Valley Metro announces updates on light rail extension to northwest Phoenix

Valley Metro announced updates on the Northwest Phase II Light Rail Extension during a public meeting Wednesday, including potential plans for a multi-modal bridge that will run across the Interstate 17.

Phase II of the project will extend west on Dunlap Avenue then north on 25th Avenue to Mountain View Road. The current approved route terminates on Mountain View Road just east of I-17.

Terry Gruver, community outreach coordinator for Valley Metro, said the idea was first introduced in 2012.

 

 

“In 2012 we thought, ‘Why not just cross I-17 on an existing arterial bridge into the Metrocenter area?’” she said.

A Project Definition study then initiated in the summer of 2013 as the next planning step to determine whether a connection across I-17 is possible for users to have access to Metrocenter Mall.

Dunlap Avenue was the first option for said crossing, but engineers objected, pointing out issues with its construction as well as traffic concerns. The idea was eliminated.

Amanda Lueker, project manager for the design concept study, said there had been some uncertainty with 1-17 during planning.

“We’ve been following (the Arizona Department of Transportation) as they struggle with this issue … and very critical to crossing the freeway is understanding what the plans for the freeway were going to be,” she said.

Valley Metro proposed working along with ADOT, the Maricopa Association of Governments and the city of Phoenix to explore the concept of a multi-modal bridge.

These plans are still in their early stages, Valley Metro spokeswoman Melissa Quillard said.

“There is no construction timeline yet,” she said. “We’re still looking at the feasibility of routes.”

The proposed project will include vehicle, light rail, bike, and pedestrian access, as well as Direct High Occupancy Vehicle access ramps across I-17 between Dunlap and Peoria avenues to the Metrocenter area.

“We don’t have anything planned to pay for this until 2020,” Gruver said. “(Then) we start getting into environmental permitting, planning process, engineering, design and we’re looking at a possible operation route in 2026.”

As of Dec. 31, Phase II of the Light Rail Extension is budgeted at $149.6 million.

Phase I of the project began Jan. 16 and is under construction extending 3.2 miles on 19th Avenue between Montebello and Dunlap avenues. This Northwest Phoenix extension is scheduled to open in late 2016.

Valley Metro will continue to study the plan for the Northwest Extension Phase II through summer 2014 with several opportunities for community input.

“We will look at key project elements such as station locations, traffic configuration, park-and-ride size/location, and new pedestrian/bicycle access points,” Gruver said.

In 2013, the Phoenix City Council approved both light rail extensions, which will increase the total length of the route by approximately 6.2 miles.

Serving the cities of Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa, the Valley Metro Light Rail’s construction began in March 2005, and its official operation three years later in December 2008.

Reach the reporter at cgcasti1@asu.edu or follow her on Twitter @Kastiyos