By Corinne Murdock |
The city of Phoenix is planning to landlock the Arizona State Capitol with a light rail loop: the “Capitol Extension.” A cost estimate has yet to be announced.
The Capitol Extension will form a 1.4 mile-loop with three stations around the capitol. It’s an addition to the existing Valley Metro Rail system from 3rd Avenue along Washington Street, 19th Avenue, and Jefferson Street. That runs right along the area of the infamous mass homeless encampment known as The Zone, prompting concerns about ridership and capitol grounds safety.
Crime has increased along the Valley Metro light rail system over the last few years. There were over 1,300 incidents in 2020, over 1,600 incidents in 2021, and nearly 2,500 incidents in 2022. According to city data reflected in a 12 News report last May, crime in and around public transit has risen consistently since 2016; the FBI data outlining this crime spike was last updated in 2021.
The extension also surrounds the adjacent Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza, Supreme Court, Library Park, and U.S. District Court, stopping short of the current rail loop in front of Phoenix City Hall.
The Phoenix City Council and Valley Metro Rail Board of Directors issued this design — the Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA) — in November 2021. Plans for the Capitol Extension date back to actions taken by the Phoenix City Council and Valley Metro Rail Board of Directors in 2016.
Prior to construction, federal regulations require an Environmental Assessment. The assessment and preliminary engineering carry an estimated cost of $4.85 million. Preliminary engineering began in 2021 and is scheduled to run through the end of this year; the environmental assessment began this year and is scheduled to run through 2024.
The Capitol Extension isn’t scheduled to run until late 2027.
Final design and pre-construction is scheduled to begin in 2024 and last through 2025; then construction is scheduled to begin in 2025 and last through 2027; testing and certification is scheduled to begin in mid-2027, with no anticipated end date in sight; and revenue service is scheduled to begin in late 2027.
Construction will consist of three to four years of underground utility relocation; trackwork and street rebuilding; sidewalks, landscaping, and signage; stations and overhead electrification; and testing, certification, and operations.
According to a public meeting held earlier this month to discuss design of the tracks, stations, roadway, sidewalks, and street striping, the extension will be funded by 50 percent federal funds, 35 percent local funds, and 15 percent regional funds. Federal funding will come from the Capital Investment Grant (CIG) and Congestion Mitigation, Air Quality (CMAQ); regional funding will come from the Public Transportation Fund (PTF), and extension funds are included within Proposition 400; local funding will come from the Phoenix Transportation 2050 Sales Tax.
The city did disclose in the meeting that the funding breakdown may be subject to change depending on the availability of federal dollars.
The meeting also sought applicants for a Stakeholder Art Review Committee to select art pieces to adorn the Capitol Extension.
Future public meetings will discuss the design of the drainage, systems, utilities, right-of-way, traffic signals, and landscaping.