Phoenix, Arizona/Central Phoenix/East Valley Corridor

Printer Friendly Version


Central Phoenix / East Valley Corridor

Phoenix, Arizona

(November 1999)

(East Valley Corridor Map)

Description

The Regional Public Transportation Authority (RPTA) is proposing to implement a 25-mile at-grade light rail system to connect the cities of Phoenix, Tempe, and Mesa. As a first step, the RPTA is undertaking preliminary engineering on an 18.5 mile minimum operating segment (MOS) which includes a 17.0-mile mainline from downtown Phoenix, through Tempe to Mesa, and a 1.5-mile spur serving the emerging Rio Salado development along Town Lake in Tempe. The rail line would run primarily on existing rail right-of-way. The proposed LRT MOS is estimated to cost approximately $883.9 million (escalated), of which the RPTA intends to seek $441.9 million in New Starts funding.

East Valley Corridor Summary Description

Proposed Project Light Rail Transit
18.5-mile MOS, 22 stations
Total Capital Cost ($YOE) $883.9 million
Section 5309 Share ($YOE) $441.9 million
Annual Operating Cost ($YOE) $31.1 million
FY 2001 Financial Rating: Low-Medium
FY 2001 Project Justification Rating: Not Rated
FY 2001 Overall Project Rating: Not Recommended

The Not Recommended rating is based on the lack of local funding at this time for implementing and operating the proposed project. The overall project rating applies to this Annual New Starts Report and reflects conditions as of November 1999. Project evaluation is an ongoing process. As new starts projects proceed through development, the estimates of costs, benefits, and impacts are refined. The FTA ratings and recommendations will be updated annually to reflect new information, changing conditions, and refined financing plans.

Status

The RPTA completed the Central Phoenix/East Valley (CP/EV) Major Investment Study (MIS) in the spring of 1998. In September 1998, FTA granted RPTA permission to enter the Preliminary Engineering/Environmental Impact Statement (PE/EIS) phase on 13 miles of the corridor. FTA has subsequently approved preliminary engineering on 18.5 miles of the proposed system. It is anticipated that PE/EIS will be completed in December 2000 and a Record Of Decision issued by FTA in January 2001.

The Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) (local metropolitan planning organization) adopted the CP/EV Corridor as a fixed guideway corridor and included the CP/EV LRT project in the Long Range Transportation Plan and the current Regional Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP).

Section 3030(a)(62) of TEA-21 authorizes the Phoenix Fixed Guideway project for final design and construction. Through FY 2000, Congress has appropriated $13.86 million for the project.

Evaluation

The RPTA did not submit information consistent with FTA’s Technical Guidance on Section 5309 New Starts Criteria. Pending an update of the MAG regional travel demand model to produce more accurate forecasts, FTA has not rated the project’s justification criteria. The project will be re-evaluated when it is ready to advance to final design, and for next year’s Annual Report on New Starts.

Justification

The RPTA did not submit project justification criteria in conformance with FTA’s Technical Guidance on Section 5309 New Starts Criteria. Therefore, FTA has not rated the project’s justification criteria. The region is currently undertaking an update to its regional travel demand model to account for the proposed expansion of the regional bus network, accommodate changes in the project scope, and produce higher quality transit ridership forecasts.

Mobility Improvements

Rating: Not Rated

Mobility Improvements New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Annual Travel Time Savings (Hours) N/A N/A

Based on the 1990 census data, there are approximately 4,040 low-income households within a ½ mile radius of the proposed LRT stations, roughly 16 percent of total households within ½ mile of proposed stations.

Environmental Benefits

Rating: Not Rated

The Phoenix Metropolitan region is a serious non-attainment area for ozone, carbon monoxide, and particulates (PM10).

Criteria Pollutant New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Carbon Monoxide (CO) N/A N/A
Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) N/A N/A
Hydrocarbons (HC) N/A N/A
Particulate Matter (PM10) N/A N/A
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) N/A N/A

Information on BTU reductions is not available.

Annual Energy Savings New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
BTU (millions) N/A N/A

Operating Efficiencies

Rating: Not Rated

Operating Efficiencies No-Build TSM New Start
System Operating Cost per Passenger Mile N/A N/A N/A

Cost Effectiveness

Rating: Not Rated

Cost Effectiveness New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Incremental Cost per Incremental Passenger N/A N/A

Transit-Supportive Existing Land Use and Future Patterns

Rating: Medium

The Medium land use rating reflects the generally low- to medium-densities along the corridor, the number of significant trip generators, and local efforts to encourage transit-oriented development.

Existing Conditions: The proposed alignment is characterized by predominantly low density residential, commercial, and industrial uses with two higher density nodes in downtown Phoenix and downtown Tempe. The corridor serves several high trip generators, including the 20,000 seat America West Arena; the Phoenix Civic Plaza/Convention Center; the 50,000 seat Bank One Ballpark; Sky Harbor International Airport; 75,000 seat Sun Devil Stadium; and the campus of Arizona State University (ASU; 42,000 students), and the Apache Boulevard Redevelopment Area in Tempe east of ASU, which boast the highest residential density in the state. The corridor also contains several of the largest employment centers in the region and 12 % of metropolitan area employment. Downtown Phoenix and the City of Tempe have instituted strong parking policies such as the removal of minimum parking requirements for new office and retail development in the CBD.

