Metro will hold a groundbreaking Wednesday to celebrate a new light rail segment that will link downtown Mesa to Tempe and Phoenix.
The 3.1-mile, $200 million extension will be the first new segment since Metro opened the 20-mile system in December 2008. While the transit system is seen as a catalyst for downtown Mesa, Metro anticipates Wednesday’s kickoff will draw people from across the Valley.
Train aficionados have already shown interest, but Metro spokeswoman Hillary Foose said a broader range of people are welcome.
“We want the community — residents, business owners, young people — to all be a part of the history of our project and the history of transit in the Valley,” Foose said.
Actual construction will begin within a few weeks. The extension along Main Street will shift the system’s end-point from Sycamore to just east of Mesa Drive and add four stations.
With construction will come a campaign to encourage people to patronize businesses in the construction zone.
Metro will play a role by holding events for other milestones, Foose said. That could include something when the first track is installed, as transit stations rise from the ground and when art is installed. Also, Metro is working with the city and Downtown Mesa Association on ideas like temporary art made by children so visitors would see more than a construction zone, Foose said. The plans are still in development.
“We want to make sure we keep this project, and more importantly the business community, top of mind,” Foose said.
Metro expects the Mesa segment will open in 2015. Metro has decided to hold more celebratory events during this project than during construction of the original segment, Foose said.
Metro will issue commemorative post cards at milestone events, the first of which is Wednesday’s groundbreaking.
DMA executive director David Short said some events on Main Street will have to make some changes or even shift to a side street. The DMA hasn’t finalized its event plans yet because the construction schedule hasn’t been finalized yet. That should happen soon, Short said.
However, the DMA is making the case that the public will barely notice the construction because businesses along Main Street in the downtown have rear entrances. While events can boost interest in downtown, Short said basic access is a top priority.
“Downtown is going to be very accessible from the all the back lots and also Main Street,” he said. “Keeping our businesses active on a normal day-to-day basis without events is also an important key to this.”
He said construction will be minimal in downtown for the June 29-30 Arizona Celebration of Freedom.
“You probably won’t even notice it at all,” Short said.