A west Mesa park-and-ride lot appears headed to a site near Country Club Drive and Baseline Road, close to a Home Depot store.
But finalizing the location has been anything but smooth, with intense lobbying by representatives of another site to the east, on Mesa Drive and Baseline Road.
Ultimately, City Council members indicated they were inclined to approve the Country Club site, due to lower cost, greater number of transit connections for regional commuters and a flat, rectangular layout better prepared for construction. It also has plenty of retail developed in the area.
The 7.9-acre Mesa Drive site near a QuikTrip convenience store would cost $8 million for land and construction, compared with $5.7 million for the 7-acre site at Country Club. And while that may mean the city could get more parking spaces at the Mesa Drive site, that site's irregular shape and construction issues made it city transit staff's second choice.
Demand for a park-and-ride site requires 257 spaces, and the Country Club site is expected to accommodate 100 more.
Money for the project would come from $9.4 million in federal stimulus dollars. Mesa officials hope to use the money left over to help pay for two other park-and-ride lots planned for next year. The city has an additional $3.8 million in other federal dollars to pay for these.
Time is a key element in the project because of the stimulus money being used, and the Country Club site does not have any known environmental issues, which would mean faster clearances. Construction is expected to begin by March.
Mike James, Mesa's deputy transportation director, told the Council that both sites work well for express bus routes. However, he added that while the Mesa Drive site would work well for northbound local buses, the Country Club site would better serve local buses north and southbound, as well as the Arizona Avenue/Country Club Link bus rapid transit line scheduled to begin service next year.
Also, in terms of regional appeal, the Country Club site is considered more commuter-friendly, because it would offer better connections for Chandler, Gilbert and Mesa residents using mass transit. For instance, commuters would be able to park at the lot and take the Link bus to go to the light-rail station at Main Street and Sycamore. If Mesa Drive were chosen, an additional connecting bus would have to be provided to ferry commuters to the Link bus stop on Country Club.
The site selection has been a fiercely fought effort, especially this past month, as representatives of the Mesa Drive site approached council members to lobby for their site, a more visible one. That site is owned by the former owner of Phoenix International Raceway, Emmett Jobe. Maricopa County Supervisor Don Stapley was the site's broker. Former Mesa councilman Darrell Truitt was hired as an expert consultant. Truitt had been in touch with council members to speak to the site's attributes.
Before the council meeting, Vice Mayor Kyle Jones said his main considerations for the selection would be cost, access and use of property and "what's best for the city."
He described the amount of lobbying as "rather interesting," and attributed it to the state of the economy.
"They'd clearly like to move the property," said Jones.
In March, the Transportation Advisory Board had voted 5-2 in favor of the Country Club site, but they were asked to redo the vote for technical reasons again in April. This time, the vote went for the other site by a 5-4 margin.
The City Council is expected to formally vote on the matter July 1.
Mesa Councilman Dennis Kavanaugh said the lobbying to the council members began soon thereafter.
The second vote took the Country Club site owners by surprise, and they then also started frantically contacting council members. Meanwhile, Valley Metro also sent a letter June 11 in support of the Country Club site.
Kavanaugh said he favored the Country Club site, which happens to be in his district, because of the proximity to Link.
"It's just easier to build, there's no easement issues or design issues and cheaper to construct; that's a no-brainer," said Kavanaugh.