Phoenix City Council votes to delay west light rail extension

Mar 21, 2019, 6:42 AM | Updated: 4:57 pm
(KTAR News Photo/Matt Bertram)...
(KTAR News Photo/Matt Bertram)
(KTAR News Photo/Matt Bertram)

PHOENIX – The Phoenix City Council voted Wednesday to delay plans to extend light rail farther west, putting it in danger of ever being built.

Council members voted 5-3 to use the money for street repairs instead.

The line, which was supposed to open in 2026, could be delayed indefinitely.

Interim Mayor Thelda Williams and Michael Nowakowski, Felicita Mendoza, Sal DiCiccio and Jim Waring voted in favor of delaying the West Phoenix light rail alignment.

“We’ve got about $500 million now allocated to our roads. [It] sounds like a lot of money, but it’s not enough. We need $1.63 billion … to bring all our roads up to standards,” DiCiccio said Thursday on KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News.

Light rail, he added, “only helps a select few, whereas our roads help everybody. Our roads are a disaster, and quite frankly, I think they’re dangerous.”

Council members Deb Stark, Vania Guevara and Laura Pastor voted no.

The council had voted to postpone a northeast extension from downtown to Paradise Valley Mall in October.

The new tracks would have continued along Camelback Road, taking riders to Grand Canyon University at 33rd Avenue before reaching the end of the line at 43rd Avenue.

Area business owners argued that the rail extension no longer made any sense after Glendale voted down a light-rail plan in December 2017.

The 7-mile route into the downtown Glendale was scheduled to open in 2036. The extension had a price tag of more than $100 million for each mile of construction.

Extending light rail has presented the Phoenix council with problems for the past few years.

In September, the council voted to move forward with a controversial plan for a two-lane light rail extension on South Central Avenue.

Then, in January, a group filed a lawsuit trying to keep an initiative written by light rail opponents from appearing on the ballot.

A month later, the council gave voters the final say in paying for extensions. The initiative will be on the ballot in August’s special election.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Phoenix City Council votes to delay west light rail extension