light rail infrastructure

The Valley Metro Light Rail traveling westbound in Downtown Phoenix. (Photo by Mike Mertes, AZ BIG Media)

December 10, 2020

AZ Business Magazine

$638M funding for light rail expansion will create 23,000 jobs

Arizona Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly applauded $638 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation to help fund Valley Metro’s South Central Light Rail expansion, creating 23,000 jobs.

“(Friday’s) funding announcement of the South Central Light Rail Expansion will create jobs, expand transportation options, and grow Arizona’s economy. I’ll continue working to increase infrastructure investment in our state and create opportunities for all Arizonans,” said Sinema.

Friday’s funding announcement comes as a Full Funding Grant Agreement from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), and it represents the federal government’s role in funding and helping manage the project. The extension project will receive $530 million from the FTA’s Capitol Investment Grants Program and $108 million from the Federal Highway Administration.

The view down Central Ave. from Dobbins Rd. The planned light rail expansion to the South is from the primary transit hub at Central Ave. and Van Buren St. to Baseline Rd. a distance of around 5 miles. (Photo by Jake Eldridge/Cronkite News)

“It is thrilling to see this grant agreement, which comes at a time when investment could not be more important,” said Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego. “We have been working toward this day for years, and it is a personal passion for me because of the economic development, business, education and community connections that light rail can deliver.”

The 5.5-mile South Central expansion will operate along Central and First Avenues from approximately McKinley Street in downtown Phoenix to Baseline Road. The project also includes an expanded light rail operations center, 18 light rail vehicles, eight rail stations, and two park-and-ride lots. Construction is set to be completed and the extension open for operation in 2024.

“This is a significant investment in South Phoenix and the entire Valley. By connecting South Phoenix with the rest of the Valley Metro light rail, this project will give folks a reliable transportation option and increase economic opportunity. These are the kinds of job-creating infrastructure investments that are critical to the future of our state and I will prioritize in the Senate,” said Kelly.

The project will provide a seamless connection between the South Mountain Village Core and Downtown Phoenix. Currently, roughly 38 percent of the population in this area lives below the poverty level and 12 percent of the households in this community do not own cars. The project will connect the community to Arizona State University (downtown and main campuses), downtown Phoenix, and the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

The project includes track improvements along McKinley Street, 5th Street, and 3rd Avenue in downtown Phoenix, expansion of the existing Operations and Maintenance Center, purchase of 17 light rail vehicles, and construction of two park and ride lots. The service is planned to operate every 12 minutes for most of the weekday, every 20 minutes during late night and early morning hours, and every 15 to 20 minutes on the weekends.

The grant announcement comes the same week that the Phoenix City Council approved a major small business support program for businesses in the light rail corridor.

“Light rail has demonstrated its ability to advance prosperity in the neighborhoods and business zones it serves. One of my guiding principles is to build a Phoenix that works for everyone. This expansion marries those two ideas,” added Mayor Gallego.  “Thank you to our federal partners including our Arizona Senators and Representatives Stanton and Gallego for this important investment.”