Rep. Eshoo is a longtime supporter of local transportation and transit projects that reduce traffic on our region’s overcrowded roadways and provide more options for the traveling public and businesses. She has made modernizing Caltrain one of her highest transportation priorities, and after many years this system is finally being brought into the 21st century. She has also secured federal funding for local projects to deploy electric buses, build bicycle lanes and paths, and improve bus and light rail service in the Peninsula and South Bay.
On July 21, 2017, Rep. Eshoo joined with Governor Jerry Brown, Leader Nancy Pelosi, and several other Bay Area politicians to break ground on the electrification of Caltrain. Electrification was first proposed in the late 1990s and has faced many obstacles and delays, but is finally moving forward. Caltrain has served our community for over 150 years, and Rep. Eshoo believes Caltrain electrification is a “win” in both the short and long term. Replacing the diesel trains with electric trains will have an extraordinary environmental impact, improving daily air quality on the corridor by over 97 percent and reducing annual greenhouse gases by over 176,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent by 2040.
Electric trains are less expensive to operate, quieter, cleaner, and faster than the existing diesel trains. This will allow Caltrain to keep up with increasing ridership and bring in more revenue to help Caltrain reduce its ongoing financial problems caused by the fact that it has never had a dedicated funding source. The project will also provide relief from traffic congestion on one of the most congested corridors in the country by removing an estimated 619,000 daily vehicle miles off our region’s roadways.
Rep. Eshoo was instrumental in securing a $647 million federal grant for the Caltrain electrification project. She led her colleagues in the California Delegation in 2015, 2016, and 2017 in writing to the Obama and Trump Administrations in favor of this project. The remainder of the $2 billion project cost is funded by the State of California and San Mateo, Santa Clara, and San Francisco counties.
In 2008, California voters passed Prop 1A (Safe, Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act for the 21st century), and approved a plan to create a high speed train system from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Their purpose was to alleviate California’s growing transportation demand and congestion. Since the beginning of the high-speed rail project, Rep. Eshoo has been at the forefront of helping to evaluate how it will impact local communities and critical of HSR’s early plans and their effects on Peninsula communities.
In 2011, after the High-Speed Rail Authority proposed a disastrous four-track plan that would have torn up the Peninsula, Rep. Eshoo joined with Rich Gordon and Joe Simitian to develop a plan for a “blended” system that will use high-speed rail funds to modernize Caltrain in exchange for allowing those trains to use the corridor if and when they come to the Peninsula.
Local Transportation Projects
Rep. Eshoo has helped to secure federal funding for numerous local transportation and transit projects in recent years. Some examples of projects that Rep. Eshoo has supported include:
- A $2.4 million grant to the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) to support the purchase of battery powered zero-emission buses and supporting charging infrastructure.
- A $6.3 million grant to support the construction of a rail trail along Highway 1 north of Wilder Ranch in Santa Cruz County.
- A $3.8 million grant to the Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District (METRO) to purchase zero-emission battery-electric buses and an inductive charging system to operate on METRO’s Highway 17 Express route.
Congresswoman Eshoo is one of the leading advocates in Congress for the electric vehicles (EV) and the charging infrastructure that is necessary to support this new technology. In 2014, Rep. Eshoo co-authored legislation to authorize the federal government to install EV charging stations at federal facilities. As the nation’s largest employer, the federal government should lead by example in offering workplace charging, but a quirk in the law prohibited federal agencies from constructing charging stations or even entering into contracts with third parties to build charging infrastructure. Rep. Eshoo’s bill was included in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, which was signed into law in 2015.
Rep. Eshoo is also a strong supporter of the federal tax credit for electric vehicle charging stations, known as the Section 30C credit. Section 30C provides a credit of up to 30 percent of the cost of installing EV charging stations, and it is capped at $1,000 for individuals and $30,000 for businesses. This tax credit was originally created by Congress in 2005 and has been extended by Congress on a short-term basis several times. Click here to see a letter from Congresswoman Eshoo to the tax-writing Committee in the House in support of extending this important credit.
Volkswagen Emissions Settlement
In June of 2016, the EPA and Department of Justice released a proposed $14.7 billion settlement with Volkswagen to settle claims that VW cheated on its U.S. emissions tests for its diesel cars. To determine if you are eligible for relief or to file a claim, go to https://claims.vwgoa.com.
As part of this settlement agreement, VW agreed to direct $2 billion over 10 years to deploying EV infrastructure, including $800 million to California. This is a massive amount to invest in a still-nascent industry, and Rep. Eshoo has pushed to ensure that the funds are spent in a way that benefits to EV industry as a whole, not just VW. Click here to see a letter from Congresswoman Eshoo to the EPA, urging them to ensure that consumer choice and competition are protected as the VW settlement is implemented.
On July 27, 2017, the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which Rep. Eshoo is a member of, passed the first-ever legislation in Congress to promote the testing, deployment, and regulation of autonomous vehicles (AVs). AVs have the potential to be the next great revolution in transportation, and many innovators in our Congressional District are working to make that happen. However, in order for consumers to embrace the technology and to ensure it achieves the safety benefits that are promised, federal regulators must produce safety standards that the public can be confident in.
Among other things, the bill requires the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to begin the process of promulgating safety standards for AVs and it mandates that automakers submit a safety assessment certification to NHTSA before they place any AV on the road. The bill also preempts states from regulating the design, construction, or performance of AVs while preserving their traditional ability to regulate vehicle registration, licensing, insurance, liability, and traffic laws. The bill also includes a provision authored by Rep. Eshoo which requires NHTSA to study the environmental impacts of AV deployment, including the need for more electric vehicle infrastructure because many of these next-generation vehicles will be battery-powered.
The bill passed the Energy and Commerce Committee by a unanimous vote and now awaits consideration by the Full House.