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San Diego County, California/Mission Valley East

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Mission Valley East

San Diego, California

(November 1998)


The Metropolitan Transit Development Board (MTDB) is planning to build a 5.9-mile Mission Valley East Light Rail Transit (LRT) extension from east of Interstate 15 to the City of La Mesa, where it would connect to the existing East LRT Line (now referred to as the Orange Line) near Baltimore Drive. The line would serve four new stations at Grantville, San Diego State University (SDSU), Alvarado Medical Center and 70th Street, as well as two existing stations at Mission San Diego and Grossmont Center. The proposed project would include elevated, at-grade, and tunnel portions and provide two park and ride lots and a new access road between Waring Road and the Grantville Station. The total project capital cost is $361 million (escalated dollars). The project is expected to serve approximately 10,800 daily riders in the corridor by 2015

Mission Valley East Summary Description

Proposed Project Light rail extension
5.9 miles, 4 stations
Total Capital Cost ($YOE) $361.0 million
Section 5309 Share ($YOE) $275.2 million
Annual Operating Cost ($1994) $4.5 million
Ridership Forecast (2015) 10,800 average daily boardings
7,400 daily new riders
FY 2000 Financial Rating: High
FY 2000 Project Justification Rating: Medium-High
FY 2000 Overall Project Rating: Highly Recommended

The overall project rating applies to this Annual New Starts Report and reflects conditions as of November 1998. Project evaluation is an ongoing process. As new starts projects proceed through development, the estimates of costs, benefits, and impacts are refined. The FTA ratings and recommendations will be updated annually to reflect new information, changing conditions, and refined financing plans.


The Major Investment Study/Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) was completed in May 1997. The Locally Preferred Alternative was selected by the Metropolitan Transit Development Board in October 1997 with concurrence from the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG, the local metropolitan planning organization). FTA approval to enter the Preliminary Engineering (PE) phase of project development was granted in March 1998. PE was completed in July 1998. This abbreviated schedule for PE was possible due to the extensive public involvement and detailed analyses undertaken during the planning stages, streamlining much of the work that would traditionally be undertaken in the PE/FEIS phase. The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) is completed and the Record of Decision (ROD) was issued in August 1998. FTA approval to enter Final Design was granted in October 1998.

The Mission Valley East Extension project is in SANDAG’s financially constrained Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) and adopted 1998-04 Regional Transportation Improvement Program (RTIP).

Section 3030(a)(76) of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) authorized the project for final design and construction. Section 3030(c)(1)(A)(ii) of TEA-21 authorized $325 million in Section 5309 New Starts funds for the Mission Valley East project. Through FY 1999, Congress has appropriated $2.5 million in Section 5309 New Starts funds to this project.


The following criteria have been estimated in conformance with FTA's Technical Guidance on Section 5309 New Starts Criteria. The MTDB did not provide criteria on a TSM alternative. N/A indicates that data are not available for a specific measure.


Mobility Improvements

Rating: Medium-High

MTDB estimates the following annual travel time savings.

Mobility Improvements New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Annual Travel Time Savings (Hours) 1.9 million N/A

Based on 1990 census data, there are an estimated 1,049 low-income households within a ½ mile radius of the proposed four stations, roughly 18 percent of total households within ½ mile of proposed stations.

Environmental Benefits

Rating: Medium

The San Diego region is a serious non-attainment area for ozone, and a moderate non-attainment area for carbon monoxide. This corridor runs parallel to Interstate 8, which is the most congested freeway in the San Diego region. MTDB projects the following annual emissions reductions.

Criteria Pollutant New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Carbon Monoxide (CO) decrease of 166 annual tons N/A
Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) decrease of 23 annual tons N/A
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) decrease of 15 annual tons N/A
Particulate Matter (PM10) decrease of 2 annual tons N/A
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) decrease of 11,659 annual tons N/A

MTDB estimates that in 2015, the LRT would result in the following savings in regional energy consumption (measured in British Thermal Units-BTU).

Annual Energy Savings New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
BTU (millions) decrease of 151,155 million annual BTU N/A

Operating Efficiencies

Rating: Medium

MTDB estimates the following systemwide operating cost per passenger mile in the year 2015 for the Mission Valley East extension and the No-Build alternative.

Operating Efficiencies No-Build TSM New Start
System Operating Cost per Passenger Mile (1997) $0.19 N/A $0.19

Values reflect 2015 ridership forecast and 1997 dollars.

