Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Mesa, Ariz., approves Valley Metro LRT extension

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Mesa, Ariz., has approved a 2.7-mile extension of Valley Metro light rail into the city’s downtown retail district along Main Street.

The City Council backed the route despite concerns from some property owners and businesses seeking seeking alternate routes to the $194 million project; supporters of the Main Street route noted a reroute via either First Street or First Avenue, each one block away from Main Street, would add at least $17 million to the cost.

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Both Valley Metro and the Maricopa Association of Governments Regional Council must also approve the proposal, with both entities expected to bestow their blessing.

Funding for the project comes from a half-cent sales tax that Maricopa County residents approved in 2004, along with federal matching funds. Construction is set to begin in 20122, with revenue service beginning in 2015.

Valley Metro, which opened in the waning days of 2008, crosses into Mesa from neighboring Phoenix, but the line’s eastern terminus falls short of the city’s primary business district. Mesa city officials, and even many opponents to the selected route, have made clear their desire for an LRT extension despite their differences, in contrast to other Phoenix-area municipalities, such as Glendale, which have balked at LRT proposals.