The Federal Transit Administration awarded the city of Mesa, Ariz., $75 million for construction of a 3.1-mile light-rail extension connecting the city with Phoenix and Tempe.
The new Central Mesa Extension, operated by Valley Metro Rail, will run from Sycamore to Mesa Drive on Main Street and connect residents in the downtown hubs of Phoenix, Mesa and Tempe. It is expected to spur new residential and commercial development in downtown Mesa, while providing convenient, reliable access to Arizona State University and Sky Harbor International Airport.
“In Arizona and across the country, people are choosing transit over traffic,” said FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff, who toured the planned route in March 2011. “Extending the popular Central Mesa light-rail line will open more doors to economic opportunity and spur new commercial development downtown, while reducing congestion in one of the state’s fastest-growing regions.”
Federal funding for the project includes $75 million through FTA’s Capital Investment (New Starts/Small Starts) program and $53 million in federal congestion mitigation funds. Funding for the remainder of the $199-million project comes from state and local sources. Over the past six months, ridership on Valley Metro light rail has risen 6.2 percent on average, compared with the same period in 2011.
Average daily ridership on the light-rail system in September was nearly 50,000 passengers per weekday, inching closer to the 20-year ridership projection. The increase in September was 3.7 percent over the same period one year ago. The Central Mesa extension will add four light-rail stations and a park-and-ride.
“We’ve already seen the kind of impact rail can bring to our city,” Mesa Mayor Scott Smith said. “Light rail was a major factor in the four colleges’ decision to set up campuses in downtown Mesa. I’m confident that over the next five to 10 years the impact that light rail will have on bringing other new development to our downtown will be significant.”
The expansion, which should begin service in late 2015, is anticipated to serve nearly 10,000 daily riders.