3-mile Mesa extension will include $75M in federal funds
Dignitaries from all over the valley, and from Washington, DC, were on hand Friday for a symbolic groundbreaking to mark the formal commitment to moving forward with the first extension of the Valley's light rail line.
The ceremony took place in front of the Mesa Arts Center in the heart of downtown Mesa. Currently, the light rail line ends at Main and Sycamore Streets, about two miles west of downtown. When it's finished, the three-mile extension will bring the eastern terminus of the line to Mesa Drive.
Attending the ceremony were Mesa mayor Scott Smith, Phoenix mayor Greg Stanton, and Tempe mayor Mark Mitchell, along with Congressman Ed Pastor, Federal Transit Administration (FTA) chief Peter Rogoff, and US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
LaHood announced that the project had qualified for $75 million in federal funding, which will cover nearly 40% of the total cost.
Rogoff commented, "It wasn't all that long ago that some in this region told us light rail would never work here." But he says supporters proved them wrong. "Over the past year, we've had more than 13-and-a-half million boardings... The ridership is beyond anything that the most ambitious FTA planner or Valley Metro planner ever envisioned."
Planning for the extension is already underway, with design work, utility relocation, and real estate acquisition already in process. Construction is expected to begin next year, with completion in late 2015.
US Transportation Sec. Ray LaHood addresses attendees at the ceremony, surrounded on the stage by valley mayors, city council members, and Congressman Ed Pastor.