U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood has unveiled $75 million in federal funding to help build a three-mile light rail extension connecting Phoenix and Tempe.
LaHood took part Friday in a grant signing ceremony in Mesa and said the light rail extension helps fast-growing cities in Arizona.
"The idea that if you build it they will come, always works," said LaHood.
The new Central Mesa Extension, operated by Valley Metro Rail, will run from Sycamore to Mesa Drive on Main Street and connect residents in the downtown hubs of Phoenix, Mesa, and Tempe.
Officials say it's expected to spur residential and commercial development in downtown Mesa while providing access to Arizona State University and Sky Harbor International Airport.
In the last six months, ridership on Valley Metro light rail has risen 6.2 percent on average, compared with the same period in 2011.
"The ridership in this in light rail system is beyond anything that the most ambitious FTA planner or Valley Metro planner ever envisioned," said Peter Rogoff, Transit Administrator.
Light rail has already cost more than a billion dollars. The extension is expected to cost about $200 million. To people who question the cost versus value, LaHood said:
"We will never be swayed by the naysayers. They have no vision. People without a vision are going nowhere. People with a vision are going to get on light rail and go somewhere."
Some of the initial construction has already begun, but the extension won't be up and running until late 2015.
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