First Tracks Laid On Light Rail Extension
Valley Metro is hosting a community celebration July 12 to commemorate the First Track Milestone of the light rail extension along 19th Avenue. Valley Metro’s Information Officer Melissa Quillard said although construction has been underway for almost a year and half, this event marks the first time it will start looking like a light rail.
“Up until now it’s been a lot of utility relocation, a lot of underground work, so it has looked like any other construction," said Quillard. "What’s going to happen now is it's going to really start to look like light rail track and people are going to start to get a visual of what it’s going to look like when the system is complete.”
The new line will add three stations and end at Dunlap and 19th Avenue. Once construction is complete, Valley Metro will go into operations testing and then expect to open in 2016. Total contruction time will be a little more than three years.
Valley Metro recognizes that construction can be hard on businees and residents. Quillard said business owners along the extension have banded together to form the Bethany to Dunlap Merchants Association.
"They have come together to brainstorm ideas and to come up with creative ways that they can still attract people to come into their store fronts and to support each other more than anything else," Quillard said. "We all realize it has impacts on the businesses and we want to do everything we can to support them."
Some of the ways Valley Metro has tried to support the business owners of 19th Avenue include the "shop 19th" campaign featuring billboards, movie trailer commercials and a Metro-Max discount program.
“We do realize that construction impacts the businesses along the future alignment," Quillard said. "We have a dedicated staff that works with the businesses on a daily basis to make sure that there is adequate signage leading people through the construction and that there’s ways to get in to park at all the businesses. We have several marketing programs that are in place. We partner with the city of Phoenix and many other local agencies."
The extension is part of a regional transportation plan that was passed by voters in 2004 and Quillard believes it will benefit the community.
"This is a really densely residential, highly populated area, so there’s hundreds and hundreds of people that are going to have access to light rail now, to get to downtown Phoenix, to get to Tempe, to get to Mesa," Quillard said. "They’ll have access to jobs along the light rail line and to shopping along the light rail line."
The extension should add 5,000 new riders every day.