San Diego MTS Budgets for Cameras at Trolley Stations

Jan. 19--The Metropolitan Transit System hopes to put at least 70 new buses onto city streets next year at a cost of $25 million, replacing some aging diesel-powered vehicles.

With only about 24 cents to spend for every dollar's worth of critical needs in its capital-improvements budget, the transit agency made new buses a priority.

Security cameras at four trolley stations also are budgeted, funded primarily by federal grants. It's unlikely there will be many upgrades to the San Diego Trolley's aging infrastructure on its Blue and Orange lines, however.

The spending plan adopted by the Metropolitan Transit board yesterday proposed buying 55 40-foot buses, the workhorse of the urban fleet, along with five or six 60-foot buses and 10 minibuses.

The budget for the year that begins July 1 is subject to review and adoption by the San Diego Association of Governments, which controls transportation spending in the county.

If approved, Metropolitan Transit chief executive Paul C. Jablonski said the transit agency would try to award a contract by the end of summer and take delivery of the vehicles about a year later.

The 40-foot buses, fueled by compressed natural gas, would replace diesel-powered vehicles purchased in 1991, Jablonski said. Under federal standards, buses are expected to have a service life of 12 years.

Metropolitan Transit has about 100 other buses purchased in 1995, which will run up against the 12-year standard this year. Under a best-case scenario, those vehicles wouldn't be replaced until 2009 or 2010.

The agency has been trying to extend the life of its oldest buses with more preventive maintenance and, in recent years, it has drastically reduced the number of breakdowns.

The $50.2 million capital-improvement program leaves about $161 million in unmet needs, budget officials said, including nearly $96 million in improvements to the trolley system's infrastructure.

Among the more critical needs are improvements to the Blue Line, where eroding ties and rail -- built for freight trains more than 70 years ago -- make for a sometimes rocky ride.

The agency hopes to get at least some extra funds from state bond measures approved in November. Absent any new sources of revenue, the overall shortfall is projected to accumulate to nearly $400 million by 2012.

There is $8.2 million in the capital budget for work on power substations, overhead catenary wire and other light-rail equipment. Two particularly bad crossings, at West Park Avenue in San Diego and L Street in Chula Vista, are being repaired immediately under a $350,000 emergency contract.

The capital budget also includes $2.1 million for security cameras and related equipment at the 12th and Imperial and America Plaza trolley stations and upgrades to the equipment at the San Diego State University station, funded by the Department of Homeland Security.

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