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SAN DIEGO (CNS) – Transportation leaders and transit advocates Tuesday took the first official trolley trip on the southern end of the Mid-Coast Extension of the UC San Diego Blue Line.

The $2.1 billion, 11-mile light rail extension will be operated by the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System and was built by the San Diego Association of Governments. It is on track to open in November.

Attendees, including Democratic Sen. Alex Padilla, celebrated with a ribbon cutting at the Tecolote Trolley Station and then rode the trolley north to the new Clairemont Drive and Balboa Avenue stations.

“I’m proud to advocate for California’s clean transportation priorities and build on our state’s legacy of innovation,” Padilla said. “The Mid-Coast trolley will connect communities, create new jobs, and improve the health of our planet. To build back better, we need to support bold infrastructure renewals like this one.”

The public can experience the same ride on Saturday between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. MTS will run Trolley shuttles between the Old Town Transit Center and the Balboa Avenue Transit Center every 15 minutes during the Mid-Coast Community Celebration.

“Today’s milestone is a big step forward for our region,” said Nathan Fletcher, MTS board chair and chair of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. “It means we are well on our way to realizing a new option for people to connect to the University area, speed their commutes and help the environment.

“I can’t wait for the entire line to open on November 21,” Fletcher continued. “I also want to give a special thanks to Senator Padilla and the Federal Transit Administration. This project would not be possible without their support.”

The project will expand the current trolley network to provide a one- seat ride from the U.S./Mexico Border all the way north to the University community. The extension will connect the two largest employment centers in San Diego — the University area and Downtown San Diego — as well as serve UC San Diego and provide access to the VA San Diego Healthcare System’s 84,500 veterans.

“There are so many positives to a project like Mid-Coast,” said Mayor Todd Gloria, SANDAG vice chair. “It will have a transformative impact on regional transit connectivity.

“Among many benefits, this Trolley expansion will create better job opportunities for families, and better access to education for students,” he continued. “It will help our fight against climate change and at the same time boost economic activity.”

Major construction for the extension began in 2016, and the project remains on budget and on schedule.

There is no public access to the stations or the tracks until opening day. Construction is still ongoing on portions of the extension and active trains will be on the tracks. Testing and training on the extension will take place for approximately three more months to ensure the system is ready to carry passengers.

To support the extra service, MTS has added 45 new trolleys built by Siemens Mobility and partially funded by TransNet, the region’s half-cent sales tax for transportation projects.

MTS added 128 new positions including train operators, security, maintenance, IT and more to manage the extension. MTS has also made significant enhancements to its bus service to align with the trolley extension. The agency will replace two existing express routes, modify seven exiting east-west connections and implement three new routes that connect to the trolley.

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