Beach Trolley Link Will Be Studied
By MICHAEL BURGESS
A proposed $100-million scheme will reconnect the San Diego trolley system to the beach after an absence of more than half a century, according to Deputy Mayor Byron Wear, who spoke after a meeting of the Metropolitan Transit Development Board (MTDB) last Thursday, Feb. 2.
He announced that the board had unanimously voted to spend $120,000 on a feasibility study conducted by Wilbur Smith and Associates to report in October 1999, and when financial and environmental questions have been resolved, the scheme will extend the mass transit system to Mission Bay, Ocean Beach and Midway areas within what Wear called "a five to 10-year window."
"Unless we lay out the vision this is just another dream," he said of the task ahead. "The beaches ‹ number one ‹ are for everyone in San Diego.
"According to the California Coastal Act everyone's entitled to get to the beach to enjoy the beach experience," added Wear, whose electoral 2nd district is within the beach area.
Trolley stops, possibly at Belmont Park and Sea World, will enable beach residents to commute to downtown jobs and will give students better access to classes at San Diego State University (SDSU). An extension to SDSU will be constructed next year. A northbound route up the I-5 corridor to University Towne Centre is also projected.
The extension is expected to use existing right-of-ways and to take advantage of redevelopment at Ocean Beach to minimize impact on residents and the environment. Wear predicts that a long series of public meetings will address these factors.
Funding is expected from a partnership of private investment alongside public money from regional and federal funds, and Wear is confident the money will be there. "Unless you take that first step, you never get to where you want to go," he said, recalling the self-financed beginnings of the downtown trolley system.
The report may favor the familiar red trolleys or some other mass transit system, such as a monorail. "One answer may be light rail to Mission and Ocean Beaches," Wear said. The system could also serve Sea World, Pacific Beach, a redeveloped Quivira Basin, Mission Bay Park and the Sports Arena and Midway area with transfer points at Old Town and Napa Street.
Citing traffic congestion as the single biggest issue facing San Diegans, Sea World spokesman Bob Tucker responded enthusiastically to the idea of Sea World building a station in front of its entrance. "We envision something that would be very thematic and have Shamu and dolphins and whales and walruses and seals encompassed in it somehow," he said.
Tucker said it would be a great thing for Sea World employees who get trapped there in the summertime gridlock. "Overall I think it would be highly received for our guests," he said.