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South Phoenix Business Owners Raise Concerns About Light Rail Expansion

"4 Lane or No Train" campaign poster
Lauren Gilger/KJZZ
A sign taped up on the wall of Tony's Window Tinting for the "4 Lane or No Train" campaign in Phoenix in March 2018.

The light rail expansion that’s coming to South Phoenix along Central Avenue has been highly anticipated by some — and highly contentious for others.

Now, some business owners along South Central Avenue are speaking out, raising concerns that the design of the light rail and its four-year construction plan will devastate their businesses and and their community.

At issue is a plan to reduce Central Avenue from four lanes of traffic down to just two, which they believe will greatly reduce the number of customers who come to their businesses.

Last week at the City Council, Anthony Pacheco Contreras presented a citizen petition on behalf of his mother, Celia Contreras, who owns Tony’s Window Tinting, and other South Phoenix business owners asking the council to keep Central Avenue four lanes wide when the light rail goes in.

Contreras has gathered together some business owners along Central to create an organization called 4 Lane Or No Train, and The Show's Lauren Gilger went down to Tony’s Window Tinting to talk to some of them yesterday.

Contreras was joined by Larry Cohen, who has owned Herdez Jewelry and Pawn on Central for about 40 years, and Siho Lee, whose family has owned Central Mart there for almost 30.

They started by talking about when they found out that light rail was coming to their neighborhood, and their first reaction when they heard.

We also reached out to the City of Phoenix and Valley Metro about this. They sent a statement that said, “Valley Metro is designing the South Central Extension based on community input, technical analysis and committee approvals over several years. We will continue working with community members and the City of Phoenix in advancing the design and building this important community project.”

The City Council will make a decision about the citizen petition in the next few weeks. We’ll be sure to keep you up to date on this controversy as it unfolds in South Phoenix.

Lauren Gilger, host of KJZZ's The Show, is an award-winning journalist whose work has impacted communities large and small, exposing injustices and giving a voice to the voiceless and marginalized.