Downtown Mesa light-rail construction approaching end

Parker Leavitt, The Republic | azcentral.com July 31, 2014 Two long summers of heavy construction and traffic restrictions along Main Street in downtown Mesa are nearing a close as Valley Metro’s light-rail extension moves toward an anticipated fall 2015 opening. By the end of September, work on the downtown portion of the 3.1-mile extension will be limited to the track area itself, freeing the roadway from lane restrictions, officials said during a July 24 construction tour. For the businesses that have weathered two years of light-rail construction, the light at the end of the tunnel is quickly approaching. Soon, that light will be on the front of trains filled with commuters, tourists and the occasional joyrider. The steel beams of station platforms are starting to rise, and crews have laid much of the track that will take the train cars from the current terminal at Sycamore Street in west Mesa to a new ending point near Pioneer Park and the Mormon temple. Valley Metro will add four stops to the line when the new segment is complete: at Alma School Road, Country Club Drive, Center Street and Mesa Drive. A new park-and-ride is planned at the northeastern corner of Mesa Drive and Main Street. Construction is now about 54 percent complete and moving quickly. Mesa will be home to 3 more miles of light rail by late 2015. Gary Nelson/The Republic A $75 million grant from the federal government is being used to supplement Proposition 400 regional sales-tax funding for the downtown Mesa line, which is expected to cost around $200 million. Another 1.9-mile extension is planned to take the...

Downtown Mesa copes with light-rail construction

courtesy of Weldon B. Johnson, The Republic | azcentral.com September 10, 2014 Downtown Mesa merchants are suffering through short-term pain for what could be long-term gain. Main Street in downtown Mesa is torn up as the Valley Metro light-rail line expands to the east. As a result, it’s a little harder to get around, but businesses are making the best of the situation. “It hasn’t hurt our business that much,” said Julian Moraga of Gotham City Comics & Coffee. “Our regular customers have been coming and we’re still getting some new ones.” One of the big keys, Moraga said, is that there is still plenty of available parking behind most of the shops. “They have done a good job of promoting that,” Moraga said. “As long as people know there is parking, they will still come.” There are plenty of signs in the downtown area directing potential shoppers and diners to parking. Signs directing drivers to parking in downtown Mesa during Metro light rail expansion construction along Main Street.(Photo: Weldon B. Johnson/The Republic) Valley Metro has its own efforts to draw shoppers into the area affected by light-rail construction. Shop On, Win On is a Valley Metro promotion in which visitors to downtown Mesa can enter to win prizes, including dinners, gift certificates and a shopping spree. There are two prize drawings remaining, on Monday, Sept. 15, and Tuesday, Sept. 30. To enter, shoppers can post pictures from local businesses on Metro’s Facebook or Twitter pages. They also can enter through raffle boxes at Downtown Rendezvous (20 E. Main St.) and Republica Empanada (204 E. First Ave.). Information:facebook.com/valleymetro. New...

Halloween Moonlight Kayak

Tales will be told by a professional storyteller as you paddle on Tempe Town Lake. Costumes are encouraged, but you might get wet so bring a towel and dry clothes. No kayaking experience is necessary. Participants must be at least 10 years old, and paddlers younger than 18 must be accompanied by an adult. Register online with code 41000. Details: 6-8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 30. Tempe Town Lake Marina, 550 E. Tempe Town Lake (north shore). $30, $15 for ages 10-17. 480-350-8069, tempe.gov/brochure. Share this:EmailFacebookTwitterPrintMoreRedditLike this:Like...

