Reader JF wrote:

John, what can we do to increase light rail in the region. On a recent trip to Washington DC I noted that the Metro there has nine separate lines into suburban Maryland. How about extending the trolley up the I-15 corridor. I’d sure use it when I could!

Well, JF, the bad news is that a trolley extension up the I-15 corridor is not planned for the foreseeable future. Such a trolley extension would have to rely on major funding from the federal or state government; at roughly $90 million a mile, light rail is not cheap to build. And once built, there are ongoing maintenance and operations costs that must be subsidized by the government or the system will deteriorate. Faced with these fiscal realities, SANDAG has chosen to spend money on maintaining and upgrading the existing light rail system instead of building a system that it could never hope to maintain.

The ultimate solution for the I-15 corridor is the state’s high speed rail project that will connect San Diego to L.A. and the rest of the state; but this solution is probably decades away since the San Diego – Los Angeles segment is currently scheduled as the last segment to build. This doesn’t make much sense to me when you consider that the San Diego – Los Angeles passenger rail corridor has the second highest passenger count in the nation, exceeded only by the Washington – New York Metroliner route.

As a side note, the last trolley extension is planned for the I-5 corridor to University City; it’s scheduled to begin construction in 2012 and is currently undergoing environmental review. Extending the trolley from Old Town to University City is currently projected to cost about $1.25 billion; that’s over $100 million per mile of track. Fortunately, sources for all of that money have been identified; $616 million from the federal government, $20 million from the state, and $615 million from our local TransNet sales tax measure. 


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