Phoenix votes to continue with 2-lane plan for South Central light rail

Sep 26, 2018, 5:56 PM | Updated: Sep 27, 2018, 11:53 am

PHOENIX – The Phoenix City Council voted 6-2 on Wednesday to move ahead with the two-lane plan for the controversial light rail extension on South Central Avenue.

In June, the council had directed Valley Metro to conduct a study about an option that would leave four lanes of traffic along Central in South Phoenix between Jefferson Street and Baseline Road.

The vote was held during a special meeting and was preceded by around 2½ hours of public comments.

Early in the meeting, Valley Metro CEO Scott Smith said pursuing the four-lane option could doom the project.

An additional 12-18 months would be needed for the environmental impact process, Smith said, which would cause the project to miss a federal funding deadline.

“If we are removed from the federal list, then this project is on life support. … It would be extremely detrimental to miss those deadlines,” Smith said.

Councilman Michael Nowakowski said he supported two lanes because of concerns about losing federal funding.

Vice Mayor Jim Waring spoke strongly against the extension but acknowledged that he didn’t think there was any way to stop the two-lane plan.

“I thought it was a zero percent chance that it would change,” he said.

Waring was joined by Sal DiCiccio in his opposition.

Most of the public commenters spoke either for or against the voter-approved project in general without expressing an opinion about the lane issue.

Those against the extension cited concerns that included safety, traffic flow and the restriction of access to businesses in the area.

Supporters say light rail will spur economic growth and provide a much-needed transportation option for the underserved area.

Longtime South Phoenix resident Perry Elam drew applause when he pointed out that the issue of whether to build the extension should already have been settled.

“Our community voted for the light rail,” he said. “Now we’re here today to talk about disavowing the vote of the people. The voice of the people. The most cherished part of our freedom.”

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Phoenix votes to continue with 2-lane plan for South Central light rail