Some interesting developments:
- Many catenary pole foundations already installed
- Stadler already fabricating EMU bodies in Switzerland to be shipped to StadlerUSA's plant in Salt Lake City for assembly
- Caltrain purchasing a retired Amtrak electric locomotive to be used for testing. Who wouldn't like to ride an AEM-7 football special?
"Since the groundbreaking in July, we've advanced the design for the overhead catenary system, the signal system and traction power system," says Larano. "We've also started to do construction work, now that we have full funding."
Now that it's underway, the construction has been divided into geographic segments to minimize operational impacts on the railroad. Foundational work is in progress for the poles that will be raised to support the OCS system. The foundation for each pole is 20 to 30 feet deep and spaced about 200 feet apart on the right of way. The poles and foundations were designed to resist seismic and other live loads, according to Larano.
As of late January 2018, crews had completed about 200 out of about 3,000 foundations that need to be installed, she says.
"In addition to the foundation work, we are also preparing to install the traction power facilities and acquiring the property that we need for those," says Larano.
Those 10 facilities — which will provide and regulate the power to the overall system — will include two main substations (one in San Francisco, the other in San Jose), a switching station in the middle of the right of way and seven smaller stations that are spaced 5 miles apart in the right of way. Construction of the substations — expected to begin later this year — will take six to 10 months to complete.
Currently, the substation portion of the project is in the design phase, Larano says.
Once the foundations are complete, crews will return at a later time with cranes and off-track equipment to install the 30-to-50-foot poles that will support the wires. Using on-track equipment, workers will string the four wires needed to power the train.
After installation of poles and wires is completed, traction power will be added to the system. To test the electric power without damaging the new trains, Caltrain will purchase from Amtrak an old electric locomotive that will be used mainly for testing. A separate, 1-mile segment off the mainline is being constructed for that purpose.
"Testing will be a big part of the work after we install the poles and wire," Larano says.
Construction of the electrification infrastructure is scheduled to continue until late 2020.
Meanwhile, construction of the train shells has begun in Switzerland, with the first shell scheduled to arrive in Salt Lake City later this year. The first completed EMU is scheduled to arrive in California in 2019, with the last set scheduled to arrive in the state in 2021.
Also advancing is design of the signal system for Caltrain's crossings.
"We have 42 grade crossings and we need to modify the signal system to be compatible with the electrified system,” says Larano.
Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E), which will supply the power to support the new electrified trains, has begun relocating its electric facilities along the 52-mile corridor to support Caltrain's new system. Later this year, PG&E will provide temporary power for testing the trains, while permanent power is expected to be provided in 2021. After that comes the integrated and pre-revenue testing phase of the power system and new trains.
"One of the challenges in both design and construction is to make sure we minimize the impact of the work we're doing on the existing operation," says Larano. "There is maintenance work on the existing service that has to happen on a regular basis. There are other non-electrification capital projects that are also happening on the right of way."
For example, Caltrain has a grade separation project underway in San Mateo about a mile within a segment that is being electrified. The concern was how to enable two separate contractors to complete their work without getting in each other's way, says Larano.
The solution? Let the grade-separation contractor perform foundation work for both projects. Once the grade-separation contractor finishes those foundations, the electrification contractor will come in and install the poles and wires, she says.
Another challenge: minimize rider inconvenience during construction. As a result, foundation work on the right of way is limited to times outside of peak travel periods, which run from 6 to 9 a.m and from 4 to 7 p.m. Caltrain also modified its schedule to allow longer work windows on weekends.
More contracts to come
Still to be awarded are two major contracts: tunnel notching to improve train clearance in four tunnels in San Francisco and site modifications to a Caltrain maintenance facility in San Jose, where the electric trains will be maintained. So far, other contracts also have been awarded to Gannett Fleming, ARINC Inc., LTK Engineering Services and AECOM for portions of the project.
In addition to helping the environment and improving commuter-rail service, CalMod is creating jobs — and not just in California and Utah, says Caltrain's Fromson. A Caltrain study estimated the modernization program will ultimately lead to about 10,000 direct and indirect job opportunities in Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Future job creation will depend on Caltrain's ability to attract funding for improvements that go beyond the current electrification program, which will result in a 75 percent replacement of its diesel fleet. CalMod goes further, calling for electrifying the railroad’s entire fleet. "This electrification project will not be the end of Caltrain’s evolution," says Fromson. "It's really the foundation for making dramatic changes to upgrade and modernize the entire corridor."
Caltrain officials are searching for funding for some of those future improvements, she says. "But the electrification is the base that allows us to think about future enhancements."