Gas station near light rail called a bad fit

[By Gary Nelson | The Republic | azcentral.com | Tue Aug 6, 2013] Gas station near light rail called a bad fit Six years ago, after numerous public meetings and untold hours of work, Mesa adopted an award-winning plan to guide development along the west end of its light-rail corridor. Accepted by the City Council by December 2007, the West Main Street Plan aims to ensure that construction will be compatible with urban mass transit. The prescription included a long list of uses to be prohibited near future rail stations, including auto-centric businesses, such as gas stations. Now, however, a gas station is being built near the corner of Alma SchoolRoad and Main Street, within shouting distance of a future light-rail station. Mesa resident David Crummey has been peppering City Hall with protests — to no avail, since last September’s approval by the Planning and Zoning Board for the station’s site plan and use permit was all the permission needed. A subsequent meeting of the Design Review Board evoked promises of extra architectural flourishes, but that board couldn’t veto the overall idea. Crummey prepared a slide show outlining his objections to the gas station, which is tied to a Fry’s supermarket. He e-mailed the presentation to members of the City Council and met this month with members of Mesa’s planning staff to plead his case. “Recently, I noticed new construction at the corner of Alma School and Main,” Crummy said in his presentation. “Thinking it was light-rail-related, I investigated. I found that the new construction was a gas station — a land use that I knew was prohibited near light-rail...

Scottsdale express bus link to Tempe light rail proposed

[By Beth Duckett | The Republic | azcentral.com | Mon Aug 19, 2013] Scottsdale express bus link to Tempe light rail proposed By late 2014, bus riders in north Scottsdale could hop on a sleek new bus with limited stops to quickly reach a light-rail station in Tempe. The Link transit system along Scottsdale/Rural Road would be the third such bus rapid-transit route in the Valley, speeding up commuter times and providing an alternative to light rail along the heavily traveled corridor. But it comes at a price. A transit official, in a presentation to Scottsdale’s Transportation Commission this week, estimated costs of nearly $20 million for vehicles and capital improvements to make the route a reality. “It’s very sleek vehicles,” said Ben Limmer, corridor and facility development manager for Valley Metro, the local transportation organization in charge of, among other things, bus service. “It operates more quickly than the local bus route (and) usually has enhanced stops, longer, larger vehicles and a special brand to it.” The price tag would be covered by federal funding and a half-cent-per-dollar sales tax authorized by Proposition 400 for transit projects. The estimated yearly cost for operations and maintenance is $900,000. Limmer said the system would give riders real-time information on when the next bus would arrive. A study, due out in December,will identify an operating plan, capital improvements and final cost estimates. The weekdays-only route likely would operate between the University Drive/Rural Road light-rail station and Camelback Road, except during peak periods when buses would extend to north Scottsdale, Limmer said. The northernmost terminus would be north of a park-and-ride lot...

Next stop: Better light-rail station descriptions

[By Amy B Wang | The Republic | azcentral.com | Tue Aug 20, 2013] Next stop: Better light-rail station descriptions What’s in a name? If it’s a Valley light-rail station, not too much. Montebello and 19th Avenue. Indian School and Central. McClintock and Apache. Along the light rail’s 20-mile route, a monotone female voice announces each of the system’s 28 station names and little else. Sure, the announcements get the job done, said Edward Jensen, secretary of the Downtown Voices Coalition and a vocal advocate for Phoenix public transportation. But there’s no sense of place, no conjuring of neighborhood identity, he said. Jensen is proposing that the light rail’s onboard announcements include nearby points of interest to tie each station more closely with the Valley’s landmarks. And officials with Valley Metro, the light-rail system’s operator, said they’re considering it. Jensen’s proposal renews a conversation that has been ongoing since light rail’s inception. Some in Phoenix have always lamented the ho-hum, geographically based names of the Valley’s light-rail stations and wanted them changed to reflect nearby landmarks. According to its website, the Arizona Rail Passenger Association put out a similar list of suggested station name changes in 2010, but it’s unclear if the group is still active. Calls to the number listed for the group were not returned. In recent e-mail exchanges with Valley Metro officials, Jensen said he was not proposing drastic name changes, which would require a lengthy approval process, but to at least have landmarks included in the onboard announcements. “I’m more just thinking, let’s keep the station names as they are,” he said. “We’ve all seemed to learn them...

