Tempe is about to unleash the most disruptive parts of some ongoing construction projects this summer.
The city will severely narrow several intersections for weeks at a time, timing the projects to take advantage of the drop in traffic once Arizona State University classes adjourn for the summer.
The first big restriction starts May 14 at Apache Boulevard and McClintock Drive. Drivers won’t be able to go straight on McClintock Drive so workers can lay Metro lightrail tracks down the middle of Apache.
The work will last two weeks. The city could have built the tracks across the intersection in stages to make it less disruptive, but that would have made the project drag on longer.
“What we hear from businesses for the most part is: Get in and get it done as fast as you can instead of dragging it out,” said Amanda Nelson, a city transportation spokeswoman.
The city did the same thing this winter while building Metro tracks across Rural Road. This project is the last extensive intersection closure in Tempe for track construction.
The city will use the quicker-is-better approach for another project at Scottsdale and Curry roads. The city is replacing a 42-inch water line with a 60-inch pipe to accommodate planned growth in the area, and needs to close part of the intersection starting July 9.
The work will take three weeks but could stretch to five if workers run into unmapped utility lines, said Don Hawkes, Tempe’s water utilities manager.
The city could have allowed more traffic to flow by staging the project differently, Hawkes said, but that would have stretched out the work over 10 weeks.
Drivers won’t be able to go straight through the intersection on either road. They’ll have to make right turns instead. However, southbound Scottsdale Road will dead-end at the intersection, so Scottsdale will only be open to local traffic south of McKellips Road.
About 47,000 vehicles a day pass Curry on Scottsdale Road. Curry carries about 14,000 vehicles a day.
This summer will bring an end to a year-long project on University Drive to replace water and sewer lines. Most of that work is done, but the city needs to replace brick pavers at the intersection of Mill Avenue and University after replacing pipes there.
Officials could have fixed this earlier but decided to wait for ASU’s summer break, said Ron Coleman, a water department employee.
Crews will restrict the intersection to one lane in each direction from May 14 to May 25. Workers will only replace pavers torn out for the water line work, which is far more complicated than just paving with asphalt.
Because the pavers don’t wear evenly, the city had to number and map each paver and reinstall it in the same place to ensure a smooth ride.
“It’s a jigsaw puzzle,” Coleman said.