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Budget Includes $75M for Tempe Streetcar

Rendering credit: Valley Metro

By Chris Coppola for The Arizona Republic

Nearly 70 years after the last local Valley streetcar system was shuttered — a victim of fire, automobiles and time — the concept is on the verge of returning to the region, driven in part by the same forces that signaled its demise after World War II.

Tempe, in partnership with Valley Metro, the agency that oversees the Valley’s buses and light-rail system, has drawn up plans for a three-mile street car system that would navigate the city’s downtown area around Mill Avenue and Arizona State University and connect with the Valley’s light rail system.

The system would share lanes with vehicle traffic, carrying passengers in cars that would run along tracks and look similar to the light-rail cars, but smaller, with more frequent stops.

President Barack Obama’s latest budget proposal, announced Feb. 9, would move the project closer to reality, setting aside $75M for the $177M plan.

The funding, which requires approval from Congress, is under the Federal Transit Administration’s proposed spending for transit projects across the country.

The federal dollars would cover about 42 percent of the design and construction costs. Another $70M would come from a half-cent regional transportation sales tax approved by Maricopa County voters in 2004.

Other funding would include $19M from a Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Fund provided through the Maricopa Association of Governments, and $13M from a voter-approved half-cent sales tax in Tempe dedicated toward transit projects.

The Tempe streetcar was among 31 local projects recommended by the FTA for a share of $3.5 billion in federal funding.

If the funds are approved by Congress, the city would move quickly to seek bids for design work by the end of this year, with construction beginning in 2017 and completed in 2019.

Read more at The Arizona Republic

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