San Diego (Mission Valley East Corridor)

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Mission Valley East Corridor

San Diego County, California

(November 1996)

Description The Metropolitan Transit Development Board (MTDB) is considering transit improvement options in the Mission Valley East corridor. The corridor is approximately 5.8 miles long, following Interstate 8 from Interstate 15 to near Baltimore Drive in La Mesa. San Diego State University (SDSU) is a major trip generator in the corridor. The alternatives under consideration are No-Build, "Best Bus", and Light Rail Transit (LRT). The Best Bus alternative (comparable to the TSM) would provide express bus services and bus capital improvements in the corridor. The Best Bus alternative improvements (capital and vehicles only) are estimated to cost approximately $34 million and generate approximately 3,700 daily riders by 2015. The LRT alternative would extend the locally funded six-mile Mission Valley West LRT Line (currently under construction between Old Town and Interstate 15) through the corridor to connect with the existing East Line LRT in La Mesa. The LRT alternative is estimated to cost up to $332 million (1996 dollars) and generate approximately 10,800 daily riders by 2015.

Status FTA approved the initiation of Alternatives Analysis (AA) in April 1993. In August 1994, FTA concurred that the Mission Valley East Corridor project is a pipeline AA project that will meet the intent of the Major Investment Study (MIS) requirement. A draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) is scheduled to be circulated for public review in the Spring of 1997, and a locally preferred alternative (LPA) is scheduled for selection in Fall 1997.

The Mission Valley East project is in the cost constrained Regional Transit Plan (RTP) of the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) and the draft Regional Transportation Improvement Program (RTIP). The RTP and RTIP may be amended based on the results of the current analysis.

This project was not authorized in ISTEA. Congress has not authorized or appropriated any other funds for the Mission Valley East Corridor. Of the CMAQ funds appropriated to MTDB to date, $3.5 million have been programmed for the system planning/DEIS phase of the Mission Valley East project.


Mobility Improvements. Freeways and arterial streets in the corridor are, and will continue to be, severely congested. Interstate 8 in this corridor is the most heavily congested freeway in the San Diego region, with 72 percent of the freeway land miles in the corridor currently experiencing heavy congestion for at least 3 hours on an average weekday. Parallel roadway alternatives to Interstate 8 do not exist due to topographical constraints and urban development patterns. The LRT alternative would provide a travel option to congested roadways, reducing the auto vehicle miles traveled by almost 9,000 daily miles compared to the Best Bus (comparable to the TSM) alternative. The LRT alternative would also reduce travel time for all transit riders by 2,200 hours a day compared to the Best Bus alternative.

Cost-effectiveness. The preliminary cost effectiveness index for the LRT alternative is $5 to $6 per new trip (1996 dollars, 2015 ridership).

Environmental Benefits. The San Diego region is a "serious" non-attainment area for ozone, but in compliance for carbon monoxide. MTDB estimates that the LRT alternative would reduce regional vehicle miles traveled by approximately 0.27 percent compared to the Best Bus alternative and approximately 0.30 percent compared to the No Build alternative. For carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, reactive organic gas, and particulate matter, there is no change between the No Build and Best Bus alternative to the LRT alternative. There is no measurable difference among the alternatives for sulfur oxide.

Operating Efficiencies. In 2015, the preliminary MTDB systemwide operating cost per passenger is projected to be $2.29 for the No Build alternative, $2.33 for the Best Bus alternative and $2.27 for the LRT alternative.


In 1987, San Diego voters approved a 1/2 cent local sales tax (TransNet) dedicated to transportation. One-third of the revenues, or $750 million over 20 years, is earmarked for capital improvements to public transit, and a major share of this is for LRT extensions.

A funding strategy has not yet been completed for the Mission Valley East project. The project Financial Analysis is currently underway and is projected to be completed by early 1997. However, $177.5 million in state and local funding is available and programmed for the LRT alternative. The available funds include $108.7 million in the State TIP, $57.9 million in local TransNet funds and $10.0 million federal (CMAQ) and local match programmed in the RTIP. These available funds would allow MTDB to build the first segment of the Mission Valley East LRT to San Diego State University. The remainder of the LRT alternative would be dependent on Section 5309 New Start funding.

It should be noted that MTDB has advanced several LRT projects without Federal funding. These include an extension of the East Line to Santee (completed in 1995), an LRT line from downtown to Old Town (completed in 1996) and a West Mission Valley Line (opening in 1997). MTDB has designated the Mission Valley East corridor as first priority for any additional funds that may become available.


Source of Funds

Total Funding ($million)
Section 5309 New Start $155.40 ($0.0 million appropriated through FY 1997)
CMAQ 10.00
State and local: 166.60
TOTAL $332.00
NOTE: Funding proposal reflects assumptions made by project sponsors, and are not DOT or FTA assumptions.

Other Factors The city of San Diego and SANDAG have adopted policies and guidelines favoring transit oriented development (TOD). These policies and guidelines include focusing higher intensity or new employment and residential development in areas with good transit. In the Mission Valley East corridor, the City of San Diego has created a redevelopment area south of, and adjacent to, SDSU. Redevelopment plans include high density, mixed use, transit oriented development serving the SDSU campus and community. The SDSU transit station site (for both the Best bus and LRT alternatives) is located in the core of this redevelopment area. MTDB is coordinating with the City of San Diego, the SDSU administration and the SDSU Foundation to integrate the station into redevelopment plans.