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Phoenix City Council puts future of light rail into voters’ hands

(Twitter Photo/@valleymetro)

PHOENIX – Voters in Phoenix will determine the fate of light rail in a special election in August, according to a draft of the city council’s formal meeting.

Council members adopted the agenda item No. 35 at Wednesday’s meeting, giving voters the final say in paying for light rail extensions.

The initiative from opposition group Building a Better Phoenix said the proposed extension into south Phoenix should be canceled. The money would better be spent on other infrastructure projects, such as road work and expanding bus service, the group said.

That money amounts to voter-approved $31 billion spread over 35 years. The plan passed in 2015.

But opponents said the south central extension will be disruptive, increasing traffic and ruining locally owned businesses. It would also threaten to gentrify the working-class neighborhood that stretches east to west from Seventh Avenue to Seventh Street and north to south from Jefferson Street to the Salt River.

Construction was slated to begin this year and would reduce traffic along four-lane Central Avenue to two lanes.

The city council voted to move ahead with the plan in September, after authorizing Valley Metro in June to study options on keeping four lanes.

During a a special meeting on the study, transit system CEO Scott Smith said pursuing the four-lane option could doom the project.

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