BY CHRISTOPHER BOAN
PHOENIX — The newest line of Phoenix’s Valley Metro light rail is one step closer to reality.
The public transportation network received $529.8 million in grant funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration on Wednesday, according to a press release.
The funding, which comes via the FTA’s Capital Investment Grants program, will go towards Valley Metro’s 5.5-mile South Central light rail extension/downtown hub project, connecting south Phoenix with the downtown corridor.
The grant will cover close to a third of the $1.35 billion project, according to the release, with another $108 million coming from the Federal Highway Administration.
The light rail extension project fits the FTA’s mission, according to deputy administrator K. Jane Williams, as it improves access to places of employment and various other services for Phoenix residents.
“It’s going to create jobs, which is something that’s very important as we continue to respond to and recover from the COVID-19 public health emergency,” Williams told 92.3 FM KTAR News on Wednesday.
“And so we’ve worked with Valley Metro on two other projects and we believe that it’s going to help that regional connectivity across that area.”
The South Central light rail extension is one of 41 CIG projects that have been approved since 2017, including Valley Metro’s phase two northwest light rail extension and the Tempe streetcar development.
Williams added that the administration’s continued work with Valley Metro stems from their shared desire to motivate economic development in the region.
“Transit riders on the South Central light rail line can look forward to more efficient service connecting them to destinations throughout the Phoenix region, while supporting economic recovery,” Williams said in a press release.
Both of Arizona’s senators, Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly, voiced support in December for the FTA’s decision to provide additional grant funding to Phoenix’s light rail expansion.
Sinema said she believes the project will provide an economic boost for the Valley, giving residents further transportation options in the years to come.
Kelly echoed Sinema’s sentiments, calling the Valley Metro extension in South Phoenix a game-changer in public transportation for those living in the area.
The South Central light rail extension/downtown hub project is scheduled to be completed by 2024.