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State Money May Revive East County Trolley Plan

July 18, 1986|H.G. REZA | Times Staff Writer

The proposed San Diego Trolley line extension to El Cajon received a shot in the arm Thursday when a state official said the California Transportation Commission is likely to approve about $6.5 million for the project.

Robert Nielsen, executive director of the commission, said in a telephone interview that he will recommend that the commission approve the funds when it meets next week in Sacramento. Last month trolley officials feared the project was doomed or would be delayed when Gov. George Deukmejian vetoed $8 million in state funds earmarked for the project.

Nielsen said the commission will make $2.7 million available for construction and an additional $3.8 million has already been guaranteed from state gasoline tax revenue. The money was necessary to match $20 million in federal construction funds already approved to help finance the extension. Congress has set aside an additional $31 million to help complete the East County line.

"We will recommend that the commission approve the $2.7 million. That way they (the Metropolitan Transit Development Board) can leverage that with the federal funds, which will allow them to proceed with the construction schedule. At this point I can't see why the commission wouldn't approve it. It's a good project," Nielsen said.

Despite Deukmejian's veto of $35 million in public transportation funds, which included $8 million for the trolley, Nielsen said the commission had $9.4 million left over from last year's budget.

"We could only fund four projects with the holdover funds, and San Diego's was fourth in order of priority," said Nielsen. "I wouldn't say that it was like squeezing blood from a turnip, but we did manage to get the funds needed by the trolley."

If the commission approves the $2.7 million for the trolley extension on Thursday, ground breaking for the project would begin before December, trolley officials said. If construction begins on schedule, the line should be completed in 1989.

However, trolley officials still have to raise an additional $5.3 million to satisfy federal requirements. The money is needed to finance double tracking for the line to El Cajon. But the additional funds will not be required until next year.

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