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New rail routes to be studied

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Posted: Monday, September 19, 2005 9:33 am

Light-rail officials are exploring new routes for the Metro system that could take it to Scottsdale, south Phoenix and the West Valley stadiums.

Transportation planners have talked about light rail in some of these areas for years, but the ideas haven’t had much formal study.

Now the board that oversees Valley Metro Rail is considering an extensive logistical and technical study as they plan expansions in the next 20 years and beyond.

The study, which would cost $1.3 million to $3 million, will see if it’s possible to build new lines that have been sketched out or if it’s smarter to consider other routes.

For example, the study will see if it’s worth building a line in Tempe on Rural Road from Apache Boulevard to Southern Avenue. The line would have to go under or over an existing railroad track — an expensive, difficult engineering proposition. Also, the busy Rural Road has little room to spare for light-rail tracks.

An alternative is to go north from Apache on Rural and Scottsdale roads. That northern path goes on a wider road with more commercial destinations. And it would link Arizona State University Tempe to the ASU Scottsdale Center for New Technology and Innovation.

Officials say they don’t want the public to think the study means these routes are definite. It will take two to four years of research to reveal purely logistical issues. That would lay the groundwork for political considerations that could themselves take years.

"It’s a little premature to assume we’re going to go north to ASU and that’s driving the decision, be- cause it’s not," said Jyme Sue McClaren, Tempe’s light-rail project manager.

"Certainly Scottsdale is interested in connecting ASU Scottsdale to ASU Tempe, and part of our master plan is to identify how to do that," said Scottsdale transportation manager Mary O’Connor.

The original line is a 20-mile track that’s scheduled to open in late 2008.

Plans are under way to expand that to 57 miles by 2025.

Rail officials are eager to start the study now to prepare for new segments in Mesa and Tempe, which will be built between 2010 and 2015.

The study will also look at:

• A line along Central Avenue, from the original segment in downtown Phoenix to about Baseline Road.

• A line to the Arizona Cardinals and Phoenix Coyotes stadiums in Glendale. This could take two paths — through a proposed light-rail line in downtown Glendale or from a proposed light-rail line on Interstate 10.

• A line to ASU West in northwest Phoenix.

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