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California Democrats

Gov. Jerry Brown marks the start of Caltrain's electrification project with rare praise for the federal government

 (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

Celebrating rare cooperation between California and the Trump administration, Gov. Jerry Brown and federal officials on Friday marked the start of a more than $1.3-billion project to convert the Caltrain service between San Jose and San Francisco from diesel to electric trains.

The Brown administration, which has disagreed with Trump over issues ranging from climate change to immigration, joined congressional Democrats in aggressively lobbying the White House and U.S. Department of Transportation for federal funding of the project when it appeared to be in jeopardy.

"Today, we are recognizing a successful train [project]," Brown said at the ceremony at the Millbrae Caltrain station. "It's about the future. It's about clean air. It's about efficiency, speed. It's about not sitting on the freeway for a couple of hours bumper to bumper."

With the state using money from bonds for its bullet train, the 50-mile project has been touted by supporters as an important step in converting systems for high-speed rail.

Eventually, the bullet train would use the same electrical system and the same tracks.

After Trump initially delayed a decision on the project in February, Brown met with the president’s Transportation secretary, Elaine Chao, and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy in Washington, D.C., to seek approval of the grant.

Chao released the first $100 million and committed her department to prioritizing an additional $408 million in appropriations for the project in the future. Other money is being provided by local, regional and state agencies.

Caltrain serves some 65,000 riders every weekday from San Francisco to San Jose, a number that has nearly doubled in the last 10 years and is straining the system, Brown said.

Shortly after Trump took office, he proposed spending $1 trillion on infrastructure projects throughout the country. The Caltrain Peninsula Corridor Electrification Project was on a list of $100 million in key infrastructure projects submitted by Brown’s office to the federal government in February.

Brown said the federal government needs to do more for the nation's infrastructure.

"This is a good example of cooperation between local, state and federal [agencies]," agencies, he said. "We need to do more of it, a hundred times more than what this train represents."

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