San Diego (Oceanside-Escondido Corridor)

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Oceanside-Escondido Passenger Rail Project

North San Diego County, California

(November 1996)


The North County Transit District (NTD) under the policy direction of the North San Diego County Transit Development Board, is the lead agency planning the conversion of an existing 22-mile freight rail corridor into a light rail system running from the coastal city of Oceanside, through the cities of Vista and San Marcos, to the city of Escondido. A new alignment serving California State University San Marcos (CSUSM), introducing an additional 1.7 miles of new right-of-way, is included.

The proposed rail system would serve fifteen stations, four of these stations would be located at existing transit centers. Ridership in the year 2015 is projected to total 5,215,700 annually. The total project cost is approximately $194 million (escalated dollars). The Oceanside-Escondido Rail Project was approved by voters in San Diego County in 1987 through Proposition A, a local sales tax initiative.


An Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Oceanside-Escondido Rail Project and an EIR for the CSUSM alignment were published and certified in 1990 and 1991 respectively. The Oceanside-Escondido Rail Project was designated as a 'pipeline project' and a major investment study was not required based on concurrence from FTA, FHWA, San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), Caltrans, City of San Marcos, and NCTD.

Advanced planning for the Oceanside-Escondido Rail Project, which resulted in 30 percent design, was completed in December 1995. The Environmental Assessment/Supplemental Environmental Impact Report (EA/SEIR), is scheduled for completion in early 1997.

Congress has not authorized or appropriated funds for this corridor.


Mobility Improvements - Travel time is nearly identical for transit riders for both the LRT and express bus alternatives. Ridership increases in the LRT alternative as the result of more frequent stations, fifteen for the LRT as opposed to five for express bus alternative, and similar travel times when compared with the express bus alternative.

Cost Effectiveness - A cost effectiveness index of $5 was developed by SANDAG based on SANDAG ridership estimates and preliminary capital and operating costs estimates prepared by NCTD.

Environmental Benefits - The Draft EA/SEIR estimates that daily VMT would be reduced by 57,700 in 2015 as a result of the proposed project. The Express Bus Alternative would result in a reduction of 32,660 daily VMT in 2015.

Operating Efficiencies - The State Route 78 Transit Study (1987) projected 2005 operating costs of $2.8 million for the CMU alternative as compared to a cost of $4.0 million for the Express Bus Alternative and $3.6 million for electrified light rail.


The local financial commitment includes $43.1 million already committed for the purchase of right-of-way and station sites, including $17.3 million was from State Proposition 108 funding and $25.8 million from a local sales tax measure, Proposition A. The remaining $43.6 million of the local financial commitment includes $0.3 million in State Proposition 108, $16.8 million in state highway funds, programmed in the State Transportation Improvement Plan, and $26.5 million in additional Proposition A Funding. The proposed financing plan includes $107 million in Section 5309 New Start funds.

Proposed Source of Funds Total Funding
Federal: Section 5309 New Start $107.00 ($0.00 million appropriated through FY 1997)
Local: Proposition A $52.30
Local: Proposition 108/SHA $34.40
Total: $193.70

Note: Funding proposal reflects assumptions made by project sponsors, and are not DOT or FTA assumptions.

Other Factors

SANDAG's Land Use Distribution Element of the Regional Growth Management Strategy, addresses the location, intensity and design of urban communities, and the relationship of these communities to the planned transportation system. The element was approved by the SANDAG Board as guidance for local jurisdictions in updating their general and community plans. Most of the cities in the SR 78 Corridor are taking action to implement these guidelines. For example, the City of Oceanside has received a grant from the San Diego County Air Pollution Control District to identity opportunities for pedestrian oriented, mixed-use, intense developments around the seven rail stations in the City's jurisdiction. The City of Vista is developing its Downtown Redevelopment Plan around these guidelines, and the City of Escondido is evaluating its development plans in light of the Land Use guidelines.