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Phoenix city leaders form citizens’ panel for transportation plan

PHOENIX — The city of Phoenix launched a citizen-led transportation committee Tuesday, tasked with creating a comprehensive transportation plan.

Mayor Greg Stanton said the committee was filling an important role in coming up with a transportation plan that will be vital to the city’s future.

“This city is growing again, there’s going to be more and more congestion unless we work hard to get ahead of the curve,” he said.

As part of the committee’s research into the transportation needs of residents, Stanton said it will need input from the public.

Alongside the creation of the committee, Stanton and several councilmembers also announced the launch of a website aimed at bridging the gap between the city, the committee and the public, he said.

The citizens’ council will be headed up by a prominent transportation figure, Mary Peters, former U.S. secretary of transportation under the Bush administration.

Peters said she was honored to be a part of the committee and that their transit proposal will be hinged on feedback from the public because of the large population it will represent.

“It’s a very diverse committee and representing a variety of interests,” she said. “From bicyclists to paratransit, to those who just have disability and can’t at all get in a car (and) those who just choose not to because it’s a huge expense especially for low-income families.”

Councilman Daniel Valenzuela, whose district is part of the northwest light-rail extension, said the revenue and economic benefits from the rail come not only from ridership fees but from the generation of business and commerce along the lines.

Valenzuela said help from federal funding is critical in the creation and extension of expensive transportation projects. Last week he helped lobbying the U.S. Department of Transportation for grant money.

Councilwoman Kate Gallego said personal experience has forced her to see firsthand the need for better and more expansive transportation systems.

“I had a seizure in December and lost my driver’s license for several months and thank goodness for our bus and rail systems,” she said.

“I was still able to get around the city; my doctor and my hospital were both on the light rail, but not everyone has that right now.”

The committee will submit a comprehensive transit plan to the mayor and city council by the end of the year.