The first physical work for the Metro rail extension into downtown Mesa is underway and will continue into next year.

Crews are drilling pizza-sized holes into Main Street to locate utilities and take soil samples, but drivers shouldn't expect any major delays. Crews only block one lane at a time for an hour or two as they drill into the road, said Carla Kahn, Metro's community outreach coordinator.

"It doesn't take them very long to drill down and get their information," she said. "Once they get that, they move on to the next area."

The work is underway from Country Club to the future end of the line at Hobson. Work will shift from Country Club to the current end of the line on Nov. 24, continuing through Jan. 3.

The rail construction requires most utilities to be moved if they are underneath where the track will be built. While various water, sewer, gas and fiber optics lines are mapped, the drilling is needed to ensure the utility locations are in sync with what's on paper, said Hillary Foose, a Metro spokeswoman.

"Sometimes the plans aren't totally depictive of what's going on," Foose said.

Once the utility location work is done, Metro will shift to mostly behind-the-scenes efforts as it develops the final design for the 3.1-mile section. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2013, and the extension is set to open in 2016.

The segment will cost about $200 million, funded by federal and local money.

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