Phoenix City Council Shifts Voter-Approved Light Rail Project Funding to Roads

Locally generated sales tax revenue will no longer fund a planned light rail extension in west Phoenix.

March 25, 2019, 8:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Valley Metro

tishomir / Shutterstock

"The Phoenix City Council voted Wednesday to delay — and likely kill — a light-rail line planned for west Phoenix," reports Jessica Boehm. "It will instead use the money for street repairs."

Light rail has faced a series of setbacks in the Phoenix metropolitan area in recent years, as documented by Boehm. Glendale voted to cancel its portion of the west Phoenix extension in 2017.

"In October, the {Phoenix] council voted unanimously to postpone a line planned to connect downtown Phoenix to Paradise Valley Mall," adds Boehm.

There could be more setbacks to come. A group of light rail opponents called Build a Better Phoenix grew from opposition to yet another light rail plan, the South Central Light Rail Extension, has collected enough signatures to let voters decide on the future of light rail in the city—despite the track record of Phoenix voters supporting transit planning and funding. That vote is still scheduled, according to Boehm.

Meanwhile, the west Phoenix plan would need to find another source of funding to proceed to construction. "The city's portion of the money earmarked for light-rail extensions comes from a $31.5 billion, 35-year transportation plan funded by a sales tax increase voters approved in 2015," reports Boehm. "The delay will free up $153 million for road repairs, though the city will have to do an analysis to determine when those funds will be available, according to Phoenix Public Transit Department Deputy Director Ken Kessler."

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