A group of increasingly vocal opponents of a planned south Phoenix light-rail extension wants to let voters decide whether to continue with any future light-rail projects.
A new Phoenix political committee dubbed “Building a Better Phoenix,” filed paperwork Friday to put the fate of future light-rail expansions back on the ballot.
The initiative petition calls for the city to end light rail and instead divert the funds to needed transportation improvements, like road repairs and expanded bus service, in south Phoenix and other areas of the city.
The group must collect 20,510 valid signatures in six months to get the initiative on the ballot.
The planned Phoenix light-rail projects — which include the controversial 5.5-mile extension slated for Central Avenue — already have been on the ballot.
In 2015, voters approved a $31.5 billion transportation plan, which laid out the planned light-rail projects.
But Building a Better Phoenix believes the plan was billed as a “comprehensive transportation plan,” when “in reality, a large portion of these new tax revenues are being wasted on the destructive expansion of light rail,” according to the initiative petition.
Under the 2015 plan, about 35 percent of revenues go toward light rail, while 51 percent go to buses and the remaining 14 percent for street repairs.
From ‘four lanes’ to ‘no train’
The movement to end the south Phoenix light-rail expansion began earlier this year with a grassroots group of south Phoenix residents and business owners.
The group, which advertised the slogan “four lanes or no train,” told the City Council it was concerned about the extension because it would whittle Central Avenue down to only two vehicle lanes.
The two-lane plan was approved by the council in 2014, but some residents said they were not aware of the plan until this year.
The group went before the council multiple times this year to ask it to either kill the project or revise it to maintain four vehicle lanes.
In June, the council voted to study whether four lanes would be possible in the already-approved footprint for the project.
Valley Metro, the region’s transit agency, is currently hosting community meetings on this topic. The council is expected to make a final decision later this month.
Since the “four lanes or no train” group launched, their message has morphed into an anti-light rail movement — regardless of the number of traffic lanes.
Is the project already at risk?
Even if the ballot initiative fails, it could still help kill the south Phoenix light-rail project.
The Federal Transit Administration, which is expected to chip in $595 million for the south-central extension, has expressed concern about the uncertainty of the project, brought on by the public backlash and the council’s decision to revisit the four-lane plan.
Valley Metro was supposed to begin the engineering phase of the project by July 31, but the FTA told the agency not to submit its engineering application until after it hosts the community outreach meetings and gets clarification from Phoenix that the city wants to move forward with the project.
“Does that put us at risk? They (The FTA) haven’t said yes, they haven’t said definitely no,” Valley Metro CEO Scott Smith said last month. “We are definitely on a short leash and it makes the council decision more crucial, more critical.”
Read or Share this story: https://azc.cc/2xi9iyc