As Metro builds a light rail extension through downtown Mesa, the city is trying to build confidence among visitors that they can drive to the area without getting snarled in road construction.
Mesa is making the case that most businesses along Main Street can be accessed through rear entrances via First Street, First Avenue or Pepper Place. The city has multiple parking lots and more than 5,000 free parking spaces.
If drivers use those streets and the alternate entrances, it’s possible they could avoid rail construction altogether.
“Our downtown has two front doors,” Councilman Dennis Kavanaugh said.
The city’s efforts to minimize downtown light rail construction date to before it was certain light rail would be built in the Valley. When Mesa planned a massive Main Street renovation project in the late 1990s, it anticipated some kind of transit would eventually run down its main drag.
So when the city was rebuilding the street, it shifted underground utilities away from the center of the road so they wouldn’t have to be dug up and moved later, Kavanaugh said.
It was only several years after that project was completed that plans were developed for the initial 20-mile light rail line that opened in 2008. The experience of building that segment should help Mesa better understand how to work out problems more quickly with the 3.1-mile extension, said Kavanaugh, who is also on the Metro board of directors.
“The city learned a lot from the first segment,” he said.
Metro CEO Steve Banta said it helps that the contractors were involved in the first project and are familiar with how to build light rail in the Valley. The project will be built by Valley Transit Constructors, which consists of Kiewit, Mass Electric and Parsons Transportation Group.
Metro was able to shave up to six months off the construction time by hiring a designer and contractor at the same time and having them work together from the start of the project.
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