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To keep or not to keep: Phoenix voters to decide future of the light rail

Posted at 7:16 PM, Jul 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-30 22:16:33-04

PHOENIX — Ballots are in the mail and Phoenix voters, once again, will decide the future of light rail.

The ballots for the August 27 election in Phoenix will begin arriving in people's mailboxes this week. Once again, Phoenix voters are being asked to decide the future of light rail's expansion plans -- for the fourth time. Even though voters keep saying yes, opponents manage to come back and continue the fight. What's confusing this time around is that a "yes" vote would mean no to light rail, and a "no" vote would actually mean yes.

The battlefield for this latest fight is along the South Central Avenue corridor. Construction on the planned 5 1/2 mile route connecting Baseline road to downtown, and beyond, awaits the outcome of the election.

"This is a great investment that will help us build a more urban city of the future," Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said. The mayor is urging voters to vote "no" on Prop 105, a ballot initiative, that if passed, kills all light rail expansion in Phoenix.

Gallego sees light rail as a catalyst to revitalize neighborhoods, induce economic development as well as provide an efficient way to move people around.

"We are always going to have multiple different transportation tools. But this is one that complements our existing system and helps us build that great modern city," she said.

The mayor's vision can get a little hazy along the storefronts that line south Central Avenue. The light rail project will take five years.

Susan Gudino of Building a Better Phoenix, the group leading the charge supporting Prop 105, says the disruption will force businesses to close and wreak havoc on some neighborhoods who risk becoming landlocked when Central Avenue closes for construction. "They want to say we don't care about public transportation. We don't care about the people. That's not the case," Gudino says. " We care about the money and the community, people."

Building a Better Phoenix has been accused of having big-money backers. That is not true, according to Gudino. "They can look up our finances. I am the treasurer. We have not received one dime from the Koch Brothers. We have not received one dime from dark money groups."

Gudino says Building a Better Phoenix is working phone banks and has plans to canvas south and west Phoenix neighborhoods over the weekend urging voters to support Prop 105, and end the light rail expansion. City money dedicated to light rail is better spent, they say, on improving roads and buying more efficient buses.

There is a lot of money at stake. Federal funds amount to $3.5 billion dollars for the light rail project. It goes away if voters decide to stop the expansion.

A late August election, practically guarantees a low voter turnout. With everything riding on the outcome, both sides know it won't take much to win or lose