Businesses worry about future light rail plan

PHOENIX - Transportation officials are just starting the early phases of a new light rail expansion, but many commuters and business owners are already worried about construction.

Valley Metro spokeswoman Melissa Quillard said officials will be holding the first of many public meetings about the project on Wednesday night. Quillard said during this phase, light rail will be extended from 19th Avenue and Dunlap toward Interstate 17.

Construction on the current Phase I portion happening near 19th Avenue and Dunlap is expected to be done by late 2015/early 2016.

Construction on the Phase II portion of the project is expected to start sometime in 2020 with a completion date of 2026.

The goal of the project is to make traffic smoother for commuters; the goal of Wednesday's meeting is to hear residents' concerns.

"We are just in the very early stages. This is just a feasibility study so we are looking at all the different options to see what would be possible. Our goal is to minimize impact to the community no matter what," said Quillard.

Many people who live and work in the area say they are worried about the length of the project.

Daryl Lane works at Fletcher's Tire and Auto Service at the intersection of 19th and Dunlap avenues. He says existing construction in the area has already hurt his business.

"They all understand what we are going through but they can't fix it. I mean there is just no other way, so when you go to 19th Avenue and end up reducing travel to 20 percent of what it was, the drive-by businesses end up suffering," said Lane.

The public meeting is scheduled for Wednesday from 6  to 8 p.m. It will be at the Metro Plaza Hotel. The hotel is located near Interstate 17 and Peoria Avenue.

Along with a light rail expansion, the project also calls for a bridge to be built over and around Interstate 17.

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