California lawmakers want funding to make train crossings safer

State lawmakers are trying to secure funding to make Caltrain crossings along the Peninsula safer. 

The train crossing near the intersection of California Drive and Broadway in Burlingame is the most dangerous crossing in California.

The tracks are sandwiched between two traffic lights. So if cars are sitting at a red light, the back-up can leave cars stuck on the tracks. 

Over the last decade, there have been 22 accidents where a train hit a car at this crossing. 

There have been seven accidents since the summer of 2021, according to the city of Burlingame.

The California Public Utilities Commission considers fixing this crossing the state's top priority.

Sen. Josh Becker (D-Menlo Park) says the Burlingame crossing is one of three crossings that need to be fixed. The other two locations are in Mountain View and Palo Alto.

In Burlingame, the plan is to build a bridge for the train to go over the roadway, so cars do not have to drive on the tracks. A similar project was done in San Bruno. 

Originally, the state budget included more than $100 million to fund those three improvement projects to make the crossings safer by creating grade separation crossings. 

The Mountain View and Palo Alto projects would get about $20 million each. The one in Burlingame was allocated $70 million. But that money has been rescinded.

Gov. Gavin Newsom released a revised budget earlier this month. He said he had to "tighten the state’s belt" in order to "bring longer-term stability to state finances without delay and create an operating surplus in the 2025-26 budget year." 

"This funding cannot be lost. Lives are really at stake," said San Mateo County Supervisor Dave Pine at a press conference Tuesday morning. 

Dozens of local leaders gathered at the train crossing to plead with Governor Gavin Newsom to give the funding back. 

"Projects like this, this is now a $320 million project to fix this. So the money that we’re talking about from the state today is less than a quarter of that," said Sen. Becker.

City officials said $180 million will come from San Mateo County tax dollars. And they need the $70 million from the state in order to secure a $70 million matching grant from the federal government. 

"Without the state’s $70 million, our likelihood of getting a $70 or $60 million federal match is slim to none," said Burlingame Vice Mayor Emily Beach. "Construction can begin on this project next year in 2025. Without the $70 million addition from the state that we were promised and committed a year ago, the likelihood of breaking shovels here is slim to none."