$162 million up for grabs after Glendale, Az. light rail plan is mothballed

Jan. 18, 2018

The city’s transportation coffers will become potentially flooded, new projects are being proposed

As the result of an action taken by council members of the city of Glendale, Az., city traffic planners are looking at millions of available dollars for transportation projects.

“The Dec. 12 action by council to remove the [West Phoenix/Central Glendale High Capacity Transit Project] from our transportation plan gives us an estimated savings of $162.3 million over 25 years,” said city traffic administrator Jack Lorbeer.

The recommendation by Valley Metro in March 2016 was for light rail to travel north on 51st Avenue to Glenn Drive, but was delayed numerous times due to cost estimates for construction rising to $130-$145 million per mile, which the council decided was too high for the city.

The savings breakdown of light rail savings, according to the Glendale Star, from 2018 to 2042, breaks down in favor of the city with $58.8 million in cash ($42 million immediately); $47.7 million from not having to issue two bonds through 2042, which would have been used to fund light rail; and operations costs of $55.9 million, which is estimated to cost the city $3.8 million per year from 2027 to 2043.

Over the 25-year span, the city would save $42.70 million between fiscal years 2018 to 2022; $24.7 million for FY2023-2032 and $95 million in FY2033-2042.

Recommendations for how to use the estimated funds break down as: $44.1 million to streets and highway projects; $56.6 million to transit expansion; $10.7 million to bicycle and pedestrian projects; $10.5 million to Transportation System Management/Intelligent Transportation Systems (TSM/ITS) projects; and $40.5 million to current program extensions.

“The ability to spend the light rail transit savings obviously depends on the overall cash flow for all transportation projects in the plan,” said Director of Transportation Trevor Ebersole. “But staff worked hard to identify projects to issue the funds to.”

In its presentation, city staff listed a number of current or proposed projects that funding could be distributed to, but will send the proposal for review and then update specifics on the proposals.

Among the projects listed included those along Loop 101, including adding high-occupancy-vehicle lanes from I-10 to Grand Avenue, and general purpose lanes along 75th and Grand avenues.

"We will continue every opportunity to also leverage federal funds and attempt to increase our portion of that pie,” said Lorbeer. “We don’t have the ability to do everything we want with these additional funds, but it helps.”

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