Mesa light rail extension project heading into final stretch

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

MESA, Ariz. -- The three-mile light rail extension project along Main Street in Mesa is heading into the final stretch.

"About half of the overhead work is done and about 99 percent of the track, so we're making some serious progress," said Corinne Holliday of Valley Metro.

In fact, Valley Metro says construction on the extension is expected to be completed this summer, with training and testing to follow before service begins in November. 

"We are right on track and there might be even be a possibility of opening sooner, and if that opportunity comes up we'll certainly take it," Holliday said.

"I'm excited every day for it because I live right there, so I'm going to walk downstairs and I'm going to get on the light rail. It's going to be great," said Jim Hesterman.

Construction on the extension of the track from Sycamore to Mesa Drive started back in 2012, and many of the businesses along Main Street were not really sure how things would go.

"We just weren't sure what to expect. Downtown Mesa's been torn up several times before and that's always been a huge impact," said Mike Milano of Milano Music.

This time around, though, he says the impact has been minimal for his business.

It's a similar story across the street at LoFi Coffee.

Owner Samuel Clark tells 3TV he's always viewed the light rail as "kind of the cherry on top, if there is one," even though his business did take a slight hit during the construction process, mainly due to the extensive detours which cut off a lot of the main roads to Downtown Mesa.

"I'm actually seeing more of a pickup in business from just having easier-to-navigate traffic than before," Clark said.

With construction nearing completion and service starting in the near future, Clark says he's bracing for another kind of impact.

"You will get more business, but you'll also get higher rents," he said.

That being said, he admits it's not the worst problem to have more business, but it will require some re-working in order to accommodate the anticipated, but gradual, increase in customers.

From potentially hiring additional staff to increasing equipment and supplies, Clark says there are a lot of logistics to consider.

In the meantime, Clark and others who live and work along the extension say it's a refreshing view now that the end is in sight.

"It's nice to know that it's actually this close and that it's going to be done very soon," Hesterman said.

Once the extension is complete, Valley Metro anticipates an increase in ridership of about 5,000 right from the start.