By Colleen Sparks
Construction on the Northwest Extension Phase II of the light rail is running smoothly as the city ramps up plans to expand and enhance public transportation in North Central and around Phoenix.
The Northwest Extension Phase II will extend light rail from 19th Avenue west on Dunlap Avenue, then north on 25th Avenue and across I-17 at Mountain View Road, ending on the west side of the freeway near the former Metrocenter Mall. It will add another 1.6 miles to the light rail system and it includes new stations and public art.
“Everything is on schedule,” said Michael Book, community outreach coordinator for Valley Metro. “COVID never really slowed us down. I think it will greatly benefit the community.”
Book, who is assigned to the Northwest Extension Phase II, added the extension would benefit economic development by making it easier for people to travel to businesses and universities.
More than $14.4 billion in public and private capital investment has been built near the 28 existing miles of light rail in Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa, and Tempe Streetcar.
Valley Metro’s Small Business Financial Assistance Program pilot (SBFAP) has provided more than $250,000 in direct financial help to 50 small businesses along light rail construction in Phoenix. This pilot program of $2.3 million assists small, locally owned businesses adjacent to the Northwest Extension Phase II and South Central Extension/Downtown Hub light rail construction corridors.
Jamaris Kennedy, a chef whose catering business, Jamaris’ Kitchen, is on 28th Drive along the Northwest Extension Phase II, said his company received $3,000 from the Valley Metro grant.
“Some people may look at it like, ‘Oh, well, that’s not much,’ but it is to us,” Kennedy said. “Being a small business, every penny counts.”
André Robles, a leasing consultant at Acclaim Apartment Homes on west Dunlap Avenue, believes the light rail will benefit everyone.
“I just think for everybody who may be commuting residents, this will definitely be a big boost,” Robles said. “I definitely have received a lot of positive reviews about the expansion.”
Valley Metro has a new, free smartphone app called Construct VM-Northwest 2 to inform users about current and upcoming construction as the project advances. It can be downloaded on iOS or Android devices. Two-way traffic that is currently moving on the south side of Dunlap Avenue in the project area will shift to the north side sometime this year.
Workers are locating utilities underneath roadway to make sure there are no problems with the utilities themselves, Book said. One of the first steps is to ensure utilities are moved from under the roadway to an area adjacent to the street so utility companies can access them more easily once construction is done.
Bridge construction is taking place on the east and west sides of the I-17 light rail bridges and on the Arizona Canal Bridge. At the end-of-line area for the Northwest Extension there will be the Metrocenter Station, which will be the first elevated station in Valley Metro’s light rail system.
Several artists are creating artwork for the Northwest Extension Phase II including images of flying objects, as well as local flora and fauna, an intricately designed fence, sculptures, retro-style figures suspended in the air and pieces that resemble hummingbirds and flowers.
Construction on the Northwest Extension Phase II is expected to be finished in late 2023.
You can learn more by visiting www.valleymetro.org.
Another way public transit access will become easier is with federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. The Phoenix City Council voted recently to approve $1 million to assist residents in need with the costs of riding public transit. Phoenix will use ARPA money to buy more than 31,000 monthly transit passes. These 31-day passes can be used on bus and light rail routes around the region. To learn more, visit www.phoenix.gov/publictransit.