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The SANDAG logo on a screen at the regional planning agency’s headquarters. Photo by Chris JenneweinThe San Diego Association of Governments will receive $80 million in federal grants to help fund the Mid-Coast Trolley Blue Line Extension, the Federal Transit Administration announced Thursday.

The project will extend the Metropolitan Transit System’s blue trolley line from Old Town to University City through Mission Bay Park, UC San Diego and Westfield UTC. MTS and SANDAG broke ground on the $2.17 billion extension in 2016, while the FTA promised to pay out $1.04 billion in grants over 10 years to help fund the project.

FTA’s original $50 million funding package for fiscal year 2017 was $75 million short of what SANDAG expected to receive for he project. The $80 million appropriation covers the FTA’s commitment to supply SANDAG with $125 million during fiscal year 2017 and an extra $5 million to cover SANDAG’s long- term project costs. San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer helped SANDAG secure the extra funding from the FTA.

“We’ve been pushing hard for additional transportation funding for the Mid-Coast Trolley extension to create a more vibrant transit network for the San Diego region,” Faulconer said. “This support from the Federal Transit Administration will help us deliver one of the largest and most significant transit projects in San Diego history on time and on budget. It will also save local taxpayers millions of dollars that can be used for other critical transportation upgrades.”

The FTA funds come from Capital Investment Grants, which fund the creation and improvement of heavy rail, light rail, streetcars and bus rapid transit infrastructure. The rest of the $2.17 billion project cost will be covered by TransNet, the county’s half-cent sales tax on transportation, according to SANDAG.

In addition to the project’s nine new trolley stations, SANDAG and Caltrans have already built multiple bridges near UC San Diego and La Jolla Village to improve traffic flow and transit options. SANDAG expects to fully complete the Mid-Coast Extension by 2021.

“This is a big win for the San Diego Region,” SANDAG Chair and Del Mar City Councilman Terry Sinnott said. “I’d like to thank Mayor Faulconer for tirelessly working to make this happen. Not only do these funds support jobs and businesses in the region critical to construction of the project, this Trolley expansion will provide high-frequency transit to one of the densest employment areas in the region, relieving congestion, reducing parking needs, and increasing access to jobs.”

–City News Service