Amid city challenges, Mesa Mayor Scott Smith’s stature grows

[By Gary Nelson The Republic | azcentral.com Fri Sep 27, 2013]   Amid city challenges, Mesa Mayor Scott Smith’s stature grows The Mesa that Scott Smith views from the expanse of windows in his seventh-floor downtown office is not the same one that existed when he moved in five years ago. The town has been through a lot. City Hall itself was battered by an epic budget crisis that blew some departments to smithereens, cost hundreds of public jobs and yet sparked creative surges that led to new ways of delivering government services. Out on the streets, a tsunami of foreclosures drove some neighborhoods to their knees. Unemployment soared. Bitter debates over immigration poisoned the well of public amity. For a time, it appears, Mesa stopped growing altogether and may even have lost population during the worst economic downturn since President Herbert Hoover. Yet for all that, if the mayor’s windows could offer 360-degree views, they would reveal stunning transformations from one end of the sprawling city to the other. In the southeast, a growing passenger airport surrounded by boundless square miles ripe for development, some of which has begun. In the northwest, a new Chicago Cubs complex and city park to open late this year as one of the top tourist draws in the Valley. In the heart of the city, light-rail construction accompanied by three new housing projects and the arrival of several branch campuses of old-line Eastern and Midwestern liberal-arts colleges. In all parts of town, park projects either planned or ongoing as a result of a citizen-led community brainstorming effort, as well as other new...

Valley’s light-rail call boxes aimed to help youths in crisis

[By Elisa Cordova Cronkite News ServiceMon Sep 23, 2013]   Valley’s light-rail call boxes aimed to help youths in crisis Banished from home, Dion Austin, then 17, brushed his teeth at fast-food restaurants and slept in parks for three months before going to Avondale’s police station in hopes of starting a new life. Someone there referred him to Safe Place, a national youth-outreach program that connected him with a crisis center. Austin now lives in a group home and has been attending college and working full-time. “Because of Safe Place, I’m off the streets,” he said. Now those in Austin’s situation can get help from Safe Place by using an emergency call box at any of Valley Metro’s 28 light-rail stations. Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton joined Austin and others Sept. 18 at a news conference announcing the partnership. It extends a network that already includes many convenience stores, banks and libraries. “In our city, in our Valley, there are no throwaway kids,” Stanton said at the Camelback and Central light-rail station. “We need to do everything we can to wrap our arms around our young people.” A national program operated in the Valley by the Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development, Safe Place provides immediate assistance to young people who go to places that are part of the program. Cynthia Schuler, CEO of the Tumbleweed Center, said 129 teens used Safe Place’s services last year, including those who faced family problems, were homeless or had run away from home. Adding Valley Metro to the program is a natural next step, she said. “Now that we have this site, we expect...

Light rail spurs fourth housing proposal for Mesa

Courtesy of Gary Nelson The Republic | azcentral.com Feb 7, 2013 Sycamore station complex in works Mesa is on the verge of bagging its fourth new housing project with close proximity to light rail. Amcal Multi-Housing Inc. of Agoura Hills, Calif., is proposing a four-story, 82-unit apartment complex immediately adjacent to the Sycamore Street light-rail station. Like the three others, which broke ground last year, Sycamore Station Apartments would be financed by federal tax credits that are designed to encourage development of low-income housing. The tax breaks allow developers to charge lower rents and still make a profit. Amcal is applying to the Arizona Department of Housing, which issues the tax credits on a competitive basis and will decide this spring which projects to support. The department has focused in recent years on developments with access to public transit. That criterion resulted last year in a mother lode of projects for Mesa, which had gone for years without seeing much interest in tax-credit housing. The three projects under way will: Create 81 units of low-income senior housing near Center Street and First Avenue. It is the first privately financed major construction in downtown in a quarter of a century. Replace the vacant Escobedo Apartments on the north edge of downtown with a 124-unit development called Escobedo at Vista Verde. Replace most of the La Mesita Family Shelter on West Main Street with 80 units of workforce housing. Councilman Dennis Kavanaugh, in whose district the project would be built, said Sycamore Station Apartments appears to be a prime candidate for state approval. “It has many of the elements that are...
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