Future Plans and Policies: Local jurisdictions and agencies have made some progress in examining and implementing transit supportive plans and policies in the corridor. The Maricopa Association of Governments has produced Pedestrian Area Policies and Design Guidelines to guide member city planning and design efforts. Several small area plans have been revised to accommodate higher intensity, mixed use development. RPTA is working with transit and planning departments of affected cities to develop a TOD model ordinance. Several significant new developments are being planned along the corridor, including the 7 million square foot Rio Salado development. While there is progress with new housing development in downtown Phoenix, plans to support higher intensities of housing in other portions of the alignment are limited.

The State of Arizona has led efforts to examine strategies to manage growth and preserve open space. A proposal from the Governor’s "Growing Smarter" Committee was due at the end of 1999.

Local Financial Commitment

Proposed Non-Section 5309 Share of Total Project Costs: 50%

The financial plan for the 18.5-mile Central Phoenix/East Valley LRT MOS includes $883.9 (YOE) $441.9 million (50 percent) in Section 5309 New Start funds, and $441.9 million (50 percent) in state and local funds from the Cities of Phoenix, Tempe, and Mesa.

Stability and Reliability of Capital Financing Plan

Rating: Low-Medium

The Low-Medium rating reflects the lack of committed local funding to the project. A referendum is scheduled for Phoenix in March 2000 which, if passed, would commit sufficient funding to improve the project’s capital plan rating.

Agency Capital Financial Condition: The RPTA is in good financial condition. The RPTA currently receives annual funding from the State’s Local Transportation Assistance Fund (LTAF)/Public Transit Fund (PTF) which is used for the capital and operating needs of the existing bus system.

Capital Cost Estimates and Contingencies: Capital cost estimates for the proposed project have doubled since 1998, reflecting a significant increase in in-street operations, a refinement in project engineering, an increase in the length of the project, an increase in the number of vehicles required, and the addition of higher contingency factors. The revised cost estimate is reasonable at this stage of development. State LTAF/PTF funds are proposed to meet any potential funding shortfalls, but it is not clear if such funding would be above what is needed for ongoing bus capital and operating needs.

Existing and Committed Funding: Local match for capital expenses are proposed to come from the corridor cities of Tempe, Mesa, and Phoenix, but no firm local funding commitments yet exist. While Tempe has a dedicated ½ cent sales tax which may be tapped for transit, use of these revenues for light rail must be first put to an advisory vote of the electorate. Mesa has a dedicated funding source for transportation, but the amount of funding allocated from this source may not meet the necessary $26 million commitment.

New and Proposed Sources: The City of Phoenix has set a referendum for Spring 2000 which, if passed, would establish a 0.4 cent sales tax dedicated to bus and rail transit in the City. Passage of the referendum would generate adequate revenues to meet Phoenix’s proposed capital commitment of $260 million.

Stability and Reliability of Operating Finance Plan

Rating: Low

The Low rating reflects the lack of financial resources to operate the proposed LRT, and the numerous local actions necessary before such operating revenues can be secured.

Agency Operating Condition: The RPTA is in good financial condition. The RPTA has an annual operating and maintenance budget of $103 million and a farebox recovery rate of 31 percent for its current bus system. The RPTA currently receives annual funding from the State’s Local Transportation Assistance Fund (LTAF)/Public Transit Fund (PTF).

Operating Cost Estimates and Contingencies: Annual operating costs for the proposed project are estimated at $31.1 million when the system is scheduled to open in 2006. Cost estimates and escalation factors are reasonable, although there are no specific provisions for cost overruns or revenue shortfalls.

Existing and Committed Funding: No existing operating revenues are yet committed to the proposed Central Phoenix/East Valley LRT project. The Tempe City Council will require an advisory vote by the electorate to make sales tax revenues approved for bus service available for light rail. Mesa also has a dedicated revenue source which contributes operating revenue to the existing bus system.

New and Proposed Sources: The City of Phoenix must secure a revenue source equal to the proposed 0.4 cent sales tax increase for not less than twenty years to fund operation and maintenance of the proposed project and the region’s long range bus program. LRT operating revenues are further based on the assumption that an additional referendum extending a ½ cent Maricpoa County sales tax for highways, and committing 50 percent of these revenues to transit, will pass prior to 2006.

Locally Proposed Financing Plan

(Reported in $YOE)

Proposed Source of Funds Total Funding
($million)
Appropriations to Date
Federal:
Section 5309 New Starts $441.9 $13.86 million appropriated through FY 2000
Local:
City of Phoenix $260.0

 

City of Mesa $156.0

 

City of Tempe $26.0

 

Total: $883.9

Note: Funding proposal reflects assumptions made by project sponsors, and are not DOT or FTA assumptions. Totals may not add due to rounding.

Central Phoenix/East Valley Corridor Map of a 25-mile at-grade light rail system to connect the cities of Phoenix, Tempe, and Mesa. As a first step, the RPTA is undertaking preliminary engineering on an 18.5 mile minimum operating segment (MOS) which includes a 17.0-mile mainline from downtown Phoenix, through Tempe to Mesa, and a 1.5-mile spur serving the emerging Rio Salado development along Town Lake in Tempe. The rail line would run primarily on existing rail right-of-way.