Friday, April 11, 2014

San Diego, Tijuana seek cross-border LRT

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Light rail transit operations operating across national borders is an established procedure in Europe, even as U.S. LRT operations across state boundaries remain rare. But San Diego, Calif., and neighboring Tijuana, Baja Norte, have revived plans for LRT service spanning the U.S.-Mexico border.

San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce President Jerry Sanders told local media, "That's one of our top priorities." He added, "It's very complex, obviously, when you have two governments, two state governments, two city governments, and MTS [Metropolitan Transit System]. But I think it can be done."

Complications involving freight rail use also exist. MTS in December 2012 leased a portion of the route to short line Pacific Imperial Railroad, which could make temporal separation of freight and light rail operations a necessity to comply with safety requirements mandated by the Federal Transit Administration and, perhaps more important, Federal Railroad Administration

But Sanders said business leaders and political officials in both nations were actively urging establishment of cross-border LRT service, noting the San Diego-Baja rail line was also among the top concerns discussed during a recent trade trip to Mexico City sponsored by the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.

"We're seeing more companies want to come here and work on both sides of the border," Sanders said, "but the railroad's really an important issue for almost all of them." Freight issues are helping to drive the process, but LRT is a significant factor as well.

The San Diego Trolley began operations on its 13.5-mile South Line (now the Blue Line) on July 26, 1981 as the first modern U.S. light rail transit line, linking San Diego's Santa Fe Depot (served by Amtrak) with San Ysidro, Calif., ending just short of the U.S.-Mexico border.