Valley Metro is extending the light rail system from its current end along the Dunlap and 19th avenues to the former Metrocenter Mall area in Phoenix, Arizona, US. The project seeks to improve connectivity in the greater Phoenix area.
Northwest Light Rail Extension Phase II will add 2.6km to the existing 45km of light rail between north Phoenix and Mesa.
The first phase of construction, involving utility relocation works on the north side of Dunlap Avenue west of the existing 19th Ave/Dunlap station, began in September 2020. Completion of the project is expected in 2024.
The light rail extension is one of the three projects currently being implemented by Valley Metro, with the other two being South Central Extension and Tempe Streetcar.
The Northwest Light Rail Extension was approved by the Phoenix City Council in 2004 to expand the light rail from the previous end-of-line at 19th Avenue/Montebello to 25th Avenue and Mountain View road. The route was split into two phases in 2007.
The 5.14km-long Phase I from Montebello to Dunlap Avenue opened in March 2016.
In 2016, the Council gave the nod for accelerating portions of the potential high capacity or light rail transit system to advance into the Regional Transportation Plan (RTP), which covers the Northwest Phase II light rail extension.
The light rail extension project entered the US Federal Transit Administration’s New Starts Project Development (NSPD) stage in June 2017. Valley Metro concluded the environmental assessment process for the project in February 2019.
Northwest Light Rail Extension Phase II project details
The Northwest Extension Phase II project will extend west on Dunlap Avenue from 19th Avenue before heading north on 25th Avenue. The route will then cross the I-17 freeway on Mountain View Road and terminate at the former Metrocenter mall.
The project will involve the development of two new stations, including the first elevated station in the system, and a rail-only bridge over the I-17. It also entails the procurement of three light rail vehicles and the relocation of the current transit centre to below the elevated station.
Seven public artworks will be installed along the extension, and the route will include improved landscaping with more than 200 new trees.
The frequency of the service is expected to be 12 minutes on most of the weekdays, every 20 minutes during late night and early morning. The service will run every 15 to 20 minutes during weekends.
Construction works as part of the project will include the development of a new transit centre for light rail and bus service at Metrocentre. A four-story, park-and-ride lot with a total of 260 parking spaces for the park and rides garage access to the station.
The relocation of utilities such as gas, water and sewer lines, electric, irrigation, storm drains, communications, and fibre optics will continue on Dunlap Avenue, 25th Avenue and Mountain View road.
Survey work was carried out to determine the exact location and depth of the utilities. It involved digging out test holes along the utility grid.
The extension project will improve mobility across Interstate 17, while allowing the residents of north and west Phoenix, Peoria, and Glendale to conveniently access the light rail system.
It will promote transit-oriented land-use planning, including the proposed renovation of the Metrocenter mall site.
The project will connect Metrocenter to Arizona State University (ASU), North Central Avenue office corridor, Phoenix Sky Harbor international airport, and downtown Phoenix.
Funding for Northwest Light Rail Extension Phase II
The Northwest Extension Phase II project is funded by various sources including Phoenix’s Transportation 2050, a 35-year, multi-modal transport initiative, as well as regional transport funds and a grant from the FTA.
The light rail extension project is projected to cost approximately $401.33m. It secured $50m in grant funds from the FTA under the Capital Investment Grants (CIG) programme in August 2020.
Key players involved
The Kiewit-McCarthy joint venture is the construction contractor for the project. It is responsible for the pre-construction and construction phases.
Jacobs Engineering was contracted to design the light rail extension in collaboration with Kiewit-McCarthy, station artists, city of Phoenix, and local community.