Electric Caltrain jolts forward

Getting to San Jose from San Francisco at lightning speed used to be reserved for guys like Superman. But under a new plan to electrify Caltrain, the transit system could someday be giving the Man of Steel a bit of competition.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission approved a $1.46 billion package for the electrification project on Wednesday. The approval, though, covers only the existing Caltrain route, not a long-fancied extension into downtown San Francisco.

The original vision of transit planners was to extend the Caltrain endpoint to the brand-new Transbay Transit Center. As of right now, no funding for the extension has been secured, making its future uncertain at best.

The extension would cost around $3 billion for 1.3 miles of underground track from Fourth and King to First and Mission.

So far, the California High-Speed Rail Authority has refused to contribute to this larger project, MTC spokesman Randy Rentschler told the Ex.

With the vote, the MTA kicks in $467 million toward Caltrain electrification. The California High-Speed Rail Authority will vote to release $706 million for the project, sans extension, on April 5.

In addition to not spitting out smelly smoke, electric locomotives can accelerate quicker than their diesel counterparts. This is expected make for faster, frequent service up and down the Peninsula.

If all anticipated funds are released, the electrification process could finish by 2019.