Trains at Santa Fe Terminal in downtown San Diego. Photo by Chris Jennewein

Caltrans released a feasibility study Thursday that recommends building a railroad tunnel through the University City area to improve service between San Diego and Los Angeles.

The study found that building a tunnel through Miramar Hill would eliminate a long loop through Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, cutting 6 to 7 minutes off travel times, and allow a linkup with the trolley in University City. The tunnel would be used by both Amtrak and Coaster trains.

The feasibility study results from a legal settlement between Caltrans and the Cleveland National Forest Foundation, which had challenged Caltrans’ approval in 2013 of plans to widen Interstate 5 from La Jolla to Oceanside. The foundation sought to identify alternatives to carpool lanes that would further decrease traffic and greenhouse gas emissions in the region.

“We’re very encouraged by the results of this feasibility study,” said Duncan McFetridge, founder of the foundation. “It is a very important first step locally for realizing the dream of making transit competitive with the automobile, and for curbing climate change-inducing emissions in our region.”

Caltrans said the study found no significant engineering flaws in the project, which has been estimated to cost around $500 million, according to a fact sheet released by the San Diego Association of Governments.

SANDAG plans to build on this study and create a comprehensive plan for improving rail service and operations from the Orange County line to Santa Fe Station in downtown San Diego.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.