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Glendale Goes East-West for First Light Rail Extension

By Eric Jay Toll for The Arizona Builder’s Exchange

It’s 13 years out, but Glendale is starting plans for its east-west, downtown light rail extension. With Phoenix, Mesa, and the Tempe trolley opening dates all moved forward by several years, October 30th found Glendale’s city council directing staff to start alternative analysis to determine the better of the two corridors—the east-west downtown corridor or the north-south Loop 101 corridor.

From the beginning of light rail planning, Glendale was expecting light rail to extend from west Phoenix. The Glendale route would start from the Phoenix Northwest Extension and head west from the 19th Avenue/Metro Center extension into central Glendale. The Metro Center extension is nearing a construction start for a 2016 opening.

In the last couple of years, interest arose for a link from I-10 following the freeway into the Westgate area. That route develops westward on I-10 ending near 79th Ave. There is no construction funding for the West Valley route, although design (AZBEX, July 27th) kicked off for the area from 1st Ave., past the Capitol towards the state fairgrounds.

The staff presentation had a “more taste-less filling” flavor, ultimately recommending that both corridors be promoted to Valley Metro light rail. The east-west corridor to downtown Glendale was preferred—and will be advocated first—for its shorter distance, connection to existing transit riders for higher boardings, and because it’s a better candidate for federal funding.

The I-10/Loop 101 route wasn’t tossed to the side. The staff recommended it be pursued for long-range development opportunities. The route has major advantages with a faster travel time to central Phoenix from newly developing areas. The connection to Glendale’s major sports venues, University of Phoenix Stadium and Arena, did not go unnoticed as well.

Staff says the alternative analysis will stretch into 2015 to pick the east-west corridor alignment. The study area sits between Northern Ave. and Camelback Rd. and from 19th Ave. on the east to Loop 101 on the west. The design process starts in 2016.

Courtesy of the City of Glendale