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Officials Take First Ride on Bayside Trolley Loop

TIMES STAFF WRITER

As onlookers stared and bagpipes blared, a bright red trolley car filled with city and county leaders eased out of the Gaslamp-Convention Center station Thursday afternoon.

Obviously, this wasn’t an ordinary lunchtime commute.

The leaders were on hand to celebrate the opening of a new Bayside trolley route extension that will run parallel to Harbor Drive and give riders easier access to the Convention Center and Seaport Village.

Before they rode away, several officials who worked closely with the project heralded the 1.5-mile extension as a vehicle to keep downtown development on track.

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“It’s like a June wedding,” Councilwoman Abbe Wolfsheimer said of the new route’s connection to downtown revitalization. “This line is the transit link that makes downtown living complete.”

Wolfsheimer professed to have a personal need for the new line, since her duties often take her to the Convention Center.

The $48-million extension, which opens to the public Saturday, will run from the Columbia Street station, where the trolley now makes its turnaround downtown, to the trolley system’s transfer station at the intersection of 12th and Imperial avenues.

Trolleys will stop three times along the Bayside route--at the Gaslamp-Convention Center at the foot of 5th Avenue, Convention Center West and Seaport Village stations--and fares for all trips within Centre City will be 50 cents, a Metropolitan Transit Development Board spokeswoman said.

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The trolleys will run both directions along the route at 15-minute or 30-minute intervals, depending on the time and the day, said MTDB spokeswoman Judy Leitner.

MTDB chairman James Mills said the new route will help prevent downtown from becoming further decentralized.

“Today we are tying the center of San Diego together with bands of steel,” said Mills, a former state senator. “We are turning San Diego back into a city with a vital heart by providing better circulation to that heart.”

Despite all of the lavish praise, the ceremony didn’t go off without a hitch.

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It was 12:28 before MTDB staffers could herd the rail-blazers onto the trolley and whisk them away--13 minutes after Mills said the inaugural ride was scheduled to begin.

“The revenue service isn’t scheduled to begin until Saturday,” Leitner said afterward. “I can assure you that it will be on time to the second on Saturday.”

Construction work on the system’s next two routes--from downtown to Old Town and from El Cajon to Santee--is scheduled to begin next year and be completed by 1995, Leitner said.


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