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Phoenix begins work on light rail

(The Associated Press circulated the following article on February 16.)

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Nearly five years after Phoenix area voters approved light rail, construction on the first line of Metro track began Tuesday.

Mayors from the three cities where the initial rail will run -- Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa -- joined dignitaries and the public for a ceremony to officially mark the start.

Utility work and construction of the train's maintenance and storage facility are under way. Now workers will start laying track for an initial 20-mile line, beginning with a 1-mile segment near the border of Tempe and Phoenix. Electric rail cars will start running on that test track by spring 2006.

The initial line is scheduled to open in December 2008. It will start in north Phoenix, go into downtown, then head past the airport and through downtown Tempe, ending about a mile into suburban Mesa.

``We have to free up this Valley so we don't choke,'' said Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, referring to the worsening congestion on city freeways.

Phoenix voters passed a four-tenths of a percent sales tax for a transit plan in March 2000 that included bus service improvements and light rail. The initial route will cost $1.3 billion. Last month, the federal government committed $587.2 million. Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa are picking up the rest of the tab.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

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