A complicated, three-cornered trade of state transit money allocated to San Diego, Orange and Los Angeles counties could net $20 million to extend the East Line of the San Diego Trolley at least to La Mesa.
San Diego City Councilmen Dick Murphy and Ed Struiksma, who serve on the Metropolitan Transit Development Board (MTDB), unveiled the plan Thursday and expressed optimism that it would be approved. The councilmen said the plan has the support of Tom Hawthorne, San Diego’s representative to the California Transportation Commission, which ultimately must approve the proposal.
The trolley’s East Line extension is under construction, but without the proposed swap, available funds will extend it only four miles, to Euclid Avenue. Struiksma said the trade would provide a “unique opportunity to build the East Line to a logical stopping point and begin easing the congestion on Interstate 8 and Highway 94.”
Congress has approved $11 million for the East Line, Murphy and Struiksma said, but the grant has been frozen pending federal approval of the environmental impact statement for the project. San Diego transit officials have asked Congress for an additional $40 million to extend the line to El Cajon.
Murphy said that even with the full federal funding, the East Line could not be completed for at least five years “and that’s an optimistic prediction.” The swap, Murphy said, would guarantee that the line could go at least as far as Spring Street in La Mesa two years earlier than that, “and if we get some of the federal funding, we could go to Grossmont Center, and perhaps to the final destination in El Cajon, by then.”
Under terms of the proposed trade, the East Line would receive $20 million in state transit funds originally allocated to Orange County. In return, Orange County would be given $8.4 million now earmarked for the widening of Route 125 in East San Diego County; $8 million that was to have been spent on widening Interstate 5 near the Interstate 805 junction at Sorrento Valley, and $4 million that was to be spent on “low priority” freeway-edge drains. The work on Route 125 would be delayed for one year, Struiksma said.
Orange County plans to spend money from San Diego and Los Angeles counties--$44 million in all--to complete California 55, the Costa Mesa Freeway. Because of complicated bureaucratic strings attached to the state transit funds allocated to all three counties, the grant monies could not have been spent this year, and would have been returned to the state without the trade.
For example, Murphy said, Caltrans did not have the manpower to complete the work on Route 125 or California 55 this year. “The one-year delay (on the Route 125 project) should not have a major impact on our highway system,” Murphy said.
Before the trade can be consummated, it must be approved by MTDB, the San Diego Assn. of Governments (Sandag), their counterparts in Orange and Los Angeles counties, and the state transportation commission. The state body is scheduled to vote on the proposal June 27. Murphy is chairman of the MTDB board of directors, and Struiksma serves on that board as well as Sandag’s.
“We don’t anticipate any problem in getting the necessary approvals,” Murphy said.
Two years ago, in a similar swap with Orange County, money was appropriated for San Diego to begin construction of the East Line trolley extension.