December 9, 2010

Tempe streetcar receives regional approval

Phoenix Metro received regional approval from the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) to move forward with 2.6-miles of modern streetcar that will run in Tempe. 

The streetcar project is a result of a three-year study that evaluated high-capacity transit improvements to support Tempe and Chandler and enhance the existing, regional transit network.   

"I've seen streetcar's success as a public transit option and economic development generator during my time with TriMet, the regional transit agency in Portland, Ore.," said Metro CEO Steve Banta. "Streetcar, working in conjunction with other modes, is a next step in developing a total transit network that supports metro Phoenix growth."

Several study recommendations were made and approved by the Tempe City Council and Metro's board in November and MAG's Regional Council at a meeting held Wednesday. 

In addition to streetcar, the study calls for a bus rapid transit (BRT) line on Rural Road, connecting the cities of Tempe and Chandler. Both streetcar and BRT are viable projects and should be implemented as funding permits. Streetcar will advance first as local funding is available from Proposition 400, a countywide, half-cent transportation sales tax renewed by voters in 2004. 

Metro will also apply for a federal grant to support approximately half of the $160 million capital cost.

The MAG action adds the project to the long-range transportation plan and transportation improvement program, which will undergo an air quality conformity analysis in January. 

Also in 2011, Metro, working closely with the city of Tempe, will convene a community working group to help technical staff define the vehicle, stop locations and street configuration of the future streetcar project. 

Construction is slated to begin in 2013 and operations in 2016.   

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