San Diego’s Mid-Coast Trolley Extension Project AdvancesWritten by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
Testing has officially begun on the $2.1 billion, 11-mile Mid-Coast Extension of the UC San Diego Blue Line, which is slated to open Nov. 21.
On June 29, the first Siemens Mobility S700 light rail vehicle was launched on the line signifying the start of train testing, and the transfer of responsibility from the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) to operator San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS).
The Mid-Coast project will extend Blue Line Trolley service from the Santa Fe Depot in downtown San Diego to the University community, serving major activity centers such as Old Town, UC San Diego and University Town Centre (UTC) (see map below). It will also connect the two largest employment centers in San Diego (the University area and downtown San Diego); serve UC San Diego, which has 75,000 students, faculty and staff; and provide healthcare access for the VA San Diego Healthcare System’s 84,500 veterans. Finally, the project will expand the current Trolley network, offering a one-seat ride from the U.S.-Mexico border to UC San Diego.
Supporting the extension will be a fleet of 45 Siemens LRVs. (MTC took delivery of the final vehicle on Oct. 3, 2020.) MTS has also added 128 new positions, including train operators, security, maintenance and IT, to manage the extension.
Major construction on the extension began in 2016, and the project remains on budget and on schedule to begin service on Nov. 21, according to SANDAG and MTS.
The agencies provided the following work time line:
• Between June 29 and Sept. 10, the MTS Rail Activation Committee will test the train operation aspects of the system, including vehicle and system interface testing, traction power, braking, speed, and travel time verification.
• On Sept. 11, the six north-end stations are expected to be complete, and MTS will take on security, facilities and maintenance for those stations and the full alignment.
• On Sept. 17, MTS will begin training operators and supervisors on the full 11-mile extension.
• On Nov. 21, MTS plans to open the full alignment for revenue service.
“This is an important day [June 29],” said Nathan Fletcher, MTS Board Chair and Chair of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. “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. MTS will be working hard to train staff to get ready for the November launch.”