Phoenix Voters Will Decide Future of Light Rail in August Article originally posted on AZ Central on February 7, 2019 This August, Phoenix residents will have another opportunity to vote on the future of light rail. A group of light rail opponents called Building a Better Phoenix collected enough signatures to send the controversial public transit system back to the voters, asking them to end light-rail expansion in Phoenix and instead divert the city money to other transportation improvements, like buses and road repairs. On Wednesday, the Phoenix City Council scheduled the election on the initiative for August. What would the initiative do? If voters pass the Building a Better Phoenix initiative, the city must cancel all light-rail extensions and divert the city money it would have used to other transportation needs. The city’s portion of the money earmarked for light-rail extensions comes from a $31.5 billion, 35-year transportation plan funded by a sales tax increase voters approved in 2015. Although the initiative would only apply to Phoenix light-rail extensions, it could spell the end of light rail altogether. The city also gets federal funding for light-rail projects. “All federal funds, up to $3.5 billion for local rail projects, are at serious risk if there is a pause in the Phoenix rail capital program,” Valley Metro spokeswoman Susan Tierney said. She said Valley Metro will not stop work while awaiting the August election. She said the agency will continue working on the South Central light-rail extension, which is supposed to begin construction this year. Started with south Phoenix protest TheSouth Central extension spurred the Building a Better Phoenix initiative. The group started as a collection of south Phoenix residents and business owners who were opposed to the extension, which is planned to reduce Central Avenue to two vehicle lanes. The council had approved the two-lane plan in 2014, but some residents said they were not aware of the impact on lanes until last year. The group went before the council multiple times this year to ask it to either kill the project or revise it to maintain four vehicle lanes. Ultimately, the council voted to proceed with the original plan and Building a Better Phoenix began the initiative process. Last chance for light rail There’s an equally active group trying to save the light rail, and they’re trying one final maneuver in court to keep the Building a Better Phoenix initiative off the ballot. The Arizona chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America filed a lawsuit in January to get the initiative thrown off the ballot. The complaint, filed in Maricopa County Superior Court, alleges the 100-word description that Building a Better Phoenix used to explain the initiative to petition-signers left out important details. The complaint also says Building a Better Phoenix paid petition gatherers by the signature, which the contractors’ group believes is illegal under state law. A court hearing is scheduled for April.