First Trolley Rolls Onto Mid-Coast Extension As SANDAG, MTS Test New Track
Transportation leaders and transit advocates from around the region gathered Tuesday to witness the first trolley on the Mid-Coast Extension of the UC San Diego Blue Line.
The milestone signifies that train testing is beginning and that the San Diego Association of Governments is officially transferring responsibility to the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System for operations.
"This is an important day," said Nathan Fletcher, MTS board chair and San Diego County supervisor. "We get the keys to Mid-Coast and it's all- systems-go for testing our trolleys on the tracks.
"The public will see more and more of San Diego's famous red trolleys testing on these tracks over the next several months," he continued. "MTS will be working hard to train staff to get ready for the November launch."
The Mid-Coast Extension is a priority for SANDAG and is intended to "have a transformative impact on regional transit connectivity," according to the regional transportation planning agency.
The project will expand the current trolley network to provide a one-seat ride from the U.S./Mexico Border north to the University community. The extension will connect the two largest employment centers in San Diego — the University area and downtown San Diego — and will serve UCSD, which supports 75,000 students, faculty and staff and provide health care access to the VA San Diego Healthcare System's 84,500 veterans.
Major construction for the 11-mile trolley extension began in 2016, and the project remains on budget and on schedule to begin service in November 2021.
"The Mid-Coast Extension of the UC San Diego Blue Line Trolley is the largest infrastructure project in our region's history and a testament to what we can achieve when local agencies like SANDAG and MTS work together," SANDAG Chair and Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear said.
"This project will give people real transportation choices," she continued. "As we approach the completion of this project, we also move one step closer to realizing SANDAG's vision for a faster, fairer, and cleaner transportation system for generations to come."
There is no public access to the stations or the tracks during the testing period. Construction is still ongoing on portions of the extension and active trains will be on the tracks. Testing and training will take place for approximately five months to ensure the system is ready to carry passengers.
Testing will continue through Sept. 10, and on Sept. 11, the six north-end stations are anticipated to be complete and MTS will take on security, facilities and maintenance for those stations and the full alignment. On Sept. 17, MTS is planning to begin training operators and supervisors on the full 11- mile extension with the full alignment scheduled to fully open Nov. 21.
To support the extra service, MTS has added 45 new trolleys built by Siemens Mobility and partially funded by TransNet, the region's half-cent sales tax for transportation projects. MTS added 128 new positions including train operators, security, maintenance, IT and more to manage the extension.
MTS has also made enhancements to its bus service to align with the trolley extension and better connect residents to the new stations. MTS will replace two existing express routes, modify seven exiting east-west connections and implement three new routes that connect to the Trolley.