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Sprinter Grand Opening Page 3

Sprinter Grand Opening Celebration

Oceanside to Escondido, California

December 28, 2007

Story and most photographs by Richard Elgenson
RailNews Network writer

Lower left, Joe Kellejian, Mayor, City of Solana Beach and recipient of many civic awards including one from Amtrak.. In her introduction of Mayor Kellejian, Karen King heaped praise on him saying Kellejian's mantra was "just get to construciton."  Mayor Kellejian started by saying "What a great day?  What a great day?"  He stated how he loves trains.  He is most proud of "being the champion of the Sprinter."  He mentioned how the regional transit plan had all the pieces fitting together in transit solutions.  "Transit, highway, local streets and roads."  They "did a lot with the local cities and it was all worthwhile."  He shared an anecdote of an up and coming SANDAG staff member who seemed against the Sprinter project, who, ironically wanted to put the project off; wanted to eliminate the loop.  That person, someone named Jack (Feller?) gave Mr. Kellejian a shirt with printing that said 54 on the front and 45 on the back.  "It has been hard work, working on this project."  Apparently the 54 and 45 represent the vote of the San Diego Board of Supervisors changing against and for.  However, the project is installed and about to begin revenue service.

Lower right, Chris Orlando, the newest NCTD Board Member.  Karen King mentioned him as one of the newest members of the NCTD Board.


Lower left, Jim Wood, Mayor, City of Oceanside.  He was honored to be speaking and thanked everyone without naming them.  He had invited the Major General from Camp Pendleton  Mayor Wood mentioned Oceanside being a train town with "the freight lines, Amtrak, Metrolinik, Sprinter and Coaster."  He has hopes for increased economic development and quality of life issues for all the cities in the North County as a result of the Sprinter.

Lower right, Hal Martin, Councilman, City of San Marcos.  He stated how "city councils come and city councils go" and how the face of a city council changes and that the present city council is a supporter of the Sprinter.  He revisied Jerome Stocks comment that the Sprinter is for the future.


Lower left, Bill Horn, Supervisor, 5th District, County of San Diego.  Supervisor Horn stated how he "lived through all these (NCTD) chairmen.  He thanked Don Bullock, Sprinter project manager who came before the San Diego Board of Supervisors with updates.  "5 to 10 years from now, you'll be glad it's here."  Horn pointed out how he did not see any surfboard racks on the trains and that the traffic would be to the coast during the summer.  He lamented how the State government" has taken 6 billion dollars out of transportation in the last 5 years and not paid it back."  Ther was also mention of how one state government agency sued another government agency in a "fine driven budgeted government agency" trying to collect $175,000 on an act of god for a flooded road.  "I am glad the project is finally done.  It's a very quality project.  We will make sure these trains are safe before you get to get on them and ride back and forth.  I think this is going to be a backbone of North County for the future."  In a humble moment, Supervisor Horn admitted "I am living proof that you can change your mind for the better."

Lower right, Leslie Rogers, Region IX Administrator, Federal Transportation Administration.  Mr. Rogers, covers the 9 Western States for the Federal Transportation Administration.  In her introduction, Director King stated that Mr. Rogers has attended more mass transit openings than any other administrator.  In one of his opening remarks, Mr. Rogers said when you're the thirteenth speaker on the program ...everything's been said, but not everyone has said it yet."   "You're making me feel right at home.  My office is in San Francisco and it's almost as chilly here today in San Diego as it was when I left San Francisco this morning."   The sun was attempting to shine through, which Mr. Rogers likened as "emblematic of where we are in this country as we address public transportation."  He asked the audience to "contrast where we are today with where we were a 20 short years ago   At that time there was a proposed elimination of any Federal role in public transportation."  He mentioned the President's signing of "the FY-08 Omnibus appropriations bill of 550 billion dollars. Almost $10 billion of that total was to support the Federal Transportation Administration and public transportation throughout this country."  The users of the Sprinter should be able to "help their communities to lead fuller, richer, and more productive lives.  Yes, it is public transit that provides an alternative to highway congestion.  And increasingly it will be public transit that will assist in responding to the challenges of climate change and global warming."  In celebration of this accomplishment this system, Mr. Rogers "would like to call it also 'the connector,' but that's what it is, it connects citizens of this community by bus, with the connections to Amtrak, the Coaster and Metrolink.  Today we celebrate the visionary leadership of the past and current members of the NCTD Board.  And it is through their hard efforts that we got here today.  The Federal Transit Administration also is pleased to recognize all of our partners, indeed, SANDAG, the State of California, the PUC, and all of the participating cities."  Whatever the process difficulties, "it was all in the name of protecting the public tax dollers.  It has been a fine, and we believe, a worthy public investment.  We are indeed proud of the almost 152 million dollars that the Federal Transit Administration commited to this project. We are indeed proud of our investment in this project.  But ladies and gentlemen, we look to you to and your families to assure that we realize our maximum return on  investment."  "We make that happen by your riding the Sprinter every opportunity and chance that you get  Again, congratulations on this most  noteworthy accomplishment.  NCTD Executive Director King then noted the importance of "the FTA to provide the framework, the structure, and the funding for this project..."


Lower left, Cameron Dirkle, San Diego District Director, Representative of Governor Arnold Schwarzeneger.  "It really is a testament to all the people that have been integral in the making of this project to happen.  As you know, nothing is easy today.  Infrastructure projects are hard...So many of you have shown that fortitude to make this tremendous project happen.  I want to thank you all on the behalf of the Govenror...  We look to public-private partnerships to make those dollars more efficient...It's an exciting time."

Lower right, Don Bullock, Sprinter Project Manager.  In her introduction, NCTD Executive Director King said Don Bullock had lived and breathed the Sprinter for 10 years.  Bullock asked "Are we there yet?  When we accomplished one goal, two more would crop up in its place.".  There were rarely a moment normal, predictable type of project.  They "faced lawsuits, landslides, floods, fires, derailments, I emphasize the plural of those nouns.  Environmental issues, community issues, funding issues, political pressures, regulatory constraints, just to name a few.  Along with lots of design changes, a few hundred contract changes.  Just add water and stir, you'll get kind of a sense of what we've been dealing with here in the Sprinter team for the last five years or so."  He stated his "amazement that we are here today on schedule."  He then wanted to recognize the some of the key people, the players, that have been really great partners in getting this done- our NCTD internal team, Simon Wong Engineering, DMJMHarris, West Coast Rail Constructors, Whiting Turner, and just hundreds of subs."  At the peak of construction, we had over 500 people working on this project."  "They have put into place, an idea that was generated over a quarter of a century ago, mandated by the voters 20 years ago and seriously worked on for the last 7 years.  Sprinter is not the answer to the transportation problem as we have heard today, but, it's just another link in the web.  It will be used!  ... We simply just can't build freeways in every direction and every way the way once could.  But we need to continue to manage the corridors and the environment that we do have.  And basically building this rail on an existing corridor was a smart move and will used for years to come."

In closing, NCTD Executive Director King thanked the construction and management firms.  She then read a letter of congratulation from U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer.


And, after a few bubbles were blown into the wind, the ceremony ended with an invitation for the public to take a ride after the inagural train departed for Oceanside.



On its way to completion, the Sprinter had a few splinters.  Those seemed to have healed very nicely and, in mid January 2008, the public will be able to utilize the Sprinter for their transit needs.

Additional TrainWeb photos by Carl Morrison.


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