San Diego region celebrates grand opening of Mid-Coast Extension of UC San Diego Blue Line Trolley

Nov. 23, 2021
More than 8,500 people attended festivities at UC San Diego Central Campus trolley station.

The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) and San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) staff were joined by federal, state, 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 Mid-Coast Trolley Extension, built by SANDAG, remained on budget and on schedule throughout construction. The extension provides a direct connection from the U.S./Mexico Border to the University Community.

During the event, community members enjoyed free trolley rides and family-friendly festivities, including live music, food, giveaways, carnival rides and remarks from local, state and national leaders who were instrumental in the construction of the trolley extension.

“This is a historic day for the San Diego region as we commemorate one of the largest infrastructure projects in our history,” said SANDAG Chair and Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear. “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.”

Blakespear was joined by MTS Vice Chair and National City Mayor Alejandra Sotelo-Solis, San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, Congressman Scott Peters, Congressman Juan Vargas, Federal Transit Administration Administrator Nuria Fernandez, California Department of Transportation Director Toks Omishakin and UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep Khosla to celebrate the grand opening. U.S. Senator Alex Padilla also provided virtual remarks at the community celebration at UC San Diego’s Central Campus Trolley Station.

“This extension is a dream come true for me and for many people in our region,” says MTS Vice Chair Sotelo-Solis. “A one-seat ride from the border and our South Bay communities all the way up to University City on board our all-electric trolleys is a phenomenal addition to our public transit system. It

promises to increase opportunities for our people, reduce congestion and to help San Diego achieve our climate action goals.”

“Today is a day San Diegans have been looking forward to for many years – the opening of the Blue Line Trolley extension that will transform how many of us travel to destinations from the University community to our border with Mexico,” added San Diego Mayor Gloria. “This project will give San Diegans more clean transportation options that help us reach our bold climate goals while creating good jobs. I’m grateful to the countless people who made this day possible.”

Completion of the Mid-Coast Extension of the UC San Diego Blue Line Trolley is a significant step toward realizing the vision for SANDAG’s 2021 Regional Plan to create a modernized transportation system that is accessible for everyone by offering travel alternatives that are as fast or faster than driving alone.

The success of the Mid-Coast Trolley Extension is a testament to SANDAG’s ability to leverage local funds to secure additional funding from state and federal sources, and to plan, construct and deliver large-scale projects. This major investment in regional transportation is only possible thanks to collaboration through SANDAG’s regional planning process, which sets in motion decades of planning, engineering, design and construction.

“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 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.”

The $2.1-billion project was made possible with funds from TransNet, the half-cent sales tax administered by SANDAG to support transportation projects in the San Diego region, with the remaining funding provided through a $1 billion Full Funding Grant Agreement with the Federal Transit Administration.

Bringing the project to reality

WSP USA served as the lead environmental and engineering consultant for more than a decade on behalf of its client, SANDAG. The firm was responsible for environmental, planning, preliminary and final engineering; New Starts funding advisory services; and design services during construction of the light-rail extension operated by the San Diego MTS.

As the designer of record, WSP was charged with advancing the $2.1-billion project from environmental clearance and conceptual engineering through construction, including track and systems design and operations analysis, station design, traffic engineering, civil and utilities design and structures design. WSP also provided grant procurement services that led to the $1 billion Federal Transit Administration Full Funding Grant Agreement in 2016, clearing the way for construction to begin.

The extension provides a critical new connection for San Diego, extending the light rail line from the Old Town Transit Center north to the University Towne Centre (UTC) Transit Center in University City. The UC San Diego Blue Line now provides a one-seat connection from UTC to downtown San Diego, and south to the U.S.-Mexico border.

“At a time when we are witnessing rapid population growth in this popular section of San Diego, the Mid-Coast Trolley is arriving to provide critically needed public transit service along this highly congested corridor,” said Kimberly Jaskot, WSP project manager for design services during construction.

“This project presented many unique technical challenges, including difficult geological conditions, utility conflicts, adjacency to an active railroad, and construction in an urbanized environment where impacts to businesses, schools and medical facilities had to be carefully mitigated as part of the design development,” said Vladimir Kanevskiy, engineering technical lead for WSP. “We are grateful to have been part of a project team that was able to collaborate and successfully manage and overcome all of those challenges.”

“It’s been rewarding to partner with SANDAG on the delivery of the largest infrastructure project ever undertaken in the region and to help them achieve major milestones throughout environmental clearance and construction of such an important transportation project for the region,” added Kristin Carlson, WSP project manager for environmental support.

In addition to 11 miles of new double tracks, the project included the design and construction of 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 stations – five at-grade and four aerial. The project also included 1,170 new parking spaces at five of the new stations.

WSP also brought expertise in supporting the construction manager/general contractor (CM/GC) contracting process for SANDAG, including integration of the design team with the CM/GC pre-construction services team.

WSP brought together and managed a team of sub-consultants, closely coordinating with SANDAG’s team and consultant partners to advance and deliver this project. The team included TYLin International in partnership with HDR, program management; Jacobs and PGH Wong, construction management; and the Mid-Coast Transit Constructors CM/GC team, a joint venture of Stacy and Witbeck, Herzog and Skanska.

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