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Light rail testing rolls into Tempe in March

 by Allison Gatlin
 published on Tuesday, January 22, 2008

<b>LIGHT ON THE LINE:</b> Light rail cars sit on the Operations and Maintenance track at 48th Street and Washington Street in Phoenix.  Testing of the cars is done here, and will be expanded to Tempe in March despite inspectors recently finding 11 gaps in the line, in preparation for the railís opening on Dec. 27. Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon said the light rail opening will occur as scheduled./issues/news/703168
Bettina Hansen / THE STATE PRESS
LIGHT ON THE LINE: Light rail cars sit on the Operations and Maintenance track at 48th Street and Washington Street in Phoenix. Testing of the cars is done here, and will be expanded to Tempe in March despite inspectors recently finding 11 gaps in the line, in preparation for the railís opening on Dec. 27. Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon said the light rail opening will occur as scheduled.
 

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Get ready, Tempe: The light rail traffic jams are about to get worse.

With as much as 91 percent and 39 miles of the light rail completed to date, Valley Metro representatives said they plan to expand their testing area from Washington Street in Phoenix to Apache Boulevard in Tempe starting in March.

Valley Metro is teaming up with the fire and police departments, as well as ASU, to ensure that precautions are taken to alert people of the testing and prevent any accidents, said Marty McNeil, a Valley Metro spokeswoman.

"We do not expect any problems because the light rail is a safe form of transportation," she said. "It's just a matter of knowing those common-sense behaviors that you learned in elementary school and driving school."

The testing, which will take place during the day and at night in what McNeil called a "simulated service," does not concern students who walk or ride their bikes near testing areas, she said. The testing will involve cars running along the tracks, so drivers should look for trains at any time coming from any direction, according to Valley Metro's Web site. The site also reminds drivers and pedestrians not to stop their cars on or walk on tracks.

Testing will begin as scheduled in downtown Tempe despite the 11 large gaps in the rail's tracks, which were found between downtown Phoenix and Mesa in December 2007.

Metro is still planning to open the light rail for service in December of this year, regardless of those cracks, said Amy Washburn, a Metro spokeswoman.

"Several experts from a firm in New Jersey were called out to find the cause of the cracks," Washburn said. "We have to find out exactly what is the cause of it, and, at that time, we will decide where to go from there."

The firm, a specialist group called Zeta-Tech, will spend several weeks examining the rail systems, installation processes and conducting other tests, Washburn said.

At the end of the examination period, the firm will issue a report of their findings. Valley Metro plans to use this report to determine how to proceed and the cost of the repairs, according to a Jan. 15 Valley Metro statement.

Valley Metro will pull from the contingency funds built into the $587 million budget in order to cover the repairs, the statement noted.

"None of this is affecting our bottom-line schedule or budget, as far as expanding into Tempe ó that all remains the same," Washburn said.

"I don't think there are any more [safety issues] than would be otherwise," said Cara Lancellotti, an anthropology sophomore. "People who are riding their bikes could be hit by cars anyway."

Reach the reporter at: allison.gatlin@asu.edu.



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