First car of new PHX Sky Train™ unveiled

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The first car of the new PHX Sky Train was unveiled Tuesday, Aug. 16. By Catherine Holland The first car of the new PHX Sky Train was unveiled Tuesday, Aug. 16. By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX – The first car of the new PHX Sky Train™ was unveiled Tuesday morning, marking a major milestone in the huge project to connect Sky Harbor International Airport with the METRO Light Rail system.

Mayor Phil Gordon, who is wrapping up his last term in office, presided over the 10 a.m. unveiling.

“This is the first train car of the PHX Sky Train,” said Deputy Aviation Director for Public Relations Deb Ostreicher about 20 minutes before the black drape was whisked away. “It’s like birthing a child for all of us. It’s a very exciting day.”

The train car was just completed. It is one of several that will eventually transport airport passengers and visitors between the METRO Light Rail station at 44th and Washington streets, the airport’s East Economy Parking Lot and Terminal 4, which is the busiest terminal at Sky Harbor International Airport.

There currently is an airport shuttle that runs between the Light Rail station at 44th and Washington streets and Terminal 4. That is one of many shuttles the PHX Sky Train™ will replace when it begins operation in the first quarter of 2013.

By 2015, the system will serve Terminal 3, as well, with a walkway to Terminal 2. By 2020, the train will continue to the Sky Harbor Rental Car Center.

While passengers won’t be able to board the trains until early 2013, in the coming year they will see empty train cars on the tracks as they are tested along the guide way. The testing will be just like the Light Rail tests that were conducted before it was open to the public.

Bombardier, the train system operator, is in the process of shipping the first 18 cars to a Sky Harbor facility where they will be assembled into two- and three-car trains.

Construction of the elevated tracks has been moving along as planned. The structural framework for the PHX Sky Train™ was completed in April.

Once its running, the free train will operate 24 hours a day, arriving at stations about every three minutes during peak travel times. Passengers can expect to arrive at their destinations within about five minutes of hopping aboard.

The implementation of the PHX Sky Train™ is expected to take a significant number of buses and cars off the roadways, hopefully easing traffic congestion into Sky Harbor International Airport, which was one of the top 15 busiest airports in the entire world last year.

The PHX Sky Train™ project involves 250 subcontractors and 1,300 design and construction employees right now. The first stage of construction created 6,000 jobs over five years.

“The PHX Sky Train project is putting thousands of Arizonans back to work,” Gordon said last May. “And when it is complete, it will serve as an example for the nation of multi-modal transportation, providing a seamless connection between the airport and METRO light rail.”

No local tax dollars are being spent to build the PHX Sky Train™. Sky Harbor International Airport funds itself through revenues generated by shops, restaurants, parking facilities, aircraft landing fees and other services. While the airport also receives federal grant money for certain major construction projects, the PHX Sky Train™ basically is being paid for by airport users.