lack of funding. In 2011, the Caltrain Electrification project received a Ruling of Particular Applicability from the Federal Railroad Administration to allow the use of EMU trains on railroads that also serve diesel trains. More recently, in 2015, Caltrain adopted the final environmental document and engaged URS Corporation to provide Program Management services.

In August 2016, Caltrain awarded a Design-Build Electrification contract to Balfour Beatty Infrastructure in the amount of $697 Million. The contractor has been working on contract submittals, 65% design, and field investigations. Geotechnical borings along the corridor started in November, together with Archeological exploratory field analysis. Work also is proceeding with potholing layouts at the OCS pole locations. Utility relocation coordination was completed with the Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR), Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), and other utilities on the proposed relocation requirements for Electrification.

Also on September 6, Caltrain gave notice-to-proceed to Stadler Rail for the $551 million EMU contract to design and fabricate the electric vehicles. In accordance to the Buy America provisions of the FTA funding, the vehicles will be manufactured in Salt Lake City. The vendor has submitted various early deliverables to Caltrain and has been participating in the Conceptual Design Review of various EMU systems, including HVAC, passenger side doors, and controls. The team is currently in discussions and coordination meetings regarding positive train control (PTC<) equipment, mockups and samples for public outreach, and O&M requirements.

Revenue service is anticipated by 2021.


In early 2012, the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s (CHSRA) 2012 Business Plan embraced a blended operations approach for the system and, most importantly, identified Caltrain as a recipient of early funding available from the state Prop 1A high-speed rail bond funds. Under this structure, Caltrain and the CHSRA will share the infrastructure from San Francisco to San Jose, staying within the existing right-of-way. Electrification of the peninsula rail corridor is a necessary investment to support the blended Caltrain and high-speed rail system. In the short-term, electrification will bring more commuter service to our region in a quieter and greener way. For the long term, electrification prepares the corridor to accommodate the high-speed rail system, which will provide a one-seat ride from downtown San Francisco to Los Angeles. The 2016 CHSRA Business Plan envisions that the Initial Operating Segment (IOS) of the system will be from San Francisco to Bakersfield, with a target in-service date of 2025.

In 2012, the Transportation Authority entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the CHSRA, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the City and County of San Francisco, and five other stakeholders to establish a funding framework for a high-speed rail early investment strategy for a blended system in the Peninsula Corridor. The MOU committed each of the three PCJPB members (San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties) to a local contribution of $60 million each for the Early Investment Strategy for the Peninsula Corridor, comprised of the Caltrain Electrification and Advance Signal System projects, which had a total cost of $1.459 billion. That budget was based on a 2008 estimate escalated to year of expenditure. Subsequently, Caltrain conducted a budget update workshop and solicited bids from contractors, which resulted in a revised budget of $2.211 billion. As a result, the local contribution was increased to $80 million. A supplemental MOU to that effect was executed in anticipated in July 2016. The Transportation Authority is anticipated to contribute about $25 million of San Francisco’s local contribution, including about $21 million in Prop K funds. High-Speed Rail service in the Peninsula is anticipated for 2026.


Engineers discuss aspects of the CBOSS project in the field

In parallel with the Electrification project, Caltrain is proceeding with the design and installation of the Advance Signal System, also known as the Communications-Based Overlay Signal System (CBOSS) or Positive Train Control Project. CBOSS is a system that, among other features, tracks train locations and prevents unsafe train movements through the use of equipment on-board the locomotives and in the field along the alignment. In October 2011, Caltrain awarded a design-build contract to Parsons Transportation Group for the design and implementation of the $231 million Project. Final design was completed in January 2014. Wayside systems and on-board systems installation are also complete, together with the Backup Central Control Facility (BCCF), which was put into service in June 2016. After completing an update of the Central Control Facility (CCF), operations were transferred back from the BCCF. Work is also being completed on the onboard software development and testing, both in the lab and on test trains. Overall system testing and commissioning continues. Revenue Service Demonstration is anticipated for 2018.

In addition to providing funding, the Transportation Authority provides Project Management Oversight in accordance with a protocol approved by the transportation Authority Board and the PCJPB. The Transportation Authority also participates in the Peninsula Corridor Working Group and the Local Policy Management Group. Find out more on the Caltrain Modernization Program web page. Learn more about high-speed rail at the California High-Speed Rail Authority web site.


Download our Caltrain Electrification Fact Sheet.

Map showing Caltrain route from San Jose to San Francisco