I wanted to see how things are going on the Northwest Extension Phase II as new stations and light rail extend northward.
After seeing the construction and knowing what is ahead, all I can say is wow!
I got a close look at the massive construction project rising from what was once the parking lot outside of the former Metrocenter Mall. The light rail work that is changing the old mall is now halfway to completion.
Project Manager Tony Santana was my tour guide. He explained the construction in detail from West Dunlap Avenue to Metrocenter.
At the Dunlap and 19th Avenue light rail station, where the extension begins, demolition and tie-in work are underway linking the existing east-west rail with the new track.
About 20 to 25 percent of the embedded track is down, Santana said. "We're looking good as far as the schedule, with plans to open by January 2024."
From there, it's on to Metrocenter. As we arrived on the east side of the closed mall, I saw a massive, gray-colored steel structure. It’s the first elevated station for Valley Metro light rail.
On the day I visited, stairs were being built inside the new station. Eventually, two escalators will be in service along with an elevator. Another elevator will connect to the new parking garage.
At 35 feet high, I can tell you it was a good climb to the top of the new Metrocenter station.
There, I could see a lot of construction activity taking place inside the station and the parking structure located next to the station. Eventually, the parking structure will reach four stories.
Moving outside the new station, I was able to walk along the light rail bridge over Interstate 17.
Below, I could see cars beneath me whizzing by. You can also get a great view of the entire project.
As I looked east, I could imagine how the trains would climb and enter the freeway bridge from Mountain View Road. The next stop, the brand new elevated Metrocenter station, is a first for Valley Metro.
In all, Santana said about 6,000 people are involved in the Northwest Extension Phase II project. They include the builders, the contractors, the rail installers, people working on artwork and lighting along with Valley Metro employees. "A lot of hands have to be involved in this project," Santana said.
Some 200 workers make up the daily workforce building the stations and infrastructure.
What I can take away from my visit is this: The Northwest Extension Phase II is dramatically changing the landscape, adding more mass transit options for a growing community.
I can't wait to see it when it's finished.