Cost Effectiveness

Rating: Medium-High

MTDB estimates the following cost effectiveness measure:

Cost Effectiveness New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Incremental Cost per Incremental Passenger $8.87 N/A

Values reflect 2015 ridership forecast and 1997 dollars.

Transit-Supportive Existing Land Use and Future Patterns

Rating: Medium-High

The Medium-High Land Use rating reflects the City’s and MTDB’s successful efforts to foster transit-oriented development both along the Mission Valley East corridor and throughout the light rail system. The corridor contains a mix of industrial, commercial, and residential use including such major activity centers as the Grantville employment area, the Grossmont Regional shopping center, San Diego State University (SDSU), Kaiser Hospital, and the Alvarado Medical Center. The City of San Diego and the San Diego State University Foundation have undertaken a 58.6 acre mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented urban village redevelopment project adjacent to the SDSU campus. SDSU plans to integrate the LRT station into the heart of the redevelopment project. The City of San Diego adopted transit-oriented development design guidelines to provide a framework for redevelopment strategies, street and circulation system design, and transit facility development. The MTDB has established joint development policies for all of its properties and published a manual to guide developers and designers to orient land development around transit.

San Diego has initiated efforts to limit and implement policies that encourage infill development and redevelopment. SANDAG has supported growth management by encouraging more intense residential and commercial development around stations. The City of San Diego has made positive steps in managing parking supply along the transit corridors to support compact and transit oriented development.

Local Financial Commitment

Proposed Non-Section 5309 Share of Total Project Costs: 24%

The financial plan includes $275.2 million (76.2 percent) in Section 5309 New Start funds, $12.1 million (3.4 percent) in CMAQ funds, $62.8 million (17.4 percent) in State funds, and $11.0 million (3 percent) in local funds. However, the state and local contribution to the $813 million LRT trolley system currently in place constitutes approximately 92% of the total system cost. Federal funds for the total existing system equal 8% and, of those funds, less than one-third were contributed from the New Starts Section 5309 program.

Stability and Reliability of Capital Financing Plan

Rating: High

The High rating reflects the fact that all non-Federal funds proposed for the Mission Valley East extension have been formally committed by state and local decision makers to the project. In 1987, San Diego voters approved a ½ cent local sales tax (TransNet) dedicated to transportation. One-third of the TransNet revenues, or $750 million over 20 years, are earmarked for capital improvements to public transit, and a major share of this is for LRT extensions. MTDB states that the Mission Valley East LRT project has first funding priority for transit projects in the San Diego region. The State has committed $62.8 million through funding programmed in the current California State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP). Preliminary capital cost estimates are reasonable with inflation assumptions in line with regional trends.

Stability and Reliability of Operating Finance Plan

Rating: High

The operating plan is rated High for the project’s dedicated operating revenue stream. An annual proposed operating budget is projected to be to $4.5 million. The FY 1999 operating budget shows a dramatic improvement in the agency's financial condition due to a large increase in the light rail system ridership and a 10 % growth in bus ridership. The current LRT farebox recovery ratio is 70%. The light rail system carried 16.7 million passengers during fiscal year 1996 and 18.2 million passengers in fiscal year 1997. MTDB predicts that with the rapid growth of ridership, it will be able to balance its annual operating budgets through FY 2002 without raising fares. The other source of operating funds, the State Transportation Development Act (TDA), is reliable and stable. The financial plan features the use of innovative financing sources from San Diego State University (SDSU), which is pledging $1 million annually for operating and maintaining the LRT/bus station on campus.

Locally Proposed Financing Plan

(Reported in $YOE)

Proposed Source of Funds Total Funding
Appropriations to Date
Section 5309 New Starts $275.2 $2.5 million appropriated through FY 1999
Flexible Funds (CMAQ) $12.1


TCI $4.1


TSM $0.8


STIP $57.9


TransNet Sales Tax $10.0


Sam Diego State University Contribution $1.0


Total: $361.0

Note: Funding proposal reflects assumptions made by project sponsors, and are not DOT or FTA assumptions. Totals may not add due to rounding.

[Mission Valley East Map (PDF)]

Commitment to Accessibility: DOT is committed to ensuring that information is available in appropriate alternative formats to meet the requirements of persons who have a disability. If you require an alternative version of files provided on this page, please contact