Construction for La Jolla’s Mid-Coast Trolley begins

The residents who live along Genesee Avenue, across from La Jolla Country Day School, haven’t been getting much sleep lately, and when they do wake up they’re dismayed to find their cars covered in dust. Preliminary work for the Mid-Coast Trolley Project has begun, with workers digging and drilling almost every night from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m., when traffic along Genesee is at its low point for the day.

The workers are digging up and moving utility and sewer lines from the middle of the street and placing them off to the sides. The reason is that the coming trolley, from just before the Mormon Temple all the way to UTC Station, will run over 30 feet above ground on a concrete viaduct. The viaduct will be supported by pilings sunk 40 feet into the center of the street. Hence, the need to move the utility and sewer lines now before the actual drilling begins.

In support of the work, the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), an organization with a governing board composed of representatives from all cities in San Diego County (plus the Mayor’s office) and responsible for transportation in the city, sent a team to speak at the Canyon Park Apartment Complex at 9555 Genesee Ave.

Composed of civil engineers, construction foremen, marketing and public outreach people, the team was there from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 18 to explain the project and field questions from community members in an open house-style format. In support, they bought numerous poster boards, renderings, photographs, and a video to share with residents.

Deputy Director of Engineering for the project, Frank Owsiany, explained that the new trolley line is scheduled to begin service in 2021, and will come up from Old Town along the east side of Highway I-5, adjacent to the railroad tracks.

Just before it reaches the Mormon Temple, it will go aerial and cross over I-5 and head into La Jolla Village Plaza, then on to UC San Diego. From there, it will skirt around the VA Hospital before emerging onto Genesee near Regents Road. It will then head down Genesee to its end stop at the Westfield UTC Shopping Center.

Owsiany said the project will cost more than $2 billion dollars. “52 percent of the money is coming from the local half-cent TransNet sales tax hike and 48 percent from a grant from the federal government’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA),” he said. “The San Diego Trolley Project actually won out over several other like-projects nationwide that were also considered for funding.”

Owsiany reports you will be able to ride all the way from UTC to the Mexico border on the same train in about 30-40 minutes. Trolleys will run every 15 minutes from 5 a.m to 1 a.m., shutting down from 1-5 a.m. “The trolley will provide an alternative to congested freeways and enhance travel options for residents and visitors alike,” he said.

Nine new stations will be built along the tracks. The locations are UTC mall, Executive Drive, Voight Drive, Pepper Canyon UCSD, VA Hospital, Nobel Drive, Balboa Avenue, Clairemont Drive and Tecolote Road.

Civil engineer John Dorow said SANDAG hired architectural firm Parsons Brinkerhoff to design the elevators and waiting plazas at the new stations.

Kristen Byrne, of MJE Marketing, has been working on the project since 2009. She told the crowd, “The new trolley extension will be great for the students at UCSD and will link University City, which is our ‘second downtown,’ with our actual downtown. The Mid-Coast Corridor the trolley serves to is a business hub with over 325,000 jobs.”

Dave Smith, a construction foreman with 32 years of experience, said three construction companies — Stacy & Witbek, Skanska, and Herzog — have joined forces for the project because it is so massive. “Construction is planned out way ahead of time in minute detail,” said Smith. “We have hired a lot of people who are very good at their jobs. They know exactly what has to happen by when. San Diego really needs this trolley to help relief the growing traffic problem.”

Noting the need for mass transit in the area, SANDAG communications manager David Hicks said he rides his bicycle to work from his home in Ocean Beach to his office in downtown San Diego, everyday. “SANDAG is the place where consensus gets built,” Hicks said. “Our organization is responsible for both regional transportation development and for environmental mitigation. If anyone has any concerns about the project they can reach me at or by calling (619) 481-7802.”

Construction hotline: (877) 379-0110.


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