Light rail expansion: Rally held in favor of moving project forward

PHOENIX -- There are strong opinions about the proposed light rail expansion in south central Phoenix. On Tuesday, business leaders and people who live in the neighborhood held a rally in favor of the project.

Supporters say a billion dollars is on the line and more than half of that is federal dollars that will be lost if they don't go forward with the extension, but there are many in south Phoenix who are saying not so fast.

"This extension is going to give veterans, seniors, 50 to 60 percent of people in south Phoenix who don't have cars, kids.. opportunities to travel all the way to Mesa," said Michael Kelly, who lives in south Phoenix.

Some business owners along the light rail's path on Central Avenue don't view it as an opportunity, but as a business killer.

"They want to cut into Central Avenue. One lane of traffic each side and they don't respect the businesses along the construction of the light rail," said Celia Contreras, who opposes the light rail extension.

Contreras owns a tinting business on Central Avenue and says she and others would rather see the hundreds of millions of dollars used on other infrastructure projects in south Phoenix.

"That's what we need. It's what the people want. Better roads, lighting, they want a better place to raise their children," said Byron Waldrep of Pete's Fish and Chips.

Some light rail supporters say dark money from the Koch brothers is being used to kill the project.

The city council takes up the light rail topic on September 26 at 2:30 p.m. during a special meeting.