Mesa mulls light rail

The Arizona Republic - - Front Page - Lily Al­tavena

Val­ley Metro is eval­u­at­ing whether light-rail, rapid tran­sit bus or mod­ern street­car could be im­ple­mented in Mesa’s Fi­esta Dis­trict. The area is an­chored by the Fi­esta Mall, which has lost most ma­jor stores. The two-year study be­gan this sum­mer and is slated to con­clude in sum­mer 2019.

Val­ley Metro is eval­u­at­ing whether light-rail, rapid tran­sit bus or mod­ern street­car could be im­ple­mented in Mesa’s Fi­esta Dis­trict.

The area is an­chored by the 38-year-old Fi­esta Mall, which has lost most ma­jor stores.

Mesa was the third Val­ley city to wel­come light-rail in 2015. A 1.9 mile ex­ten­sion down Main Street to Gil­bert Road is un­der con­struc­tion.

The two-year study, called an “al­ter­na­tives anal­y­sis,” be­gan this sum­mer and is slated to con­clude in sum­mer 2019. The project is bud­geted for $900,000 and will in­volve com­mu­nity outreach and study of the area around Fi­esta Mall, Ban­ner Desert Med­i­cal Cen­ter and Mesa Com­mu­nity Col­lege.

‘It takes many years to build a project like this’

This is the be­gin­ning of what could likely be a long process, ac­cord­ing to Jodi Sor­rell, Mesa’s trans­porta­tion di­rec­tor.

“It takes many years to build a project like this,” she said. “When we did our first ex­ten­sion in Cen­tral Mesa down Main Street, it was eight years of plan­ning, but an­other prob­a­bly 15 years to get it in a sales-tax ini­tia­tive.”

This year, Val­ley Metro will de­fine the pur­pose and the need for high-ca­pac­ity tran­sit in the area. Over the next two years, of­fi­cials will ex­am­ine the op­tions

and rec­om­mend a pre­ferred one.

Hope that de­vel­op­ment will re­vive the Fi­esta Mall area

Terry Gru­ver, a com­mu­nity outreach co­or­di­na­tor with Val­ley Metro, said they will con­sider an ar­ray of fac­tors, par­tic­u­larly the pub­lic’s needs in the Fi­esta Dis­trict.

“We’re try­ing to un­der­stand some spe­cific things from peo­ple: Where do they live and work, and where do they travel to and from and where do they see trans­porta­tion needs?” she said.

Gru­ver and her team are still look­ing for feed­back on the project. Res­i­dents are en­cour­aged to go on­line to learn more.

There’s hope that the Fi­esta Dis­trict, an­chored by the long-strug­gling Fi­esta Mall, will come back to life with re­cent re­de­vel­op­ment.

Di­men­sion Fi­nan­cial & Re­alty In­vest­ments Inc re­cently bought the mall for $6.72 mil­lion. The de­vel­oper said they want to trans­form the 380,000 square­foot prop­erty into a cam­pus for for-profit and com­mu­nity schools.

Though clo­sures of big-box stores like Best Buy spelled doom to lo­cals, oth­ers have seen the shut­ter­ing of hold­out stores in the area as op­por­tu­nity for re­de­vel­op­ment.

Gil­bert Road light-rail con­struc­tion

Con­struc­tion on a 1.9 mile light-rail ex­ten­sion to Gil­bert Road kicked off in Oc­to­ber 2016. The new seg­ment will in­clude two sta­tions down Main Street start­ing at Mesa Drive and end­ing at Gil­bert Road.

Sor­rell said the project is com­ing along, cur­rently in the be­low-ground con­struc­tion stage. After the first of the year, the project should move to above­ground con­struc­tion, re­sem­bling more of a rail project.

That project is sched­uled to be com­pleted in spring 2019.

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