The North County Transit District held a demonstration ride Friday for its new Sprinter light-rail line, which is scheduled to open for revenue service Jan. 13.

A timely bond issuance was one of the building blocks used to finance the 22-mile suburb-to-suburb line through northern San Diego County, which has several unusual attributes.

Squeezed by cost increases and a state budget crisis that delayed a programmed $80 million grant from Sacramento, the district issued $114 million of certificates of participation in 2004 through the California Transit Finance Corp.

The $80 million state grant came through in 2006, allowing the district to retire a substantial portion of the debt, which had been issued as auction-rate securities to facilitate such an early redemption, according to district financial documents.

The $34 million of bond debt that remained was converted to a synthetic fixed-interest rate through a swap agreement in 2006.

Final testing of the route, designed to simulate operating conditions, began last month, and local politicians rode one of the test trains last week to a ceremony in Escondido, on the eastern end of the line.

The line, which begins at Oceanside, runs over a former freight railroad branch, which remains open to freight train service in the overnight hours when the Sprinter is not running.

The $484 million project involved reconstruction of the freight branch trackage, plus 1.7 miles of new line to reach the California State University campus at San Marcos.

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