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TRANSPORTATION–Businesses Eager for College Area Trolley Extension



Route Will Connect Grossmont To Mission Valley Line

Local business leaders and transit planners are looking forward to the extension of the trolley through Mission Valley, saying that it will not only relieve traffic congestion along the heavily congested Interstate 8 corridor, but it also will be an economic boon to the area.

The Metropolitan Transit Development Board is nearing completion on the final design process for the $431 million project, which will extend trolley service along a 5.9-mile corridor in Mission Valley , from just east of Qualcomm Stadium to the junction with the Orange Line at the Grossmont Center trolley station. The trolley extension is expected to open in 2004, said Bill Lorenz, director of engineering and construction for the MTDB.

The trolley line extension is expected to attract 10,800 more riders by the year 2015 , and of those 10,800 riders, most of them are expected to be commuters who would otherwise be using I-8, Lorenz said.

That would help reduce traffic congestion along that stretch of highway. Lorenz noted that a single lane of highway traffic can carry 2,000 cars an hour, so the projected ridership of the trolley is roughly the equivalent of five added lanes of highway, he said.

The trolley line is also expected to be especially popular with San Diego State University students, who will benefit from a new trolley station and transit center right on campus.

The trolley extension will tunnel underneath the campus with an underground station stop and new bus transit center directly above it, right next to Aztec Walk on the southeast side of campus. This will facilitate transfers between buses and the trolley, Lorenz said.

Convenience

Sally Roush, vice president of business and financial affairs, said the trolley will be convenient for both students and faculty. The trolley will provide easy access between the campus, area shopping malls, Old Town and Downtown, she said.

Also, having the trolley on the campus will make it more convenient for area residents to get to sporting events at Cox Arena, she said.

The trolley also fits in to the university’s expansion plans. Currently, SDSU has a satellite campus in National City, near a trolley stop. If the university needs to add other satellite colleges in the future, then it would be convenient to locate them near other trolley stops, Roush said.

Roush mentioned a possible satellite location in Otay Mesa , an area which is expecting rapid growth in the future, and which may be served by a future trolley line, according to plans approved in February by the San Diego Association of Governments.

College Area Merchants

College Area merchants, meanwhile, are looking forward to seeing more people flocking to SDSU , thanks to the trolley line and construction that would house 10,000 students closer to the campus, said Don Mullen, executive director of the College Business District.

However, whether more people in the area would actually translate into more money in local coffers depends on several factors, Mullen said.

Most of the College Area businesses are located along El Cajon Boulevard near College Avenue , a short distance by car, but not close enough to campus to be pedestrian friendly. Therefore, the key to getting more people into the stores is increased transit between the college and the shopping district, Mullen said.

“The community is really looking for leadership from MTDB to help us accomplish this task,” he said.

Groundbreaking for the trolley line will begin later this year.

“Right now we expect to begin utility relocation and tunnel construction at San Diego State University late this year, and construction of the La Mesa and Grantville sections beginning in 2001,” Lorenz said.

Design Changes

Roush doesn’t expect the excavation to have too disruptive an effect on classes. The campus already has experience with handling construction while classes were in session, most notably the recent library addition.

“Certainly with any project like this, there’s noise, there’s dust. But we worked very closely and very successfully with MTDB to obtain assurances that all those impacts will be mitigated to the extent that is possible,” she said.

The trolley design has undergone some changes in the past few months. The path of the tunnel has shifted slightly to the west , more in line with Aztec Circle Drive , to avoid passing directly underneath buildings on campus. This enables a simpler “cut and cover” tunnel construction method to be used, saving time and an estimated $3.5 million in construction costs, Lorenz said.

The trolley design has gone through other changes, as well. MTDB is working with Caltrans, the state transportation department, to reconfigure traffic at the interchanges between Interstate 8 at 70th Street station and at Waring Road.

These will not only cut construction costs for the trolley, but will also improve the interchanges and bring them up to Caltrans’ current freeway design standards.

“Almost everything with the Mission Valley East extension has gone smoothly,” Lorenz said. “This year we’re looking forward to building on the positive momentum we have so we can complete the design and start the major construction work.”

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