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Light rail corridor change would jeopardize funding so late in game

Light rail train. (Photo courtesy of Valley Metro)

Light rail train. (Photo courtesy of Valley Metro)

This past week, I shared my concerns regarding the upcoming South Central Light Rail corridor decision with Mayor Thelda Williams and the members of the Phoenix City Council based on my prior experience as Director of the Arizona Department of Transportation and United States Secretary of Transportation.

Mary Peters

Mary Peters

I reminded the Mayor and Council that the corridor has been on the books for 17 years and there has been a vigorous public outreach effort throughout the process. The public record demonstrates that there have been numerous opportunities for all affected communities to share their concerns. Those decision points along the way include the approval of the corridor in 2013, the approval of the 2-lane configuration in 2014, and the overwhelming approval of Prop 104 in 2015.

The public record shows that nearly 200 unique individual stakeholders and groups have been met with since 2012. More than 330 separate meetings have been conducted with a wide variety of participants including Village Planning Committees, Chicanos Por La Causa, Friendly House, Phoenix Community Alliance, Valle Del Sol, South Central Community Collaborative, and dozens of local business owners. In the last 90 days alone, there have been 25 mobile stations available, six neighborhood meetings, six public meetings and 13 coffee talks, advertising and countless social media engagements.

My track record shows that I am champion for transparency and giving the public ample opportunity to make their voices heard, and they have not only met, but exceeded that bar.

I informed the Mayor and Council that if the city were to change course now and I was serving as the

U.S.  Secretary of Transportation, the same role I was honored to serve under President George W. Bush from October 2006 to the end of his second term in January of 2009, I would have no choice but to cancel funding for the project.  It would be the only fiscally prudent response to a major project change so late in an extraordinarily detailed and open public planning process.

The nature of the current voices opposed to the South Central Light Rail corridor project is clear. The recent opposition represents a small collection of property owners, joined together with a group of anti- transit ideologues whose real mission is to stop all future light rail in the Valley. These groups have had more than ample opportunity to be heard and their concerns to be addressed. To change course now would ignore the extensive public involvement in developing the South Central Corridor, and negatively impact the long-term growth and development of this important part of the city.

I strongly encourage the Mayor and Council to move forward to preserve South Central Corridor. It is the only decision that will preserve the will of the voters, not jeopardize the funding grant from the Federal Transportation Authority, and reinforce the value of light rail in Phoenix.

Our leaders must stay the course and continue support for this important project.  It is the only prudent course of action.

— Mary Peters is a former U.S. secretary of  Transportation under President George W. Bush and former director of the Arizona Department of Transportation.

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The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.

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