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Since December 1, 2014, the project team has been working on an Environmental Assessment (EA) for the project. The EA is a report of the potential impacts to the neighboring environment, including cultural and archaeological resources, and documents the project’s purpose and need. As a major milestone for the project, the EA initiates the federal review process and is the precursor to the funding application that will be submitted to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) in fall 2015.
The draft EA is anticipated to be released for public review and comment later this summer at a public meeting. Following public participation and input, the final EA will be submitted to the FTA for its review and consideration of a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI), allowing the project to enter into the design phase. Construction is planned to occur between 2016 and 2018, with operations scheduled for late 2018.
Following a three-year study that evaluated high-capacity transit improvements, a streetcar project in the Mill Avenue corridor was adopted locally and regionally into the Regional Transportation Plan in 2010. In June 2014, the Tempe City Council supported a route recommendation for a three-mile Tempe Streetcar route on Rio Salado Parkway from the Marina Heights development west to Mill Avenue, downtown loop on Mill and Ash avenues and south to Apache Boulevard, then east to Dorsey Lane. In spring 2015, the Tempe City Council approved the recommended stop locations and the route was also approved by the Valley Metro Rail Board and the Maricopa Association of Governments.
The Tempe Streetcar project capital costs are estimated at $177 million and will be funded using regional Proposition 400 funds, local funds, and federal grant dollars.
Streetcar is an important 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. Stops are also more frequent than light rail.