The project would extend trolley service from the Santa Fe Depot in downtown San Diego — past its present eastbound curvature at the Old Town/Point Loma border — north to University City,
The trolley extension would serve Old Town, UCSD and Westfield UTC. Construction is expected to begin in 2015, with service starting in 2018.
But there’s a lot of time — and a long way — between now and then, say Cape La Jolla Gardens residents, who want to ensure residents’ opinions aren’t bypassed in SANDAG’s efforts to select the trolley extension’s final alignment.
Condo spokesman Michael Krupp said he and his neighbors aren’t opposed to the trolley’s extension; they just want a practical — not a political — decision made on the path selected.
“The (original) trolley alignment has been moved 360 further south,” Krupp said, “which means its elevated tracks will be 120 feet from windows in half a dozen of our buildings with trains running 20 hours a day.”
Jim Linthicum, SANDAG director of mobility, said nothing’s been decided yet, adding that residents are welcome to plead their case about the wisest course for the trolley extension to take before the transportation agency’s board.
“We understand this is a mega-project going through the heart of many communities,” Linthicum said. “It’s a good project. We need transportation improvement. It’s been in the works for a long time, and our job now is to build the best project we can — and we need community input.”
The project and route, known as the Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA), begins just north of the Old Town Transit Center and travels in existing railroad right-of-way alongside Interstate 5 to Gilman Drive, then crosses to the west side of I-5, just south of Nobel Drive, and continues on to the UCSD campus. The route then crosses back over I-5 near Voigt Drive to the UCSD east campus and medical centers on the east side of I-5, transitions into the median of Genesee Avenue and continues down Genesee Avenue to the Westfield UTC transit center.
Nine trolley stations are proposed along the way — at Tecolote Road; Clairemont Drive; Balboa Avenue; Nobel Drive; VA Medical Center; Pepper Canyon, serving the UCSD west campus; Voigt Drive, serving the UCSD east campus; Executive Drive; and the Terminus Station at Westfield UTC transit center.
“It ain’t over 'til it's over,” said Krupp of the most recent SANDAG trolley extension proposal. The plan was approved in November of 2013, followed by residents’ claims that the path puts tracks too close for their comfort.
“We want to get the alignment back to where it was,” Krupp said. “Our big issue is having it done right, where the alignment makes sense and doesn’t destroy the quality of life for the folks in our area.”
The stakes are high, said Krupp, adding that he and other condo residents are taking “a much more aggressive role” in “putting on a full-court press. It’s their quality of life — the value of their property.”
Linthicum said the exact alignment of the trolley route crossing Interstate 5 has been a “moving target” dating all the way back to the 1990s, when the trolley extension was first proposed.
“Going back 15 years or more, the trolley alignment was further south, much closer to the condos,” he said. “But for operational, engineering and aesthetic reasons, we moved it further north.”
Linthicum acknowledged the route alignment decision is tough, with lots of competing interests involved.
“That’s why we’ve been working and talking with all sorts of folks out in the community," he said, concluding, “It’s a balancing act.”