The City of Tempe’s Transportation Dept. recently held public meetings for two bicycle infrastructure
projects moving toward anticipated construction start dates in the winter of 2024. I (guest blogger Jack Ketcham) attended both meetings with TBAG Treasurer Jeff Caslake and wanted to give a little overview and update on where things stand with both projects.
Grand Canal Connection project
The first meeting was for the Grand Canal Connection project, a proposal to finally link the North/South Crosscut Canal path through Papago Park to the East/West Grand Canal path, which continues into Phoenix.
This was the second meeting held for the project, after the first in October 2022. The changes since then have been some modifications to an accessible pedestrian path that will connect the sidewalk on Mill Ave to the lakefront along Lake View Drive, which currently only has a staircase, and will include a nice rest and lookout area that has a great view of the bridges going over the lake.
For many, a sticking point on this project was the connection between the Tempe and Phoenix portions of the Grand Canal path, which ends abruptly and leaves you to connect over a bumpy dirt path with no markings. It was hoped that the city would make a direct connection over the train tracks to connect the two cities’ portions of the path, but unfortunately, that isn’t going to happen with this project due to prohibitive costs involved with building on the Union Pacific RR right of way along the tracks. The crossing is considered ‘private,’ which has a few restrictions on the type of infrastructure required around it, like crossing gates and lights, and this project would necessitate upgrading it to a ‘public’ crossing, which requires a big lump sum upfront and then ongoing maintenance costs needed yearly that are not budgeted for. So instead, the city will connect where the Tempe portion of the Grand Canal path ends to 56th St just past the Priest Dr underpass. From that connection, path users will be able to cross the tracks at a paved section of the road and continue onto the canal path. Not ideal, but it will work much better than a dirt path.
From the Grand Canal / 56th St connection, the path will continue off-street for a short section on the West side, then go back on-street with ‘channelized’ separation devices (4ft long ~4in high plastic barriers that get bolted to the road).
Presently, these ‘channelized’ separation devices, with the possibility of adding vertical poles that attach to the top of the devices, are the extent to which the city is willing to ‘protect’ bicycle lanes. We’ll hear about them again in the second project below.
Finally, Lakeshore Dr will get repaved and restriped, with, at this time, only buffered bicycle lanes.
Kyrene, Roosevelt, Farmer Bike/Ped Improvements Project
The second meeting was for the latest evolution of the North-South Rail Spur Project, which has been re-designated as the Kyrene, Roosevelt, Farmer Bike/Ped Improvements Project, after multiple years of back and forth with Union Pacific, when the city finally determined that it would not be possible to get the easements to build an off-street path along the railroad tracks.
Instead, the city is proposing a re-alignment of the Handlebars BIKEiT route, directing it onto Roosevelt St south of 13th St, continuing past Clark Park to Dwight Park south of Southern, then going through the park on a new path and turning East onto Manhatton Dr, then south onto Kyrene until reaching Baseline, with a new bike/ped crossing connecting to Kiwanis Park and the Western Canal Multi-Use Path.
The project calls for the first two-way cycle track in Tempe on the east side of Kyrene, between Manhatton Dr and Baseline Rd, made possible by narrowing the existing two lanes from 14-16ft wide to 10-11ft wide. More of those ‘channelized’ separation devices will be installed into the road, but there was no mention of any vertical elements attached to them at this time.
The plan is to also install the ‘channelized’ separation devices along Roosevelt Rd to separate the bike lane from the vehicle traffic lanes.
Farmer is also slated to get some improvements in the way of new signage and sharrows painted on the road.
The city has two surveys open until May 1st and 2nd for these projects, which you can find here for the Grand Canal project and here for the Kyrene project.
If you want to get notified about public meetings and projects like this in the future, the city has a newsletter you can subscribe to here, and you should also make sure you’re subscribed to our newsletter for monthly roundups of the latest news!