South Central Light Rail Plans
Now that the Alternative Analysis to determine the best high-capacity transit option for the South Central Phoenix Corridor is complete, Valley Metro is set to present its findings to Phoenix City Council for a vote on Nov. 12.
The regional transit agency will recommend connecting with the existing system downtown and constructing light rail along an alignment that moves south on 1st and Central Avenues. The suggestion comes after many months of evaluating potential routes and transit types.
According to Benjamin Limmer, Valley Metro planning manager, resident support and input from the business community made light rail and the suggested alignment stand out.
“Nothing is ever unanimous, but it has an incredibly high level of support,” he said.
Other factors that led to light rail support include its track record for stimulating economic development, higher ridership potential and the community’s desire to connect with the existing system.
“The transit ridership in South Phoenix is very high today and putting light rail there would certainly only benefit,” Limmer said.
Currently, stations are proposed at five locations – Lincoln Street, Buckeye Road, Broadway Road, Southern Avenue and Baseline Road. Three others are proposed for additional study – Watkins Street, Rio Salado Audubon Center and Roeser Road.
Limmer said community members have also expressed a desire to better position South Phoenix as a destination for business and recreation. As such, attention has also focused on a future light rail extension or shuttle from Baseline Road into South Mountain Park.
After the Phoenix City Council vote, plans move to the Valley Metro Board in December, followed by the Maricopa Association of Governments Regional Council in March 2014. Since the project isn’t part of the Regional Transportation Plan approved by voters 10 years ago, Valley Metro will request project approval from MAG and permission for an amendment to the existing transportation plan.
If approved, a financial plan will be developed for construction and day-to-day operations. Projections provided by Valley Metro put light rail’s estimated capital cost at $60 to $90 million per mile, with approximately 180-200 riders per car.
“If everything just keeps going, [project completion] can take about 10 years start to finish,” Limmer said.