Welcome Aboard: San Diego Opens Blue Line Extension

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
SANDAG and MTS on Nov. 21 joined federal, state and local leaders, and more than 8,500 community members to celebrate the start of service on the Mid-Coast Extension of the UC San Diego Blue Line Trolley.

SANDAG and MTS on Nov. 21 joined federal, state and local leaders, and more than 8,500 community members to celebrate the start of service on the Mid-Coast Extension of the UC San Diego Blue Line Trolley.

The $2.1 billion, 11-mile Mid-Coast Extension of the UC San Diego Blue Line made its official debut on Nov. 21; San Diego Trolley now connects the U.S./Mexico border with the university community.

More than 8,500 people gathered to celebrate the start of Mid-Coast service, which extends the Blue Line from the Old Town Transit Center north to the UTC Transit Center in University City (see map below). The extension connects the two largest employment centers in San Diego (the university area and downtown San Diego) and provides healthcare access for the VA San Diego Healthcare System’s 84,500 veterans.

In addition to 11 miles of new double tracks, the extension includes eight bridge crossings; nearly seven miles of at-grade alignment in or near existing railroad right-of-way; more than four miles of aerial viaduct structures; and nine new stations (five at-grade and four aerial).

On June 29, the first Siemens Mobility S700 light rail vehicle was launched on the new line signifying the start of train testing, and the transfer of responsibility from builder San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) to operator San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS).

Major construction work began in 2016. Mid-Coast Transit Constructors, a joint venture of Stacy and Witbeck, Herzog and Skanska, served as CM/GC (construction manager/general contractor). WSP USA was lead environmental and engineering consultant responsible for environmental, planning, preliminary and final engineering; Federal Transit Administration (FTA) New Starts funding advisory services; and design services during construction. Other firms working on the project include: TYLin International in partnership with HDR, program management; and Jacobs and PGH Wong, construction management.

The extension was paid for by TransNet, the half-cent sales tax administered by SANDAG to support transportation projects in the San Diego region, and a $1 billion Full Funding Grant Agreement with the FTA.

“This is a historic day for the San Diego region as we commemorate one of the largest infrastructure projects in our history,” SANDAG Chair and Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear said on Nov. 21. “The Mid-Coast Trolley Extension is an example of how we can transform our transportation system through the 2021 Regional Plan by providing convenient, safe and competitive transit access to job centers, education and healthcare for everyone.”

“This extension is a dream come true for me and for many people in our region,” San Diego MTS Vice Chair and National City Mayor Alejandra Sotelo-Solis said. “It promises to increase opportunities for our people, reduce congestion and to help San Diego achieve our climate action goals.”

FTA Administrator Nuria Fernandez

“As we celebrate President Biden signing the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, San Diego is already putting its principles into practice by extending the UC-San Diego Blue Line Trolley,” said FTA Administrator Nuria Fernandez. “This additional 11 miles of light rail will be transformational for the region, and we expect that more people—and people of varying needs and abilities—will have new access to get where they need to go. I congratulate SANDAG and the people of San Diego on this wonderful improvement to your transit system.”

San Diego MTS marked the 40th anniversary of the Trolley—the first modern light rail system in the U.S.—in July.

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