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South Phoenix residents push to stop light rail expansion

June 9, 2018
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FILE -- A Metro light rail train runs along Washington St. Monday, Dec 22, 2008 in Phoenix. A planned 6-mile spur into south Phoenix to expand the metro area's light rail system is already approved with construction expected to begin in 2019, but critics are hoping to persuade the City Council to reverse course and derail the project.(AP Photo/Matt York)

PHOENIX (AP) — A group of Phoenix residents are hoping to persuade city officials to reverse course and derail a planned expansion of the metro area’s light rail system.

The city has already approved the 6-mile (10-kilometer) expansion into south Phoenix with construction expected to begin in 2019, The Arizona Republic reported Wednesday.

The project will extend the light rail along Central Avenue south of downtown between Jefferson Street and Baseline Road.

More than 200 residents recently gathered at a community center in south Phoenix to protest the project, claiming it will hurt businesses along the planned route by removing car lanes and diminishing their customer base. They also claim the extension will bring crime to their neighborhoods.

The group was initially branded “4 lanes or no train,” but most of those gathered seem intent on dismantling the project altogether.

The storefronts along the planned route are largely occupied by auto shops, warehouses, pawn shops and small restaurants. Housing developments are located behind the businesses.

At the meeting that lasted more than an hour, residents questioned why the city would direct money for something they don’t want. The group also shared their concerns and discussed ways to bring the matter before the city council.

The estimated $700 million project will be funded by a city transportation tax and federal transit funds.

Considering how the light rail has affected other Phoenix neighborhoods, Claudia Vargas Duran said she fears she may be forced to move.

“We run the risk of being pushed out just like with downtown Phoenix where there used to be people of all income levels, and now we’re being pushed out and only the rich ones can live there because of the expensive condos,” Duran said.

Supporters claim the project will drive economic opportunity and help people get to jobs and schools.

South Phoenix resident Thalia Cabrera told those at the meeting that young people in the area need public transit to pursue opportunities.

“We want to make the south side better. We’re tired of people putting the south side down and this light rail will help us,” Cabrera said. “There are three major universities downtown. ... It is important for us to be able to get down there because a lot of us cannot afford a vehicle.”

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Information from: The Arizona Republic, http://www.azcentral.com

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