July 31, 2013

San Diego kicks off $660M trolley renovation


Photo courtesy Trickymaster, Wikimedia Commons

Photo courtesy Trickymaster, Wikimedia Commons

San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) began the final phase of its $660-million Trolley Renewal project, kicking off construction to modernize the Blue Line, the most heavily used transit service in the region, with an average daily ridership of more than 50,000.

“In less than 18 months, the oldest segment on the MTS trolley system will be transformed into the newest,” said Harry Mathis, chairman of the MTS board of directors. “And the primary beneficiaries of all these improvements are our customers.”

The Blue Line, which has been one of the most successful light rail lines in North America, will be completely renovated. One-dozen stations, from Barrio Logan to San Ysidro, will be elevated to afford customers almost level boarding. Access between bus and trolley services will be enhanced. New shelters, closed-circuit television, next-arrival signage, enhanced lighting, and a smoother ride will all improve the customer experience.

The Trolley Renewal project is funded by a variety of sources, including TransNet, the regional half-cent sales tax for transportation administered by SANDAG; California Proposition 1B and 1A bond money; and the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, commonly known as the federal stimulus package.

SANDAG began the project in partnership with MTS in fall 2010 and is scheduled to finish the work in 2015. The project is bringing 65 low-floor trolley cars to the region, improving access for all riders. The new vehicles provide nearly level boarding, so time-consuming mechanical lifts will no longer be needed. The ultimate result will be faster boarding for all passengers and improved on-time performance. These new vehicles are already being used by thousands of passengers each day on the Green and Orange Lines.

The trolley system marks its 32nd anniversary this week as many of its original components are nearing the end of their useful lives.

The system-wide overhaul also includes raising 35 station platforms to accommodate the low-floor vehicles, replacing outdated rail and overhead wires, and improving street crossings, switching, and signaling. In addition, the project will also expand freight capacity between Downtown San Diego and the border area.

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