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Signs of light-rail expansion coming to north Phoenix

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PHOENIX – Mayor Greg Stanton calls the revived 3.2-mile extension of Metro light rail into north Phoenix a sign of the rebounding economy.

Now those driving along the route will have their own signs that change is coming.

On Thursday, Stanton and other officials unveiled signs going up along North 19th Avenue to West Dunlap Avenue saying “Future Light Rail Route.”

“Today, we wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to lay a marker, figuratively and literally lay a marker, so that the public knows that we are fully committed to extending this light rail into northwest Phoenix,” Stanton said.

The ceremony was held near the Montebello and 19th Avenue station, which currently is the line’s western terminus.

The extension, which was shelved in 2009 because of the weak economy, will occur in two phases.

Phase I, which will add three stations, is scheduled to be completed in either late 2015 or early 2016.

Phase II, tentatively set to head west toward Metrocenter Mall, isn’t expected to become operational until 2026. Officials are searching for funding to accelerate that process.

Stanton and other officials said they hope expanding light rail revitalizes the area.

“Light rail is more than just transit,” said Phoenix City Councilman Daniel Valenzuela, whose district encompasses the extension. “It’s an important tool to have for neighborhood redevelopment [and] revitalization.”

Councilwoman Thelda Williams, chairwoman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee, said Phoenix is committed to expanding light rail.

“As we continue to grow and we go forward, I want everyone to know that we keep our promises,” Williams said.

Plans for growth include several more extensions. An eastward extension is set to begin construction at the other end of the line in Mesa. Longer-term plans include an 11-mile westward extension from downtown Phoenix as well as a 2.6-mile streetcar route in Tempe.

Other potential expansions include routes in Glendale and northeast Phoenix. But Carla Kahn, community outreach coordinator for Valley Metro, said that those are still in the planning stages.

“There’s funding that needs to become available to really kind of start these projects,” Kahn said. “We’ll apply for federal funding, but once operation comes aboard, it’s up to the cities to pay for the operations.”