Light rail extension could come to South Central

Valley Metro took a step forward in adding a light rail expansion that would extend into the South Central area (Craig Johnson/DD)

South Central took a step forward in adding a light rail expansion that would extend into the area.

A Phoenix subcommittee approved funding for the South Central light rail extension and an accompanying grant on Tuesday. The recommendation will move on to City Council for final approval.

The Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee approved a request for proposals for the South Central Transit Oriented Development (TOD) Grant. The grant will assist with early-action business assistance and land-use planning in the area impacted by the South Central Light Rail Extension.

Several businesses from the area spoke in favor of the grant at the subcommittee meeting.

Bobby Wade of Evolve Dance & Fitness said there are many in the area who want to see city assistance in the economic development of the area.

“We are in favor of this project… there are a lot of people and families that have been in this area for a long time that really want to see this environment grow, see this community grow,” Wade said.

Wade said most of the transit that comes down South Central is just passing, and many people don’t know what South Phoenix really has to offer.

“I understand that there’s concerns from other business owners about going from four to two lanes,” Wade said. “If we’re able to slow it down a little bit, I think people will tend to pick their head up and see what’s going on.”

Victor Vidales, owner of Re/Max New Heights Realty for the past 13 years, said the grant will help with the walkability of the city.

“We see this as a great opportunity for the city of Phoenix to become a pedestrian-oriented, transportation-oriented community,” Vidales said.

Hillary Foose, director of communication and marketing for the Valley Metro Regional Public Transportation Authority, said that when completed, the light rail will total 66 miles in length. The five-mile extension, projected for completion in 2023, will cost “about $700 million” said Foose.

“We’re creating enhanced mobility in that area,” Foose said. “It is being set up for current ridership and future growth of our region.”

Eva Olivas, CEO of the Phoenix Revitalization Corporation (PRC) is excited about the project. The PRC is a nonprofit community development corporation dedicated to the revitalization of neighborhoods with a focus on Central City South.

“I want to support this, we are very excited,” Olivas said. “In 2010 the residents of Central City South directed us to support the light rail system, so we have been waiting for a long, long time.” Olivas said.

However, she does have some concerns about what could happen to the area following the extension. Olivas said she saw two potentials for damage to the businesses in the area.

“One, can the businesses survive the construction, and after that can the businesses survive the design… It’s hard because we need both.” Olivas said.

Former mayor of Mesa and current interim CEO of Valley Metro Scott Smith said this type of investment will make a change, using Mesa’s experience as an example.

“Our experience has been that when you make this type of investment, it brings good change… most of the fears about the light rail have not played out,” Smith said.

Contact the reporter at Richard.Walton.1@asu.edu.