A third lane has been added to the design of the two-lane Chandler Boulevard Extension, easing concerns about motorists’ safety along the impending roadway.
But even as they hailed the city Streets Transportation Department’s concession, both Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio and Village Planning Committee Chairman Chad Blostone conceded that the addition does not resolve all the concerns for the new road.
The 1.2-mile stretch between 27th and 19th avenues will connect the two ends of Chandler Boulevard, and become a permanent part of Ahwatukee’s street grid.
About 30 feet wide and bordered by South Mountain Park to the north and state trust land to the south, the east-west extension originally was to be a two-lane highway with bike paths on either side. The city is hoping to complete the $11.5-million project next summer, and work is expected to begin soon.
“The community got a big win,” said DiCiccio, who had been pressuring city streets officials to revise their plan after Blostone in August questioned the wisdom of having a two-lane connector between four lanes of Chandler Boulevard on either side of it.
“We caught it early enough because of Chad,” DiCiccio said. “The way this was originally planned was not going to be safe or in the best interests of the public.”
DiCiccio credited Blostone’s dogged pursuit of the issue, noting that the planning panel head had repeatedly raised questions about the original plan.
As it stands now, the middle lane will be available only for emergency vehicles in the event of a collision.
The city in August told the planning committee that current traffic flow didn’t warrant four lanes, even with the impending addition of more than 140 homes in the area.
It said that two lanes could accommodate 18,000 vehicle trips per day and that there were only about 4,000 vehicle trips a day in that area. Officials also said that if the state land along the road is one day developed, the city would consider building two more lanes then.
Blostone expressed mixed feelings about the resolution of his concerns.
“It's unfortunate we couldn't get ADOT or the city to build the five lanes now,” he said. “I still believe it's the right thing to do.
“But, we've removed the safety issue created by what was initially planned and approved. An accident on the Chandler Boulevard Extension won't block access to the Foothills Reserve and Calebrea neighborhoods. The likelihood of a head-on collision has been reduced significantly, too. Both very good things,” he added.
DiCiccio said the addition of the center lane will require negotiations with the State Land Department for some of its land along the southern rim of the new road. He said he did not expect any problem in those talks.
Streets Department spokeswoman Monica Hernandez said that the additional lane will not affect the city’s construction schedule and that officials have not yet determined how much it would add to the project’s cost.
City officials apparently had considered adding the center lane at the expense of the planned bike paths on either side.
But DiCiccio said, “We told them that’s a straight mile. Cyclists will be on that road whether there is a path or not, and we have to have a safe place for them.”
The extension will provide the only way in and out for an estimated 800 households in several nearby communities – Foothills Reserve, Calabria and the under-construction Agave Heights Discovery Collection by Taylor Morrison.
Hernandez said the city had asked the Arizona Department of Transportation for money to build “both halves of the roadway,” but was turned down.
The city is implementing its Transportation 2050 plan, spending some of the $16.7 billion in additional revenue that a 0.3 percent sales tax increase approved by voters in 2015 is projected to generate over the next two decades.
Mayor Greg Stanton said Ahwatukee arterial streets would benefit from new pavement being added to a total 680 miles of major roadways in Phoenix, a reduction in the maintenance cycle for streets from 66 to 33 years, 1,080 miles of additional bike lanes, 135 miles of new sidewalks, 2,000 new street lights and $240 million in major street improvements.
But nowhere in the plan is there a mention of the Chandler Boulevard Extension.