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Arizona Supreme Court decides light rail initiative will remain on ballot

(KTAR News Photo/Matt Bertram)

PHOENIX – The Arizona Supreme Court decided Wednesday an initiative that seeks to end expansion of Phoenix’s light rail system can be included on a special-election ballot later in the summer.

Voters go to the polls Aug. 27 to determine the future of the 10-year-old mass transit system. Proposition 105 could stop the expansion in its tracks.

The court affirmed a Maricopa County Superior Court and appeals court judgment.

The high court said in its opinion that “Contractors’ argument fails because the Initiative does not, in fact, eliminate funding for upkeep of the existing light rail system.”

The state chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America had sued to keep the initiative off the ballot, saying that the group Building a Better Phoenix had collected signatures incorrectly and that the initiative language was imprecise.

The contractors appealed after a Maricopa County Superior Court judge ruled in April that the grassroots organization did not violate the law while gathering signatures.

The majority of the initiative’s supporters are residents and business owners who live and work along the proposed expansion path from downtown Phoenix east to the South Mountain area.

The initiative makes it on to the ballot and if Phoenix voters approve it, funds will go to other transportation projects.

The opinion, written by Justice Ann Timmer, also said, “The Initiative defines ‘light rail extensions,’ as “any and all construction, development, extension or expansion of, or improvement to, light rail transit authorized by Proposition 104.

“Thus, the light rail funds at issue in the Initiative are only those dedicated to light rail extensions, not upkeep, as authorized by Proposition 104.”

Voters had pushed ahead a measure in 2015 that set aside $550 million for the expansion. The federal government gave the 5.5-mile project $100 million in early July.

Months before, the city council rubber-stamped an initiative to put the project up for a vote.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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