|WEST PHOENIX/CENTRAL GLENDALE HIGH CAPACITY TRANSIT UPDATE
Presented By: Jack Friedline, Director, Public Works
Guest Presenter: Scott Smith, CEO, Valley Metro
Guest Presenter: Jennifer Pyne, Project Manager Valley Metro
Guest Presenter: Wulf Grote, Director of Planning and Accessible Transit, Valley Metro
|Purpose and Recommended Action
|This is an informational update for the City Council regarding the West Phoenix/Central Glendale (WPCG) high capacity transit study currently underway by Valley Metro in cooperation with the cities of Phoenix and Glendale. The purpose of this report is to update the City Council on the study progress to date, including an update on the prior Council policy direction provided in May 2016.
|In 2001, the voters of Glendale approved a dedicated half-cent sales tax to fund a comprehensive transportation program known as the Glendale Onboard! (GO) Transportation Program. Maricopa County voters also approved transportation funding for the regional transportation plan in 2004. These ballot initiatives included a project and matching funds for a high-capacity transit corridor from Glendale’s eastern border at 43rd Avenue to downtown Glendale. Based on these successful elections, the city and regional transportation plans include funding to complete a high-capacity transit corridor in Glendale by 2026.
Valley Metro, with the cities of Glendale and Phoenix, and the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG), are in the final stages of the WPCG High Transit Capacity Study. The technical analysis of potential corridors between Camelback Road and Northern Avenue, from 19th Avenue to 59th Avenue, is complete and a leading route alternative has been identified.
The project would rely upon federal, regional, and local funding for the capital costs and the ongoing maintenance and operations is a local (city) cost. Glendale’s GO! Program has $105 million programmed for capital costs and $3.8 million programmed for ongoing operation and maintenance in the 25-year balanced program. The regional Public Transportation Fund currently has $72 million (in 2026 dollars) programmed for the project which can be used for regional-eligible costs such as park and ride facilities, structures/bridges, vehicles, non-prior rights utilities, and public art. The federal funding assumptions include 50% of the capital funding from the federal New Starts program and there is $75 million programmed from the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) Improvement Program which is specifically for projects designed to improve air quality and reduce traffic congestion.
In May 2016, Council requested additional study on the design elements of the project including the consideration of a Grand Avenue/BNSF crossing; and, a request to develop a cost-sharing agreement with the City of Phoenix for the local share of project costs.
|Valley Metro’s team identified and screened a variety of options for crossing Grand Avenue north of Glendale Avenue. This would require an elevated crossing to go over the BNSF railroad as an at-grade crossing of the railroad is not considered to be an option based on safety concerns and railroad operations priorities. The screening included an assessment of several factors such as connectivity, transit operations, traffic operations, constructability, cost, and potential right-of-way requirements. The screening resulted in four options that could achieve the crossing, each with different benefits and issues. While the issues are not fatal flaws, they do increase the cost and coordination required:
- There are better park and ride placement opportunities on the west side of Grand Avenue than there are in the downtown area
- A park and ride in this area would provide more convenient station access from Grand Avenue
- The crossing would increase access for the community west of 59th Avenue and would specifically provide service to Glendale High School
- A station location in this area could provide additional economic development opportunities that would not be available with other end-of-line options
- Crossing Grand Avenue would advance connectivity to the Loop 101 employment corridor if that is Council’s long-term vision
- Cost and constructability issues related to the BNSF crossing would make this additional half-mile more expensive than a typical half-mile segment
- There is a powerline parallel to Grand Avenue that would need to be mitigated which adds additional costs to the project
- The crossing concept has not been presented for public input and the public sentiment is unknown
In addition to the assessment of the Grand Avenue Crossing, Valley Metro was asked to conduct analysis on a variety of potential end-of-line options along the preferred corridor and provide preliminary cost estimates for those options to assist the Council in determining the affordability of the project. Table 1 included in the attached June 2 memorandum which was previously provided to the Council includes an evaluation of six end-of-line options between 43rd and 61st avenues. The cost estimates reflect the agreement reached with the City of Phoenix that each community would pay for the capital costs of the project constructed in their city and would share the cost of construction on 43rd Avenue 50-50.
It is important to note that these estimates are extremely preliminary and are intended to provide a snapshot based on what is known today. The estimates are shown in future inflated 2026 dollars, represent a very early design phase, and are based more on data from successfully completed projects rather than site-specific analysis. The estimates do include a high level of contingency which is typical for this phase and was calculated at about 33% of the total project costs. The key risk factors related to these estimates include right-of-way needs, utility relocation, and unprogrammed regional-eligible costs.
Continuing design work to refine the capital costs would occur 2019-2022. Some of the factors that would impact the capital costs include roadway configuration (current estimates assume full lane replacement), actual right-of-way and utility relocation costs, and financing costs. Factors that would influence the operating cost estimates include the potential for benefits due to economies of scale as the system expands, new capital needs in the future (cars, maintenance stations, etc.), actual income from fares and advertising (estimate assumes a 25% fare box recovery, current recovery amount is about 40%), service contracts, and emerging technologies (autonomous rail vehicles, etc.).
