The Northwest extension of the Valley Metro light rail recently opened in Phoenix, Arizona, adding 3.2 miles and three new stations to the city’s light rail system.
The double track extension follows the 19th Avenue corridor, starting at Montebello Avenue, the previous-end of-the-line station, and continuing north to Dunlap Avenue. It features new stations at Glendale Avenue, Northern Avenue and Dunlap Avenue.
The Northwest extension creates a new mobility option for residents of 10,000 homes in the region, and provides a convenient route for commuters who work at employers located near Interstate 17.
“The Northwest extension provides transportation to the Central Phoenix business corridor and to Arizona State University and the University of Arizona,” said John Taylor, project manager for WSP USA.
As part of a joint venture with PGH Wong Engineering, WSP provided program management and construction management (PM/CM) to support the $327 million expansion of the Valley Metro light rail system.
Construction on the Northwest extension began in January 2013 and culminated with a grand opening celebration on March 19, where an estimated 2,100 riders received free full-day transit passes for the entire Valley Metro system.
“The public’s reaction was tremendous,” Taylor said. Mayor Greg Stanton, U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego and Valley Metro Interim CEO Scott Smith were among the officials in attendance.
The Northeast extension was completed ahead of schedule and on budget.
The Valley Metro light rail system, which first opened in late 2008, now provides nearly 27 miles of transit throughout the Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa region. The goal is to eventually create the 57-mile high-capacity transit system that was outlined in a regional transportation plan adopted by the Maricopa Association of Governments. The project is being financed through a one-half cent regional sales tax.
The opening of the Northwest extension came just seven months after the completion and opening of the 3.1-mile Central Mesa extension, which provides access to destinations that include the Mesa downtown business district, educational institutions, Mesa Arts Center and Mesa City Plaza. WSP provided program management and construction management in a joint venture with PGH Wong Engineering on the Central Mesa project.
Taylor was impressed with the teamwork that was maintained during construction by Valley Metro Rail, the WSP/PGH Wong joint venture, the city of Phoenix, the contractor’s management team and the private utilities.
“This is the best project team that I have experienced in over 50 years of PM/CM experience,” Taylor said.
Because several schools are located along the project route, the team approach was critical for communication with the stakeholders in order to make sure safety was maintained.
“The coordination of the project was extremely important because all overhead utilities were relocated into a joint trench, and natural gas facilities required relocation,” Taylor said. “All of the city’s underground utilities required relocation because they were located under the guideway.”
WSP has been involved with the Valley Metro light rail system since 1998, when it was in the planning stages. At that time, the firm was providing support for the feasibility studies, environmental analysis and the alternatives analysis that determined the best corridors for the regional transit system. In 2002, the firm served as the general engineering consultant for the original 20-mile, 28-station light rail line, and later provided design support when construction began in 2004.
WSP will continue its relationship with Valley Metro with a two-mile extension to the Central Mesa extension is targeted for a 2018 completion, while a second phase of the Northwest extension has been targeted for a 2023 opening. The extension will connect the Dunlap Avenue station to points farther north along a 1.5-mile corridor that will extend to the Metrocenter Mall in Phoenix.