City leaders boast a number of economic, environmental and commuter benefits for the extension, such as linking San Diego universities, creating a one-ride route from the international border to University City, and increasing access to jobs along the corridor.
“The trolley extension will im-prove quality of life for La Jollans by reducing area traffic congestion and gridlock, reducing vehicle emissions and supporting the viability of local employment centers,” said District 1 City Councilwoman Sherri Lightner. “It also provides another public transit option for La Jollans traveling to or from downtown.”
Transit officials say commuters using the Blue Line trolley can expect an easy 30-minute ride from San Diego’s Santa Fe Depot downtown to UCSD once the line is completed.
The new extension primarily traces Interstate 5 north from the Old Town Transit Center to University City. Eight new stations are proposed in the plan, including stops at Tecolote Road, Clairemont Drive, Balboa Avenue, Nobel Drive, UCSD West, UCSD East, Executive Drive and Westfield UTC. SANDAG is also studying the feasibility of an additional station at the VA San Diego Healthcare System.
“I support consideration of a trolley station at the VA Medical Center. Details about the costs and benefits of the addition of this station will be included in the environmental and technical studies which are not yet complete,” said Lightner.
Project expenses — which jumped $460 million over the past two years due to mounting costs for additional trolley cars, construction, infrastructure and parking — will be funded from the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) New Starts program, as well as local TransNet funds. To date, a total of $39.2 million has been invested in the project for planning, preliminary engineering and right-of-way acquisition.
SANDAG and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) are currently preparing draft environmental documents, which will be available for public review in the near future. Following a 60-day public review period, the trolley extension is expected to receive its final environmental approvals late this year and could begin construction in 2015. The line is slated to open to the public in 2018.
For more information and updates about the mid-coast trolley line, visit www.sandag.org/midcoast.