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Phoenix mayor touts station connecting light rail with airport train

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PHOENIX – A new station to connect Metro light-rail with a driverless train serving Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport will function in many ways like a terminal, Mayor Greg Stanton said Tuesday.

Touring the station, scheduled to open in early 2013 with PHX Sky Train, Stanton showed where ticket counters will allow passengers to get boarding passes and check in bags, for example.

“This facility is going to go a long way to advancing the long term goals of our airport and make life a lot more convenient for the literally millions of passengers who use Sky Harbor,” Stanton said.

Part of the 44th Street and Washington light-rail station, the facility will connect to a $1.5 billion system offering electric trains running 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Officials expect it to carry 14 million passengers per year.

The free system is scheduled to open its first stage, which cost $644 million, in the first quarter of 2013, connecting light rail to the East Economy Parking garage and Terminal 4.

The next stage, scheduled to open in 2015, will connect to Terminal 3, with a walkway to Terminal 2.

The final stage, with no date set for opening, will extend 2.5 miles west to the Rental Car Center.

For now, PHX Sky Trains are shuttling 16,000 pounds of sandbags to simulate the weight of 53 passengers with luggage.

Deborah Ostreicher, city of Phoenix deputy aviation director, said PHX Sky Train, which travels up to 38 mph, is incredibly fast, convenient and state-of-the-art.

“One of the new great offerings is the ability to check your bags at the East Economy Parking station or the 44th Street and Washington station,” Ostreicher said.

Staton said that over time more people will ask family members to meet at the 44th Street Station rather than the terminals because it will be so much more convenient.

He said the project was paid for entirely by fees added on to airline tickets, generally $4.50 per ticket.

“We want Sky Harbor Airport to continue to grow,” Stanton said. “It’s incredibly important to the future economy that we have one of, if not the best, airport.”