MTDB Buys Right of Way for Old Town Trolley Extension


The San Diego Trolley’s Old Town extension moved closer to reality Wednesday with the acquisition of half of Santa Fe Railway’s 3.15-mile right of way from downtown to Old Town State Park.

The $17.5-million purchase by the trolley’s parent agency, the San Diego Metropolitan Transit Development Board, involves the right to build light rail tracks parallel to Santa Fe’s, from Grape Street near the County Administration Center to a state-owned parking lot west of Old Town.

“We leave Santa Fe, in essence, half the right of way,” MTDB general counsel Jack Limber said Wednesday. “We will physically move their tracks westward to the fullest extent allowable, and we will build a parallel set of light rail tracks on the inland side.”

In a statement, Santa Fe said the price, which includes a 1.77-acre Amtrak rail yard at Wright Street, was determined after four appraisals, two commissioned by the MTDB and two by Santa Fe. The MTDB has already started construction on the Broadway-to-Cedar Street leg of the Old Town Line, and acquired a short section of right of way from Cedar to Grape streets in an earlier transaction.


With the right of way in the MTDB’s pocket, two obstacles remain before construction can begin on the entire Old Town Line. The controversy over whether the trolley will run at, above or below grade at the Grape and Hawthorn street intersections in the Harbor View-Little Italy must be settled, and the transit board must complete negotiations with the state for an Old Town transit station at Taylor Street and Pacific Coast Highway.

The Old Town Line would be the fifth San Diego Trolley route. The 15.9-mile South Line runs from C Street downtown to the international border in San Ysidro. The 18.8-mile East Line stretches from downtown to El Cajon via La Mesa. The Bayside Line, a short extension of the East Line, runs from C Street and Kettner to the San Diego Convention Center.

Construction begins today on the Santee Line, a 3.6-mile extension of the East Line that will run from the El Cajon trolley terminus to Santee Town Center. The project will cost $114.4 million and take three years to complete. A groundbreaking ceremony will be held at 10:30 a.m. at the El Cajon station, at Marshall Avenue and Main Street.