President Barack Obama has asked Congress for $125 million in the fiscal 2017 budget for the electrification of Caltrain, U.S. Department of Transportation officials announced Wednesday.
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx said in a statement that projects like Caltrain's electrification "transform communities" by "improving mobility and access to jobs, education, and other important opportunities for millions of residents."
The money would come through the Federal Transit Administration's Capital Investment Grant Program.
If Caltrain receives the money, it "will have a sizeable impact" on the $430 million still needed to pay for electrification, Caltrain spokeswoman Jayme Ackemann said.
Caltrain will also get $73 million that had been allocated in previous years, leaving a deficit of $232 million, Ackemann said.
Last year, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District allocated $20 million to the project, saying it will substantially improve air quality for residents of the Peninsula train corridor.
Electrification is part of a larger Caltrain modernization program that will replace the diesel system with a more modern electric system, according to the Department of Transportation. The project will replace both train cars and infrastructure.
Electrification will allow Caltrain to increase the number of passengers it carries and improve service, Department of Transportation officials said.
A report by the air quality district said Caltrain will be able to run 114 cars per day rather than 92 and reduce emissions by up to 97 percent by 2040.
Besides the funding hurdle, the project is also facing a legal challenge. The town of Atherton and two advocacy groups filed a lawsuit claiming that the environmental impact report for the project was inadequate.
The plaintiffs said the report didn't adequately address the impacts of traffic, station configuration, electricity demand and tree removal.
Ackemann said the lawsuit is in mediation.
Caltrain's ridership was at 58,200 boardings a day in November, according to the Federal Transit Administration. With the new system, boardings may exceed 100,000 per day by 2040.
The total cost of the project is $1.76 billion, FTA officials said.