Phoenix Votes To Delay Northeast Light-Rail Extension

The Phoenix City Council voted unanimously to delay — and likely kill — a light-rail line that was intended to connect downtown Phoenix and Paradise Valley Mall.

The result was part of a council discussion to find additional funds for street repairs.

A study by city staff found that 4,085 of the city’s 4,863 miles of streets were expected fall below a “good” quality level within the next five years and require maintenance. At this time, 3,227 miles are already in fair, poor or very poor condition 

It would cost $1.6 billion to improve all of the streets to a “good” level within the next five years, money that the city doesn’t currently have. 

A series of options were considered by the council in order to generate additional dollars for streets and decided on a plan that would allow the city to immediately free up $200 million, with the potential for hundreds of millions more over time. 

The money will originate from a $31.5 billion, 35-year transportation plan that is funded by a sales-tax increase that was approved in 2015 by voters. Also included in the plan was funds for street repairs, bus service and light-rail expansions.

On Wednesday, the council voted for a $200 million advance for the funds designated for future street repairs to solve street needs immediately. According to city staff, the advance will force the city to borrow money and then lead to roughly $15 million annually in debt service for 20 years.

A “delay” in the northeast light-rail extension, which was intended to connect to Paradise Valley Mall in 2036, was voted on by the council. It was noted by the council that the delay will likely result in the project coming to an end.

While additional money will be freed up by the delaying or killing of the project, city staff said it is likely the funding won’t be available within the next five years. The reasoning is due to the project still being so far in the future that the money has not yet been generated for the light-rail project.

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