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Following a three-year study that evaluated high-capacity transit improvements to support Tempe and Chandler and enhance the existing, regional transit network, a 2.6-mile streetcar project in the Mill Avenue corridor was adopted locally and regionally into the Regional Transportation Plan in 2010.
The adopted project traveled in a one-way loop between Rio Salado and University Drive, going north on Mill Avenue and south on Ash Avenue. It continued to travel north/south on Mill Avenue between University Drive and Southern Avenue.
Following adoption, Valley Metro and the city of Tempe met with a Community Working Group, made up of residents and business owners along the proposed line, to further define the project. The group, guided by the project’s technical team, reviewed and debated various options for streetcar track and stop locations along Mill and Ash avenues. The group’s recommendations for how and where the streetcars will travel and stop were approved by Tempe City Council in fall 2011.
The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has continued to express interest in the streetcar project with slight modifications to the route to better fit the new funding criteria. In April 2013, the FTA approved Tempe Streetcar into Project Development. Entrance into Project Development signals the first step in receiving federal approval and ultimately federal funds for the project.
The modified project would continue to include the one-mile downtown Tempe loop on Mill and Ash avenues and a branch south to Apache Boulevard. Two route modifications are being explored:
Rio Salado Parkway west to Mill Avenue, downtown loop to Apache Boulevard, east to Rural Road
Downtown loop to Apache Boulevard, east to Terrace Road
The Tempe Streetcar project capital costs are estimated at $130 million and will be funded using regional Proposition 400 funds and federal grant dollars. The city of Tempe will be responsible for operating costs.
Valley Metro will be seeking community input on the two potential route alternatives this spring through summer, and will return to the Tempe City Council in late fall to present route recommendation(s).
Streetcar is a critical addition to developing a total transit network in this region. It supports the existing transit system and community with its ability to attract new riders, increase mobility, strengthen existing neighborhoods and create sustainable development.
Modern streetcar vehicles operate on tracks, typically mixed with automobile traffic, and are powered by overhead power lines. They differ from light rail vehicles in their smaller vehicle size and single-car operation. Stops are also more simple and frequent than light rail.