By Kimberly KoerthValley Metro is working on two extensions to the light rail that would increase the total length of the line by approximately 6.2 miles. There are also plans for more extensions that would take until approximately 2032 to complete.
Projected completion: late 2015
The Central Mesa extension, which has been under construction since summer 2012, will extend the light rail line approximately three miles down Main Street from Sycamore Drive to Mesa Drive.
The Central Mesa extension is a $200 million project. This money came from a combination of regional transit and federal funding, including a project construction grant agreement that provided $75 million in federal support for the project.
Projected completion: late 2015 to early 2016
Valley Metro broke ground Jan. 16 on the Northwest Phoenix extension. It will add 3.2 miles on 19th Avenue between Montebello and Dunlap avenues.
The Northwest Phoenix extension is a $300 million project funded through a city of Phoenix transit fund and Proposition 400, an initiative passed by voters in 2004 that extended a half-cent sales tax.
The Northwest Phoenix extension will give access to approximately 5,000 more riders each day, according to Valley Metro Public Information Specialist Melissa Quillard.
“It’s part of another step toward the ultimate goal, which is to have a regional transportation network,” Quillard said. “Who would have thought that you’d be able to take one train from Central Mesa all the way to Christown Spectrum?”
OthersThere are no official plans to begin construction on any of the other proposed extensions.
“We have planners that are working on a few other future projects that were part of the original 50 miles, but none of those have funding sources,” Quillard said. “They’re all in the study phase.”
The Phoenix West extension would provide access to the state Capitol and run west from downtown Phoenix to the Interstate 10 ending at 79th Avenue.
The Tempe Streetcar addition will use streetcar vehicles that are smaller than typical light rail cars, travelling in a loop going north on Mill Avenue and south on Ash Avenue, between Rio Salado Parkway and University Drive. Valley Metro plans on completing this addition by 2016.
“We always are planners,” Quillard said. “We’re always looking at what’s going to work the best and give the most people access. There’s a lot of planning, a lot of studying and a lot of research that goes into it.”
In November 2012, the light rail had approximately 1.2 million riders, a 14.4 percent increase from the year before, Quillard said. The 20-year ridership projection for the light rail is a daily average of 50,000 boardings.
“We’re four years in and we’re already almost to the 48,000 mark, so we’re definitely filling a need here in the Valley,” Quillard said.
Will Novak, a community activist and central Phoenix resident, supports the two light rail extensions currently in progress but disapproves of other proposed lines that would run along the highway, though, because they make development along public transit lines difficult.
“You want to string together important destinations people want to go to, that way people use the train, because it goes places they want to go,” Novak said.
The current light rail line is 20 miles long and costs $1.4 billion to complete. This money came from both local and federal funding, Quillard said.
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