Thursday, December 27, 2007

AZ Light Rail - You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet

I noticed in the paper recently that one of the biggest stories of the year was light rail. If they think 07' was big news, wait till they get a load of what's coming in 08'! Of course, they are mainly talking about the construction issues and business owners effected by the bumps, barricades and bruises to their wallets. Now, we are starting to see more and more "good" press as we are within a year from actually riding the rail lines in Phoenix, Tempe and in Mesa.
The Phoenix Business Journal recently had an article about driving in Tempe where they mentioned some updates on road conditions along the light rail line. Most of the road work is done in Tempe but Mesa and Phoenix still have some serious construction going on.
This morning, I decided to take a drive from downtown Phoenix and head east all the way to the end of the line in Mesa. Starting near the Van Buren / 1st Ave stop I noticed some of the never ending construction in this rapidly changing area. I thought of the benefit for many of the people that work (and might actually live and play ) down town. The large projects going on around here will bring some major changes in the near future.
As I headed east on Jefferson, I noticed a ton of construction, torn up streets, barricades etc that are probably driving people nuts. Once you get to where the Washington and Jefferson routes align, you pretty much have smooth sailing. This seems to be an area (along Washington) that will be changing more than most. You still find a lot of under developed land along the section from say, 24th street, all the way to the Tempe border. Two places along Washington that I noticed near future rail stops and felt would benefit from the rail line were Gateway Community College ( Washington / 38th St stop ) and the Crowne Plaza Hotel. ( Washington / 44th St stop ) Access to each of these places will improve and give students and travelers more choices to get to restaurants, entertainment etc.
Continuing east through Tempe, the roads are in good condition. I think the area near College and 5th street is going to see some really cool changes in the near future. The proximity to the Mill Ave district, ASU football / basketball, student housing etc will be a great place for a rail stop. (more about that soon)
Once I got to the Tempe Canal near the Mesa border, there was a ton of construction again. Just a short drive from there to the end of this first 20 mile section of light rail. The Park and Ride lot at Sycamore is taking shape but currently looks in disarray with all of the construction and unfinished building of the structure and rail stop. The neighborhoods near Sycamore should see a benefit as new life gets breathed in. Time will tell, but I'm pretty sure 08' will have a lot of new news for Light Rail in Arizona..

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