Caltrain to Work with Partner Agencies on Property Acquisitions

By Will Reisman, @WillReisman

The Peninsula Corridor Electrification Project (PCEP) is a key component of the Caltrain Modernization Program. The PCEP would electrify the Caltrain Corridor between San Francisco and San Jose and convert diesel-hauled to electric trains. The project, which is scheduled to be finished in 2020, will allow Caltrain to increase operating service, add passenger capacity, and reduce greenhouse gas emission and noise pollution, among other benefits.

As stated in the Final Environmental Impact Report, Caltrain will need to acquire some small pieces of properties along the right-of-way as part of the project.  Most of these acquisitions are slivers of parcels for placement of the electrical poles or easements for the electric safety zone around the poles. The exception is two sites needed for traction power facilities located in Santa Clara County. It is Caltrain’s intent to obtain these properties through voluntary transactions with property owners. However, in instances in which a voluntary transaction is not a possibility, a cooperative agreement between the JPB, the District and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority provides for an arrangement to undertake eminent domain actions for the Project.

Caltrain is unable to initiate eminent domain proceedings on its own under the terms of the Joint Powers Agreement that formed the agency. As a result, it needs to work with its funding partners to invoke the authority and measures in each of the county to facilitate eminent domain actions that may be required.

Earlier this month, the respective Board of Directors for Caltrain and SamTrans approved providing the General Manager with the authority to enter into Cooperative Agreements with both the District and VTA to facilitate undertaking any requisite property acquisition utilizing their eminent domain authority.

Caltrain has successfully used Cooperative Agreements in the past in connection with prior projects. In 2005, the rail agency used one such agreement with the VTA to acquire property for the construction of its Centralized Equipment Maintenance and Operations Facility (CEMOF) in San Jose. More recently, Caltrain worked with the District under a Cooperative Agreement to purchase property interests necessary for the construction of the San Bruno Grade Separation Project.

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