Opponents of South Phoenix light rail project continue with their campaign to stop it in its tracks

PHOENIX (KSAZ) -- It's a plan that's been in the works for years, but local businesses and homeowners in South Phoenix want to stop the expansion of the light rail.

The six-mile extension of the light rail would be built on Central Avenue, between Washington Street and Baseline Road in South Phoenix. The extension was approved by voters in 2015, but residents in South Phoenix claim they were misled about how the construction would impact the number of lanes along Central Avenue.

Now, through a petition, a neighborhood group wants to put the light rail project back on the ballot, with more transparent language.

On Wednesady, the group "Building a Better Phoenix", its members dressed in yellow, came together to deliver 40,000 signatures for an initiative to halt the billion dollar project. 

"It'll mean total destruction of our community," said Susan Gudino.

Neighbors say they're concerned about safety.

"Emergency services," said Gudino. "My neighborhood, we won't get emergency services. That's personal for me."

Meanwhile, local businesses say the construction on Central Avenue being narrowed down from four to two lanes will make it harder for customers to visit their shops and restaurants.

"The light rail will destroy our businesses. It will lead to the gentrification of South Central Phoenix, while developers and contractors get rich and take over," said Rachel Palopoli.

The group also questioned whether the billion dollar investment will be worth it, when that money could be spent on roadwork, streetlights and other forms of mass transportation such as buses. On Wednesday afternoon, FOX 10's Jennifer Auh spoke with the CEO of Valley Metro, Scott Smith, via a video chat. Smith, who was in Washington, D.C., is very excited about the project.

"We've seen the impact with ASU Downtown, and other large investments that have happened primarily because of light rail, and so, I would say that light rail has more than paid for itself so far in the 26 miles we've built, and will continue to pay for itself as we move forward," said Smith.

When asked about the concerns of neighbors and local business owners, Smith pointed out that this is the fifth light rail project in the Valley.

"We've learned a lot," said Smith. "How to help businesses, and our experiences are simply not what they're afraid of."

In September, after listening to input from residents, the City Council still voted to move forward with the light rail extension, reducing the traffic lanes on Central Avenue to two lanes. Now, with this latest petition, it will be up to the city to decide if and when the initiative will be put back on the ballot.

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