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Light-Rail Sprinter Still on Track for Dec. 16 Start, Officials Report

The North County Transit District says it is still planning to open the long-anticipated Sprinter rail line by Dec. 16.

The Sprinter, a light-rail service spanning a 22-mile stretch alongside state Highway 78, will provide another east-west link between Oceanside, Vista, San Marcos and Escondido.

Its success is contingent upon businesses arriving to help boost passenger traffic.

Roger Carlson, a CB Richard Ellis leasing specialist for North County office and industrial space, says that he thinks the Sprinter will help alleviate congestion on Highway 78 over time.

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“Major new developments in the pipeline in San Marcos include significant retail, office and residential at Twin Oaks Valley Road,’ ” Carlson said. “I think the Cal State University San Marcos area and San Marcos in general will benefit the most, due to the college location.”

Ocean Ranch Corporate Centre and Pacific Coast Business Park in Oceanside that are nearby also will benefit from the service, Carlson says.

“I think what you will find is that they have put stops near areas already heavily developed (so) I don’t really see this driving new development as much as serving existing development,” said Carlson.

Meanwhile, recent signaling problems during safety tests had threatened the timetable, but Sprinter Project Manager Don Bullock said he’s optimistic about the timing and that the kinks are being worked out.

Transit district spokesman Peter Aadland says that after 25 years of planning and after spending $484.1 million, another week or two makes little difference.

“It’s an extremely safety-critical element to the operation of the railroad that can’t be compromised,” said Aadland. “It has to be perfect.

“Construction is virtually complete, and vehicles are being run and tested every day. The Sprinter is performing well,” he added.

Aadland says coordinating new developments alongside a transit center is becoming increasingly attractive to city planners and developers.

One plus to such a strategy is a reduction in the need for parking lots.

“Sandag has put together a smart growth working group for the Sprinter corridor, comprised of all of the neighboring city planners, meeting to look at future land use and projects along the corridor. The more density around the rail stations, the more you can really use it,” Aadland says.

Aadland says he thinks the Sprinter will be a success and that more moves in this direction will change the transportation scene in San Diego.

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