By Mike Sunnucks | Rose Law Group Reporter
Mesa Mayor John Giles is bullish on light rail and transit and its potential economic development benefits as the Metro line is poised to open a new 1.9-mile extension to Gilbert Road.
Giles, Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego and Valley Metro CEO Scott Smith (who was previously Mesa Mayor) will debut the new $184 million extension Saturday. Two new stations and a park and ride extend Metro east on Main Street to Gilbert Road.
Giles said the Gilbert Road project extends transit options further into the East Valley and hopes it will have economic development payoffs.
Giles credits the Metro line, which opened in December 2008, with bringing a new Arizona State University campus center and more housing to Mesa’s Main Street area.
“In the 30 years prior to light rail there were no new residential building permits issued in downtown,” said Giles in an interview. “Now, we’ve got 1,200 new housing units planned.”
Giles said ASU would not be bringing a new center focused to it downtown area without light rail access. ASU is locating its Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at a Mesa complex slated to open in 2021.
“It will be a game changer,” Giles said of the ASU development in downtown Mesa.
The Metro system has seen new developments and jobs sprout in downtown Tempe, downtown Phoenix and midtown Phoenix but other parts of the system have not seen as much activity.
Giles said Mesa is looking at connecting to a new Tempe Streetcar system as well as north-south line from Main Street down Dobson Road to Mesa Community College, Banner Desert Medical Center and the Fiesta Mall area. The latter is a former shopping mall slated for redevelopment.
Giles said those transit options hinge on Maricopa County voters extending or approving a new Proposition 400 sales tax that expires in 2025.