Light Rail Bridge

Early 20th century – Dams upstream from Mesa restrict flow of the Salt River; the dry riverbed becomes the site of landfills, quarry mines and industrial businesses.

1966 – Dean James Elmore of the College of Architecture at Arizona State University challenges his students to create design concepts using the riverbed. Students design the Rio Salado Project, which proposed a linear green belt with open parks, recreational areas and development along the river.

1969-1974 – As local governments begin to endorse the project, design focuses on a 38-mile-long greenbelt with a series of lakes and streams.

1979 – Tempe Mayor Harry Mitchell forms the Tempe Rio Salado Citizen Advisory Commission, providing citizen input and publicity for the project. The Legislature creates the State Rio Salado Development District.

1985 – A consultant completes the final draft of the Rio Salado Master Plan.

1987 – Maricopa County voters reject a property tax increase to pay for the greenbelt, but Tempe residents favor the idea and Mitchell says Tempe will implement its part of the plan.

1988 – Tempe acquires land on the north side of the riverbed from Salt River Project.

1989 – Tempe has full-time staff devoted to the project and earmarks funds for it.

1996 – Tempe issues requests for qualifications to manufacturers of inflatable dams.

1997 – Construction contracts are issued; groundbreaking for Tempe Town Lake is held on Aug. 8.

1999 – Water from Central Arizona Project starts flowing into the lake. It’s full by July 14 and opens to the public on Nov. 7.

2004 – SRP Town Lake Marina opens on the north bank.

2007 – Tempe Center for the Arts opens on the south bank in September.

July 20, 2010 – One of the eight inflatable dams bursts at 9:44 p.m.; nearly a billion gallons of water gush from the lake. The lake reopens three months later, using temporary dams as Tempe seeks a more permanent dam system.

– The lake is drained again for dam construction and is refilled in April.

–  Source: City of Tempe

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