Not Everyone Is 'All Aboard' Final Light Rail Route Planned For Downtown Glendale

By Casey Kuhn
Published: Thursday, May 26, 2016 - 7:51am
Updated: Thursday, May 26, 2016 - 8:43pm
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(Photo courtesy of ADOT)
The final, tentative light rail route into Glendale.
(Photo by Casey Kuhn - KJZZ)
A view down Catlin Court in downtown Glendale.
(Photo by Casey Kuhn - KJZZ)
Linda Moran-Whittley stands in her ice cream shop in Glendale.
(Photo by Casey Kuhn - KJZZ)
Donna Cheung, with the JACL, is worried her building will be inaccessible for the elderly members that meet on Glenn Drive.

In the past eight years, the Valley Metro light rail has rolled out public transportation through central Phoenix and Tempe. It eventually made its way into Mesa. And now it appears to be heading west. This week Glendale City Council laid the groundwork for the western rails by agreeing on which route the light rail will take. But not everyone is happy more riders will be climbing aboard.

School’s out and so is the sun — a perfect time for ice cream. In downtown Glendale, Linda Moran-Whittley offers samples to young customers at her shop Papa Ed’s Ice Cream, a converted garage decorated to look like a New England cottage.

It fits the theme of the historic Catlin Court neighborhood where gas lamps and shade trees line the streets. Papa Ed's is just north of the proposed light rail route coming to Glendale.

“We have a lot to offer in historic downtown Glendale and I think the public transportation would help with some of the parking,” Moran-Whittley said.

Moran-Whittley was on the citizen committee that looked at all the proposed routes. She said while she isn’t against the light rail, she wonders whether the final route will isolate her corner of town.

“The chosen route that was recommended could separate Catlin Court from historic downtown Glendale,” she said.

Glendale City Council just approved the route to the next stage of planning, where the city will study details and logistics — like how to cross Interstate 17.

The final route goes like this: it connects at 19th Avenue and Camelback Road, continues West and just before Grand Avenue, heads north on 43rd Avenue. To get downtown, the route follows west on Glendale Avenue, and makes a jump to head West on Glenn Drive, essentially bisecting the city.

The end point is still to be determined.

Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers voted no on the route agreement at the meeting because he thought a street car option should have been considered.

“I do not believe that it’s fair for our residents or community business to sell them short of an opportunity simply because of a long process has taken place, and Valley Metro is remiss in providing all options,” Weiers said.

At the hearing before the vote, locals and business owners seemed pretty evenly divided for and against.

Pete Gliniak owns Desert Rose Properties right off Grand Avenue, and at the council meeting, he summed up the support thusly — "We believe the light rail is the way of the future and is an additional tool to put downtown Glendale on the map."

But it wasn't just business owners who came to speak.

Donna Cheung is passionate about her constitutional rights. She’s a Chinese immigrant who’s now a citizen and doesn’t take democracy for granted.

“We are very disturbed by the Glenn Drive selection committee, not because we are abrogating our citizen’s duty, but because we were not informed,” she said.

She heads the Arizona chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League on Glenn Drive, smack dab in the light rail’s path. She worries construction would create safety and access problems for the senior citizens who make up a majority of the group.

But, Glendale can look east to see what might happen with the addition of the light rail.

“Glendale is really in a good position because of being able to learn from the experience that Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa have had,” said Mesa Vice Mayor Dennis Kavanaugh, who is also a Valley Metro Rail Board Member.

Kavanaugh said a few Mesa businesses closed during the process, but the results have been overwhelmingly positive.

He suggested Glendale keep the community involved every step of the way.

“When you have a construction process, you need to make sure there is 24-hour assistance if problems arise,” Kavanaugh said.

The light rail construction isn’t slated to start until 2023.

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