The proposed narrowing of Arizona Avenue through downtown Chandler could cut the amount of traffic traveling the roadway each day by up to half.
Chandler officials Thursday held a public open house on a vacant lot southwest of the Arizona Avenue/Buffalo Street intersection to get input from people who live and work in the downtown area about four options the city is considering for the roadway segment between Chandler Boulevard and Pecos Road.
The options range from leaving Arizona Avenue as it is, to emulating Tempe’s tree-lined Mill Avenue. It could remain two lanes in each direction or be narrowed to a single lane of traffic each way.
Jim Phipps, city transportation spokesman, said the existing roadway handles about 32,800 vehicles per day.
Narrowing the lanes would slow down traffic, while widening the sidewalks would help tie the two sides of the street together for pedestrians, officials have said. The intent is to make the downtown more pedestrian friendly, with wide sidewalks, landscaping and shops at ground level.
If the City Council ultimately decides to narrow the street but keep it at four lanes, it could reduce the road’s traffic volume to about 25,000 to 29,000 vehicles per day, Phipps said. Narrowing the roadway to two lanes would reduce Arizona Avenue’s existing traffic by up to half, to between 16,000 and 25,000 per day, he said.
“It means this would be more of a destination place than a drive-through place,” Phipps said of the downtown.
Vaughan Bennett, a consultant with Tristar Engineering, said traffic is expected to shift over to McQueen and Alma School roads, which parallel Arizona Avenue. So far, however, it’s unclear how much additional traffic those streets will be able to handle.
“They will increase in traffic volumes. We really haven’t compiled all the information yet,” Bennett said.
Some downtown business owners who attended the open house found good and bad in the several options. Some objected that reducing the street to a two-lane roadway might be too drastic, considering Chandler’s negotiations with the Crowne Plaza San Marcos Resort, on Buffalo Street west of Arizona Avenue downtown, to build a new $100 million conference center there some time in the future.
Brett Anderson, a partner in the landscaping firm Anderson Barrett, with offices downtown, said he doesn’t mind going down to one lane in each direction. But the city should install bicycle lanes, which are essential in an urban area, he said.
“It’s not friendly right now to ride down here at all,” Anderson said.
Phipps said the total project is budgeted at $73.2 million, for roadway construction and such things as utility upgrades and, potentially, bicycle access. The first phase, between Chandler Boulevard and Frye Road, is slated to be done around the same time as the opening of Chandler’s new $74 million City Hall, east of Arizona Avenue, south of Buffalo Street.
Phipps said portions of the southern segment, from Frye to Pecos roads, could be done in the near-term, and other portions done in the long-term, as revenue permits. The city issued bonds worth $60 million toward the project in 2007, he said.
Other options under consideration for the road involve the installation of landscaped medians and whether to use diagonal or parallel on-street parking.
The roadway improvements are intended to support the city’s long-term plans to redevelop the downtown from the utilitarian commercial corridor it is today into a thriving neighborhood where residents will live above shops, restaurants and offices. Chandler has developed a master plan called the South Arizona Avenue Entry Corridor Study to guide how the district develops in the coming decades.
The area targeted for redevelopment is bounded by Chandler Boulevard, Pecos Road, South Palm Lane and South Delaware Street. The highest, most dense construction would front on Arizona Avenue, then transition downward as it moves out toward adjacent neighborhoods, officials have said.
The city has a number of tools to help redevelopment along, such as grants for property owners to improve their buildings’ facades.