- City expected to receive a $1.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to pursue a south Phoenix rail line
- Councilman Valenzuela says bringing light rail to the low-income area is critical given many residents rely on mass transit
- Planners estimate it could take eight to 10 years to build the extension
Efforts to bring light rail to south Phoenix just got a major financial boost.
The city is expected to receive a $1.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to ramp up planning for a rail extension south of downtown along Central Avenue to Baseline Road.
Councilman Daniel Valenzuela, who lobbied for the grant during a recent trip to Washington, D.C., said bringing light rail to the low-income area is critical given that many residents rely on mass transit to get to work, school and medical appointments.
“In some neighborhoods, more than 50 percent of households do not have a vehicle,” Valenzuela said. “It absolutely helps speed things up. It’s the first major step in the right direction.”
The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, grant will pay for a required environmental assessment and conceptual engineering. Phoenix had applied for $16.6 million but did not receive the money it requested for other transportation upgrades and support.
In December, the City Council voted to support the proposed 5-mile rail alignment, which planners estimate could take eight to 10 years to build.
Some nearby business owners and Councilman Jim Waring, who voted against the route, have raised concerns that construction of a rail extension could hurt shops along Central Avenue.
But Councilman Kate Gallego, whose district includes portions of the proposed extension, said light rail would be an economic-redevelopment tool, breathing new life into the corridor. She said the area is prime for infill projects and could see waterfront development where it crosses the Salt River.
“People like the certainty that the rail line provides,” Gallego said. “It will really connect the southern portion of our city with the rest of Phoenix.”