Last week, I attended another METRO I-10 West study meeting to learn more about the light rail extension plans which will take light rail from the existing line and travel out the middle of I-10 to (approximately) 79th Avenue. How to get to I-10 is a big topic of discussion. The reasoning for traveling along the I-10 freeway instead of surface streets like the existing light rail line is interesting, as well, but that decision appears to have been made. I imagine politics, posturing and funding have a LOT to do with that part of the decision.
There looks to be a few options still on the table with Adams and Jefferson Streets getting the most serious looks. These options run West from the existing line in downtown Phoenix and head towards the I-17 (possibly along the western frontage road?) where it will go north to I-10 and then West.
The Adams and Jefferson routes take people past the Arizona State Capitol, Bolin Memorial Park, Arizona Supreme Court etc.
All of the I-10 West extension meetings have been attended by people living in the “St Matthew” neighborhood. This is an area that will be effected by light rail running down Adams OR Jefferson. The discussion focuses on many topics, with the width of the streets and the new bridge needed at 19th Avenue to cross the railroad tracks being two that get a lot of attention.
While residents ( only about 3-4 in attendance) of the area had good questions, there seemed to be a “we are not sure we want this thing” type of reaction. The bridge will be unsightly to a few of the homes, the traffic could be negatively impacted, what will happen to their neighborhood, etc. are all great things to think about, but I didn’t get the feeling they have looked at all of the positive things occurring along the existing 20 mile stretch of light rail.
I recall a man at the last I-10 West meeting telling me that homes near light rail in that area would be negatively impacted by the light rail. I had to respectfully disagree. From what I gathered, many people living in the St Matthews area are long time residents and they are not big on change. With re-development, the area will most likely see new business, new homes ( there looks to be a lot of empty lots near by), and new faces looking for convenience to jobs, sporting activities, the arts and the conveniences of light rail. Is it harsh to say that the few homes that could end up facing a bridge are just a necessary effect of growth and change for an entire region?
Once the final route decision has been made and Metro is able to bring more concrete information to the neighborhoods, it will be interesting to follow the reactions. Projects of this size require huge construction phases and disruption of areas for quite some time. Will the neighborhoods look forward to the future or will they fight it? Will the “Not In My Back Yard” crowd come out or will there be dancing in the streets? It is still too early to tell. The I-10 West project was scheduled for a 2019 opening but has been pushed back to “at least” 2021 due to the economic environment.
Knowing that a change is coming, it will be fun to watch the area and to get a better feel for the neighborhoods wants and desires. These discussions at the meeting focused mainly on the part of town West of 19th Avenue between Adams and Jefferson. If you know anyone familiar with or living near by, I would love to hear some thoughts.