You might think the traffic-crippling construction projects around downtown Tempe are winding down, but don’t take your foot off the brakes just yet. You’re going to see plenty of red brake lights ahead in the coming months.
Crews have made progress on several of the most disruptive projects, but several new pipeline projects will bring heavy restrictions. The work will restrict congested places like the intersection of University Drive and Mill Avenue and Rural Road close to Loop 202. The work will bring restrictions that last anywhere from a week to several months in a part of Tempe that’s already been dominated with construction for months.
Here’s what to expect:
• Scottsdale Road at Rio Salado Parkway. Drivers will find just one lane per direction at times later this month as workers replace a storm drain that’s too small. The city is putting in a 30-inch pipe that, among other things, will improve the water quality of Tempe Town Lake. The city plans to pump water from the east side of the lake around the larger lake. The excess water is dirtier than water in town lake and has upset the pH balance, which has forced the city to call off or change some swimming events.
• Mill Avenue at University Drive. Drivers won’t be able to make some turns as crews work on waterlines, and the roads may have just one lane in each direction at times starting in January. The intersection’s pavers complicate the project and make it like a giant jigsaw puzzle.
“They wear in a different way so you have to put them back in place where they came from,” said Ron Coleman, a water department employee.
• Scottsdale and Curry roads intersection. Workers expect they’ll have to detour traffic around the intersection while they replace a 60-inch waterline. The equipment is so big that it’s unlikely the city can keep even one lane of traffic in each direction, Coleman said. The city tentatively plans to start work this summer, when Arizona State University isn’t in session and traffic is lighter. The work could take a month.
“Yes, it will likely be disruptive,” Coleman said. “But that’s why we’re planning.”
These projects come as University Drive has been restricted through Arizona State University to replace sewer and waterlines. The heavy restrictions should continue through March, though drivers will find minor restrictions through the summer.
And drivers have suffered through more than a year of restrictions and closures as workers built Metro light-rail tracks through downtown. The downtown work is winding down, said Sue Taaffe, a city spokeswoman.
“The construction should be focused on Apache (Boulevard) in 2007,” Taaffe said.
Drivers complained about the disruption when ASU fall classes resumed, Taaffe said, asking why Tempe would do so many projects at once downtown. The city couldn’t avoid the mess, she said. The rail project had been years in the making and needs to happen now if the system is to open on time in 2008. And ASU’s rapid growth demanded the water and sewer lines now also.