Businesspeople and residents were excited and concerned Sept. 13 at a public meeting updating the community about the construction of the Tempe streetcar this fall.
About 30 attended the meeting at the Tempe Transportation Center, many of them studying the planned artwork at the stops and asking questions about the three-year schedule.
The city of Tempe and Valley Metro began plans for the Tempe streetcar in late 2016. The estimated $186 million cost will be paid for with money from the Federal Transit Administration and local transit funds.
Construction, which began over the summer, will last three years and the streetcar will roll out in the fall of 2020, according to Valley Metro and the city of Tempe. The trackway will be three miles long, connecting Rio Salado Parkway to Dorsey Lane with 14 stops in a loop around downtown Tempe. Businesses, neighborhoods and event centers are the main focus of the streetcar’s destinations.
Sarah Sanders, executive director of the Campus Christian Center, which is near the future 11th Street and Mill Avenue stop, said the new transportation system is essential for the traffic in Tempe.
“We really need to use mass transportation,” she said. “I love the idea of this high-traffic use having multiple modes of transportation.”
Sander’s main concern is the amount of construction that is going to occur for the next three years. She said an organization she managed completely shut down during the prolonged construction of the light rail in Tempe.
Despite the experience, Sanders said she is satisfied with the streetcar’s construction plan to avoid heavy traffic.
“I really appreciate that effort to do major projects when ASU’s student population is pretty much gone during the summers,” she said.
Sanders also praised the project staff’s frequent outreach efforts and updates with the community.
“They understand that people who are uninformed are typically more worried,” she said.
Jordan Brackett, community outreach coordinator for the streetcar project, said the team uses social media, weekly emails lists and door-to-door efforts to inform the local community.
“We have probably done about 1,000 door-to-doors around the alignment,” Brackett said.
She emphasized that the streetcar project’s main goal is to minimize its impact on the community by having as few road closures as possible.
“Obviously, construction scares a lot of people. We are doing everything we can to mitigate those concerns,” Brackett said.
She added the Tempe streetcar staff is trying to coordinate with ASU’s director of housing and the apartments in the area.
But not everyone at the meeting was pleased with the communication efforts.
The electric streetcars will use traction power substations. One is planned near David Spangler’s residence, and he voiced his concerns during the public hearing.
Spangler has lived near 13th Street and Mill Avenue for about 46 years and wants to continue to see ASU Gammage Theatre from his house.
“I found out their charging station will be in front of my house three weeks ago,” he said.
Spangler said he accidently became aware of the substation location.
“A landscape architect was taking pictures in front of my house so I came out and asked,” Spangler explained.
He said the streetcars are unnecessary because Tempe has the light rail and Orbit shuttles for transportation.
“It will be overlapping what we have already,” Spangler said.
The Tempe streetcar construction, which began in June, resumed on Sept. 19.