Five years after work began on the Blue Line Trolley extension to La Jolla and University Town Center, officials formally unveiled their baby Thursday — right on forecast time.
News media and MTS officials rode three of 36 new trolley cars bought for the extension from Old Town Station to the terminus at Westfield UTC, passing the VA hospital and UC San Diego on the way.
UCSD Chancellor Pradeep Khosla hailed the extension as a “dream come true,” which will make it easy to attend events at an adjacent amphitheater being built on campus. He called the trolley stop a main entrance to the school.
MTS Chief Operating Officer E. Wayne Terry, who plans to retire next summer after 40 years, said new cars will have ramps to accommodate wheelchair access and more sideways seating to allow for more standing riders and a pathway for disabled people.
On Sunday, at Warren Field adjacent to the UC San Diego Central Campus Station, a free community celebration will mark the first day of public service.
Festivities will include live music, free food, giveaways — and free trolley rides all day long.
The extended Blue Line, running 11 miles with nine new stations, increases the trolley network by 20%.
Service hours will be about 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. with trolleys arriving at stations every 15 minutes.
Trolleys will transport riders from the U.S. side of the Mexican border to La Jolla. Abut 128 new full-time MTS employees will support the extension.
The expansion has a a $2.3 billion price tag. Twenty-one bridges were built throughout the project and 160,000 feet of track were laid for the biggest section so far.
The extension allows direct connection to the UCSD campus, the VA hospital and Westfield UTC mall.
Bus connections take riders from the Balboa Avenue transit center to the beaches, and from the Old Town Station to SeaWorld and San Diego International Airport.
Riders will be able to transfer at the Old Town Station from the Blue Line to the Green Line Trolley out to the Orange Line to El Cajon and Santee. In addition, Blue, Green and Orange lines intersect at the 12th and Imperial station.
COO Terry, noting traffic backups in the north city region, said: “It will be nice to see the trolley zoom by when the cars are stopped,” encouraging more ridership.