Plan To Boost Phoenix Street Repairs Could Kill Light Rail Project

Published: Thursday, October 4, 2018 - 8:20am
Updated: Thursday, October 4, 2018 - 8:35am
Christina Estes/KJZZ
Light rail along Camelback Road near 11th Avenue in Phoenix.

Complaints from residents and business owners are driving Phoenix city council members to find ways to speed up street repairs.

The money would come from Prop 104, a 35-year sales tax approved by voters in 2015 to expand light rail and bus service and improve streets. The city refers to the tax plan as its T2050 program which stands for Transportation 2050.

“This is a big leap forward and a big step for all of us, really,” said Vice Mayor Jim Waring.

During Wednesday’s council meeting, staff was asked to look into borrowing from future street funding and delaying a light rail extension project from Metrocenter Mall to the Paradise Valley Mall area.

“I voted for light rail, I voted for T2050,” Shawn Severud told the council. “Makes sense to me that they should be given equal opportunity to say, ‘Okay, this no longer makes sense.’ Not sure why you feel that you all have the right to override the voters’ decision.”

“This isn’t the first time that things have been on a map and altered because, by the time the vote is taken and you go down the road, plans change and things change,” Mayor Thelda Williams said. “And I think this is a great example of exactly that.”

All councilmembers voted in favor of staff working with an adviser to work out a financing plan. Details could be presented in a couple months.

While the directive refers to delaying the northeast light rail extension to the Paradise Valley Mall area, Councilman Sal DiCiccio called 'delaying' the politically correct term. Some councilmembers have expressed doubt that the northeast line will ever be built.

Meanwhile, former councilwoman Peggy Neely who represents two car dealerships along Camelback Road asked the council to delay or halt plans for a light rail extension in west Phoenix. She said businesses and Grand Canyon University do not want trains running along Camelback Road from 19th Avenue to 43rd Avenue.

Councilwomen Laura Pastor and Vania Guevara, whose districts represent that stretch of Camelback Road, said they want to talk with residents and gauge their interest in light rail before the council takes any action on the future of the west Phoenix project.

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