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Best Abandoned Transit Project Phoenix 2011 - Papago Intermodal Transfer Station

Next time you're driving down Interstate 10 in Phoenix — approaching the Deck Park Tunnel — take a quick look at the center median. Did you notice anything odd, like a fenced-off passageway slicing right through the middle of the larger tunnel? That, friends, is Phoenix's infamous Papago Intermodal Transfer Station — a.k.a. an underground bus station that was started in 1990 but never actually completed.

According to Valley Metro light-rail director Wolfe Grote, who was involved with the planning of the I-10 tunnel back when he worked for the City of Phoenix's public transportation department, the bus station was designed to serve the needs of the then-red-hot midtown Phoenix area. (One developer was even proposing building a 114-story skyscraper in the area, which would have been the tallest in the world at the time.)

"The thought was to include an express bus station into the plans for the new tunnel that would allow passengers to exit underground and then ride a combination of elevators and escalators up to the park level," Grote says.

Unfortunately, despite spending more than $9 million to build the bones of the structure, the city was never able to secure the $20 million-plus in federal funds it would have taken to complete the project.

Meanwhile, the flood of new developments in midtown failed to materialize, and Valley Metro started delivering workers directly into downtown Phoenix via a new system of express buses. And maybe the last best chance to build out the station fizzled in 2008, when the planned light-rail extension to the west was routed through the Arizona State Capitol area a few miles south, rather than running through the I-10 tunnel.

So for now, this monumental concrete cavern remains a road to nowhere.To see a slideshow of the abandoned bus station, visit www.phoenixnewtimes.com/best of2011.

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Bob Diehl
Bob Diehl

With Hance Park being redesigned, maybe the underground depot can be used by the Park for something?

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