Planned trolley extension from downtown/Old Town to UTC raising new debate
by Dave Schwab
Jun 26, 2013 | 2295 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Business displacement, environmental degradation and the $1.7 billion cost of the Mid-Coast Corridor Transit Project that would extend trolley service from downtown to Old Town and north to UCSD and Westfield UTC in University City/La Jolla were among concerns raised during a June 21 public hearing by the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG).

The hearing held by the regional transportation planning agency’s transportation committee was intended to gather input on the transit project’s draft environmental document. 

More than a dozen speakers testified at the hearing, including District 1 City Councilwoman Sherri Lightner, who represents La Jolla and University City.

“There is strong support in our communities for this project,” Lightner said. “However, they will be directly impacted by construction and operations as the project is in close proximity to residential and commercial [zones]. We must not forget — or ignore — their concerns.”

Noting University City and the Golden Triangle are “a major economic engine for San Diego that must be respected,” Lightner said, “We must also ensure that we protect wildlife and our open spaces.”

Lightner said her office will submit a full written report on the project’s environmental documents by the July 17 comment deadline.

Debra Knight, who represents Friends of Rose Canyon, thanked SANDAG for not pursuing a previous alternative for the trolley extension that would have taken it directly through Rose Canyon, impacting open space. Knight argued the project’s environmental studies have so far not been exhaustive enough.

“There is no discussion of a noise wall or sound berms to protect our urban open-space areas,” Knight said. “Smart growth should be all about protecting the habitats in our urban canyons, which is a challenge. I hope there is a way SANDAG will be able to do that.”

Dan Allen, a La Jolla community planner who has long been involved in transportation issues, questioned the scope of the Mid-Coast trolley extension, given its high cost.

“The total project is an estimated

$2 billion,” he said, adding there should be consideration given to downsizing the project.

“Instead of a route crossing Interstate 5 twice and eating up most of that $2 billion, there should be a low-cost alternative considered that would go up to UTC and tie in with the ‘Super Loop’ bus system that is already in place,” Allen said.

During the public hearing, several representatives from Armstrong Garden Centers testified against a proposed new trolley station on Tecolote Road, contending a trolley stop there would threaten the existence of one of their nearby stores.

Several veterans and affiliates of veterans’ organizations also thanked the SANDAG committee for including an additional trolley station at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in La Jolla in the plans.

The trolley extension route, known as the locally preferred alternative (LPA), was approved by SANDAG’s governing board in July 2010.

The route would begin just north of the Old Town Transit Center and would travel north in an existing railroad right-of-way and alongside Interstate 5 to reach UCSD and University City.

Eight new trolley stations are planned at Tecolote Road, Clairemont Drive, Balboa Avenue, Nobel Drive, Pepper Canyon (to serve the UCSD west campus), Voigt Drive (to serve the UCSD east campus), Executive Drive and Westfield UTC transit center.

Environmental documents for the Mid-Coast Corridor Transit Project are available online at www.sandag.orgmidcoast, or at the SANDAG offices at 401 B St., Suite 800, San Diego, 92101.
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