PHOENIX — If you've been to downtown Phoenix lately, you've noticed lots of construction, as two Valley light rail expansion projects are currently underway.
The light rail Northwest Extension Phase II will travel 1.6 miles from 19th Avenue and Dunlap to the old Metrocenter Mall area. Highlights include a bridge crossing I-17 and the first elevated light rail station.
“It’s about taking people from North Phoenix to ASU in Tempe, taking them to Mesa, taking them to jobs, taking them to South-Central when we open up that extension,” said Susan Tierney, Communications Manager for Valley Metro.
The project got a major boost this week when the United States Department of Transportation announced a $158 million Capital Investment Grant supporting Phoenix light rail is moving forward through Congress.
Mayor Kate Gallego was ecstatic, releasing a statement: “Projections tell us this new section of rail will serve 5,700 daily riders, and that the majority of riders will come from households without cars, opening up new options for good jobs and a good education,” Gallego said.
The total project cost for the NWE II is $401 million, a mix of local, state, and federal funding.
Tierney says securing the federal portion is a big relief. “When the federal government comes to us and says we believe in your projects, Phoenix. You’re doing a great job with your light rail, we want to see it continue we know you’re in a growth mode... That really counts a lot, it means a lot, and it’s very important to us.”
But not all are on board. “We are now looking at a project that’s being built to a mall that's shut down,” said Scot Mussi, President of Arizona Free Enterprise Club.
“Now we’re looking at a situation where we’re spending over $250 million a mile to build a project to a destination that doesn’t even exist,” Mussi said.
The South Central Extension is also in the works. It will go through downtown — South on Central, all the way to Baseline Road.
Necessary additions Tierney says to handle the city's current growth as millions move to Phoenix. "We have to accommodate," Tierney said "We can’t keep building more roads wider roads, or more freeways.”
Meanwhile, during the construction process Valley Metro reminds small businesses impacted by road closures blockages, that there is financial assistance available through grant funding.
Small businesses can get anywhere between $3,000 and $9,000. Funding is still available and they encourage businesses to apply on the Valley Metro website.
Valley Metro hopes to have most of the light rail extension operational by 2023 when the Valley will host the Super Bowl.
For a more in-depth look at the North West Extension Phase II check out the Valley Metro website.