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PHX Council Moves to Bolster Light Rail

Three ordinances increase funding, advance plans for new stations

AZBEX file photo

By Matthew Roy for Arizona Builder’s Exchange

The Phoenix City Council voted March 2 to adopt a trio of ordinances pertinent to the future of light rail in the city. One ordinance will move the South Central Light Rail Extension Project forward, while two others set a course for two new rail stations.

South Central Light Rail Extension Project

The first of three ordinances adopted authorizes the City Manager and Controller to enter into a contract with Valley Metro, which increases and disperses an additional $1.5M to complete preliminary requirements to secure federal funding for the South Central Light Rail Extension Project. That extension will run from downtown, south along Central to Baseline.

The project must complete Federal Transit Administration (FTA) project readiness items and New Starts Project Development requirements to lock down the last of a total $4.7M. Part of that is a $1.6M U.S. Department of Transportation TIGER grant, which was awarded in 2014 to conduct environmental assessment and preliminary engineering for the project.

The environmental assessment is underway, but Valley Metro and the city still need to meet requirements for federal grant funding, which will demonstrate the project’s technical, financial and legal readiness. Last November, FTA approved initiation of the Project Development phase of the New Starts process.

The development phase includes completion of the environmental studies and approvals, preliminary engineering and grant readiness, which will lead to the engineering stage of the process. FTA requires all Project Development phase requirements to be completed in less than two years.

50th Street Light Rail Station

A second ordinance authorized the City Manager to contract with Valley Metro to design, construct, operate and maintain a light rail station at 50th Street and Washington. The ordinance also authorizes the Controller to disburse up to $22.9M to fund the project.

The 50th Street location for the station was the result of a 2013 feasibility study, the recommendations of which were approved by the City Council in November 2014. The nearest existing stations along Washington are at 44th Street to the west and at Priest Drive to the east.

Voter approval of the Phoenix Transportation 2050 (T2050) provided the funds needed for the project. Valley Metro can spend up to $750K in this fiscal year on procuring a design consultant and CMAR contractor. Those roles should be selected by Valley Metro this Spring.

16th Street Light Rail Station

The third measure authorized the City Manager to contract with Valley Metro to conduct a feasibility study to look into adding another light rail station at 16th Street and Washington and Jefferson streets. The closest existing station is to the west at 12th Street and Washington/Jefferson; The nearest station to the east is at 24th Street.

Before development of a new station, Valley Metro policy dictates it to meet basic criteria. A new station must generate additional boardings – this is affected by area population and employment density. Other important factors include proximity of existing stations, constructability, and impact of the potential project on the environment and community.

The study will assess the ability of the additional stop to generate ridership, as well as potential engineering constraints, costs and land use development potential. The cost of the study should not exceed $60K.

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