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Area transit project gets moving

First District Councilwoman Sherri Lightner has been named to a group that will guide development of the Mid-Coast Corridor Transit Project, an 11-mile extension of the San Diego Trolley from Old Town to University City that could be running by 2015.

The board of the San Diego Association of Governments, San Diego’s regional planning agency, has a working group chaired by county Supervisor Ron Roberts. Composed of up to 23 members representing geographic areas of the corridor as well as diverse stakeholders involved in the project, the board will review the rail project’s purpose, consider alternative alignments, and review and comment on pertinent environmental documents.

SANDAG engineer Anne Steinberger said the Mid-Coast Corridor project has been in the works for a number of years. “We’re entering a more public phase of it,” she said. “We’re reaching some milestones with the environmental document going out for draft with public scoping meetings going to be held to get input on the document.”

There are a number of significant potential impacts from the rail line extension, including noise, visual impacts and changes to community character from station locations and access provided for them.

The rail extension alternative adopted by SANDAG begins just north of the Old Town Transit Center and travels in existing railroad right of way owned by the Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) north to Gilman Drive. Three stations are proposed - at Tecolote Road, Clairemont Drive and Balboa Avenue.

From Gilman Drive, the extension would run north along Interstate 5 to UCSD. From UCSD West Campus, the extension would follow Voigt Drive and Genesee Avenue to a terminus at University Towne Centre.

Two alignment options have been identified from Voigt Drive to UTC, one along Regents Road and Executive Drive, and another along Genesee Avenue. There are five stations proposed in this segment, at University Center Lane, UCSD West, UCSD East, Executive Drive and the UTC Transit Center.

After environmental review on the Mid-Coast Corridor, the next milestone will be public comment on a technical analysis of the 11-mile trolley extension, which will factor in anticipated ridership and analyze different alignments while evaluating projected costs. “The SANDAG board will then make a determination of what local alternative to take into the next phase of the environmental process,” Steinberger said.

She noted that they “are pursuing a schedule that will start trolley service in 2015 … hoping to go into construction in 2012.”

The cost of the project is high.

“This is a $1.2 billion project,” Steinberger said. “Half the money will come from the half-cent transportation sales tax, and the other half will come from federal funding for transit projects we are competing with other big cities for.”

The group held its first meeting on Sept. 3 and will meet on an as-needed basis.

For more information, visit www.sandag.org.