Several big-name California Democrats were gathered together Friday to do what they do best: spend lots and lots of money.

No matter the size or scope of a project, groundbreaking ceremonies always rank down there on the news scale somewhere alongside the grand opening of a new lube, oil, and filter franchise. Still, Caltrain was pretty jazzed that some ceremonial golden shovels were being hauled up to commemorate work on electrification of the commuter rail line, which will allow Caltrain to replace its fleet of diesel-powered trains with brand new electric cars.

The project, which is estimated to cost — wait for it — $1.98 billion, was given a boost in the form of a $647 million federal grant approved by the Obama administration but held up temporarily by the Trump administration at the request of California’s Republican delegation.

Incoming Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao finally released the grant after intense lobbying by California Democrats; Sen. Dianne Feinstein refused to support nominees to Chao’s department until she approved the project.

Gov. Jerry Brown was one of about 17 speakers at the groundbreaking, and after jokingly crediting “some magic” for finally securing the grant over the objection of Republicans, noted that “actually, it was the hand of President Obama pushing it forward.”

Credit really needs to be distributed among all the Democrat politicians who pushed for the project. Seriously, just take a look.

That shot almost melted our computer monitor, too, but then we realized we couldn’t afford a new one and grabbed it out of the fireplace before it was damaged beyond repair.

Note that the $2 billion electrification project is not the same as California’s high-speed rail project — that project is going to run quite a few bucks more, but at least $8 billion was set aside in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for high-speed trains, so no sweat. The Mercury News reports:

The electrification is expected to be finished long before any high-speed trains run here, and that project will require station expansions. Bullet train stops are expected at San Jose’s Diridon Station, Millbrae and the new Transbay Transit Center in downtown San Francisco.

Officials have yet to decide whether they will build new elevated tracks to give high-speed trains their own right-of-way, or add in passing tracks to let the bullet trains whiz by Caltrain cars, said Seamus Murphy, a Caltrain spokesman.

That seems like the sort of thing to be worked out before starting a $2 billion project, but whatever — it’s just money. Besides, look how happy it made everyone.


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