Visiting my family in Mesa, Arizona, over my holiday break last year got me more excited about light rail than I’ve ever been. I hopefully showed this with my photos on my Flickr account. I posted over 300 pictures of the new Valley Metro light rail that serves the west side of Mesa, central and north Tempe, and many regions of Phoenix. It goes through two downtowns: Tempe and Phoenix. The light rail will be good for commuters, but also discretionary travelers; both downtowns are major destinations for the valley. Tempe has a vibrant night life and the state’s largest college campus. Phoenix has tons of large-scale attractions.

I love trains. I’m almost a railfan.

So I present you this list of light rail extensions that will open this year in the United States – just two, but they’re respectively significant for the regions they will serve. There are no new systems opening this year, but there’s at least one for 2010.

  • Seattle SoundTransit Central Link – This new line goes from the Westlake Center (southern terminus for the Seattle Monorail) south to the Seattle-Tacoma airport. This will be an amazing new asset for the region – transit links to airports is always a plus. We’ve benefited from this in Chicago for over 15 years (the Orange line to Midway opened in 1993, after the Blue line to O’Hare). Sadly, after several years of voting rounds and bickering, the monorail was never extended into the transit system; the potential’s still there.
  • Portland MAX Green Line – Scheduled to open in September 2009, the Green line will wrap around the new/reorganized Portland Transit Mall and head south along I-205 to a new transit center at the Clackamas Town Center mall. As part of this construction, the existing bike path following the highway will be redesigned and improved greatly. The TriMet website has more information about the enhancements along I-205.