By Teri Carnicelli
Two community meetings are scheduled in North Central Phoenix this month about the light rail train, operated by Valley Metro. The first meeting will provide an update about the Northwest Phase II Extension project, which will continue the light rail from where it current ends at 19th and Dunlap avenues, on to Metrocenter Mall.
However, it is the second meeting that is drawing a lot of attention, as Valley Metro begins the process of determining a route to Paradise Valley Mall. And one of the proposed routes would take the train right through the heart of the Sunnyslope community.
That “Future Light Rail Northeast Expansion” meeting is set for 10 a.m.-12 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13 at the Sunnyslope History Museum, 737 E. Hatcher Road. The meeting is free and open to the public; a light lunch will be available for purchase for $5.
There are two proposed routes to Paradise Valley Mall. The 2004 Regional Transportation Plan identified a 12-mile route that would travel from Indian School Road to around 24th Street, possibly up the I-51 or close to it, and then over to around Tatum and Cactus. The other proposed route was developed from the Phoenix Transportation 2050 Plan, launched in 2015, offering an 8-mile stretch that would travel from the Metrocenter Mall station east along Dunlap Avenue to 7th Street, and then up Cave Creek and east on Cactus Road.
These are still very conceptual, as “feasibility studies,” with a goal to identify the best option for potential further analysis by the city of Phoenix and Valley Metro. The projected opening date is tentatively set for 2034.
Residents have expressed concern on the Nextdoor.com online platform about the crime activity that has plagued the station at 19th and Dunlap avenues being extended into Sunnyslope, which already struggles with a high transient population. They also are aware of the negative impact light rail construction has had on other businesses in the past, and worry that it might harm businesses in the heart of Sunnyslope between Central Avenue and 7th Street, along Dunlap Avenue.
Many think the money would be better spent fixing up some of the crumbling city streets and replacing the “melting” large street signs at many of the lighted intersections in the North Central community. Others have suggested investing the transportation funds into increasing security on the trains and platforms.
Some spoke out in favor of an extension to Paradise Valley Mall, saying it is both an employment hub and shopping destination, and pointing out that ending the light rail at a non-destination like 19th and Dunlap avenues has contributed to the problems there. They also support adding more public transportation options to decrease traffic congestion and air pollution.
After the last of the community meetings are held, Valley Metro will complete its evaluation and prepare a final feasibility report with its recommended route. Valley Metro will then coordinate with the city of Phoenix on the “next steps.” For more information, visit https://www.valleymetro.org/projects and click on the “Northeast” box.
The community meeting to update residents about the progress of the Northwest Phase II Extension to Metrocenter Mall is set for 6-7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 4 at College America, 9801 N. Metro Parkway E.
The 1.5-mile Northwest Phase II route includes three stations, a park-and-ride lot, a traction power substation, and the bridge across the 1-17 freeway to the perimeter of the mall. The route will travel up 19th Avenue and eventually over to 25th Avenue, crossing the freeway at Mountain View Road. The projected opening date of the extension is 2023.
The work to underground or relocate utilities along the 1.5-mile extension will begin next year. The Oct. 4 meeting is to update the community about the project’s Environmental Assessment (EA), which details the level of potential impact the project will have on noise, vibration, traffic and parking, as well as recreational and historic resources. The meeting is free and open to the public.
For more information, visit https://www.valleymetro.org/projects and click on the “Northwest Phase II Extension” box.