MESA, AZ — If you live in East Mesa, you're now able to hop on the light rail at Gilbert Road and Main Street and take it non-stop through Downtown Phoenix. The grand opening for the latest light rail extension was Saturday.
The system extends westward from Mesa across Tempe and much of Phoenix, passing through downtown areas of all three cities and providing service to Arizona State University campuses in Tempe and Phoenix.
The extension and transit project was funded by $173.5 million in federal funding and $10.5 million in local funding from Mesa.
Ezequiel Sicairos works for Arizona Spice Company off Main Street. Like other businesses, for the past three years, he has had to deal with the construction.
"We adjusted our hours accordingly," Sicairos said. "We cut down on the hours we were opened."
But the community is celebrating now that the construction is over. The hope, they say, is that businesses will get more customers.
"It looks like it's a positive and we'll get some more foot traffic coming through," Sicairos said.
"It's been great as an economic redevelopment system," Mesa Mayor John Giles said.
The rail has extended two miles, but Mayor Giles says he wants it to go even further.
"Going down Dobson out to the Fiesta district where we've got Mesa Community College and a lot of places where people live," Giles said.
But to build that extension, voters would need to re-approve a half-cent sales tax, known as Prop 400, used partially to pay for this one. Prop 400 expires in 2024 but the city has already used all the funds allocated for this most recent project.
"So we'll need to go back to the voters and ask them, do you like what we've done? Do you have any other ideas?" Mayor Giles said.
For now, they'll be watching the number of people who ride it and the impact is has on the businesses it passes by.