Valley Metro unveils plans for streetcar down Mill Avenue

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By Alicia Barron By Alicia Barron

TEMPE, Ariz. – Major changes could be coming to Tempe's Mill Avenue.

Valley Metro unveiled its plans Thursday to build a new streetcar system down Mill Avenue similar to the light rail.

Due to a spike in public transportation use, Valley Metro officials think streetcars make sense.

There is a new generation of streetcar systems popping up around the country and now Valley Metro wants to bring a system like one in Portland to busy Mill Avenue in Tempe.

A crowd went to see Valley Metro unveil its plans Thursday night. They call for 2.5 miles of streetcar tracks down Mill Avenue, at times hugging the curb and at times in the middle of the street.

The reaction is mixed. Rhonda Steele says, "I don’t really see the point” while Eugene Weeks says, “I think it's a great idea."

One woman wants to open a business on Mill Avenue but has the usual concerns about construction. Sandy Brennan says, “It depends on what kind of impact it'll have…when it's gonna happen."

Valley Metro officials say streetcar construction is a lot easier than light rail construction.

Hillary Foose explains, “The stations are simpler. Construction is simpler."

Tempe city officials are on board. It will still be several years before streetcars are running up and down Mill Avenue.

Construction is slated to start in 2013 and last three years. Valley Metro officials say they are confident they can secure the $160 million needed to build the streetcar system through local and federal funding.

The Tempe City Council has final approval on the project. They are scheduled to vote on it in October.