Valley Metro’s analysis of the end-of-line options included an assessment of competitiveness for federal funding, capital and operating costs, service to activity centers, suitability for end-of-line activities (park and ride, vehicle storage, etc.), and bus system connectivity. The assessment indicates that any of the end-of-line options have the potential to be competitive for federal funding and each would have a variety of potential benefits with the note that bus connectivity is generally better at end-of-line locations near major arterials.
The Estimated Glendale Share of Capital Costs column shown on Table 1 include a proportional amount of the unprogrammed regional costs. Based on this information, the 43rd, 47th, and 51st Avenue end-of-line options are the only options that would fit within the current GO! Program allocation. When including Glendale’s portion of the unprogrammed regional costs, the 55th Avenue end-of-line estimate is $1.6 million over the capital budget, and $300,000 over on the operating budget. The 58th Avenue end-of-line estimate is $9.4 million over the capital budget, and $1.1 million over the operating budget. The 61st Avenue (Grand crossing) end-of-line estimate is $51.6 million over the capital budget and $1.9 million over the operating budget. The estimated costs would be expected to vary as the design advances and potential costs are better understood.
Staff will be coming back to the City Council in the coming months to discuss this project in the context of the GO! Program to include a holistic view of the existing program and funding needs; and, will seek direction regarding funding priorities at that time.
|Previous Related Council Action
|On May 24, 2016 City Council adopted Resolution 5108 Authorization to adopt a resolution expressing support, identifying preferences, and the next steps for the West Phoenix/Central Glendale High Capacity Transit Study Leading Route Alternative. This action directed the following:
At the March 1, 2016 Council Workshop, the Departments of Public Works, Planning, Economic Development, and Valley Metro staff presented an update on the project and received direction to proceed with bringing forward a resolution for City Council action.
- Set aside all previously studied routes and advance the leading route alternative identified as Camelback/43rd/Glendale/Glenn;
- Identified light rail as the preferred mode of transit;
- Directed the continued study of station locations, traffic configurations, design analysis of the Glendale/Glenn transition near 51st Avenue, and an analysis of the feasibility of a Grand/BNSF crossing (refined end of line station); and
- Directed staff to work towards development of a formal agreement with the City of Phoenix for funding the local share of the project and ongoing operations.
At the March 17, 2015 Council Workshop, the Departments of Public Works, Planning, Economic Development, and Valley Metro staff presented information on the regional light rail system and the impacts on economic development, land use, and regional mobility. City Council directed staff to form a Downtown Glendale Community Working Group (CWG) to seek input related to the downtown route options.
At the May 6, 2014 Council Workshop, Valley Metro presented an update on the routes under consideration during the first stage of the study. Staff also provided two informational memos to City Council: in July 2014 (Update Number 3) and in October 2014 (Update Number 4) providing updates on the results that narrowed the route options and gave an overview of the downtown routes under consideration.
At the October 15, 2013 Council Workshop, staff presented an update on the study with preliminary corridor findings. Valley Metro staff outlined the benefits and impacts of light rail and the steps the city can take to make this a successful project. Staff provided an initial informational memorandum to Council on August 2, 2013, and followed up with two update memos on August 30, 2013 (Update Number 1) and September 11, 2013 (Update Number 2)
At the October 30, 2012 Council Workshop, Transportation Services and Valley Metro staff presented findings from a previous light rail study stating that the first priority for Glendale light rail should include a corridor to downtown Glendale. City Council directed staff to proceed with the next step in the process, which was to complete an Alternatives Analysis to develop a Locally Preferred Alternative that identifies a high-capacity transit system best suited for the corridor.
|Community Benefit/Public Involvement
|High capacity transit solutions can provide a variety of benefits to the community including increased mobility and access to transit services as well as community investment opportunities. The preferred alignment encompasses some of the busiest bus routes in the region, which should continue to grow with changing travel patterns of younger and older generations who have demonstrated a desire for improved transit options.
In addition to improved mobility and access, high capacity transit projects can also serve as a catalyst for economic redevelopment along a corridor. The original regional 20-mile light rail “starter segment” cost $1.4 billion to complete, but has generated an estimated $8.2 billion in private and public investment along the light rail corridor. Robust transit systems that result in decreased use of personal vehicles can also lead to environmental benefits such as reduced pollution.
The public participation process has offered opportunities for public input from stakeholders, citizens, and businesses. Valley Metro held 10 public meetings in both Glendale and Phoenix. Over 100 outreach events were conducted in Glendale to receive public input. Feedback from public meetings held in January 2016 indicated there is overall support for the recommended route citing positive aspects of potential economic development benefits, preservation of Glendale Avenue in downtown, access to educational facilities, and downtown prominence being cited as positives. Those opposed to the project expressed concerns about construction impacts or did not support the destination of downtown Glendale. As the project continues, additional opportunities will be available for the public to receive information and share their comments.