The Arizona Department of Transportation has again delayed the opening the 32nd Street Interchange and the multi-use path along the South Mountain Freeway.
And just because the new opening date is Oct. 30 doesn’t mean ADOT is playing trick or treat.
“Previously we projected Monday, Oct. 19, as the opening date for both areas,” ADOT spokesman Tom Herrmann said. “Because of unanticipated delays, both are now scheduled to open Friday, Oct. 30. As always, schedules are subject to change because of unforeseen situations.”
Until the shared-use path and interchange are open, both areas are active construction zones, he said, adding, “For everyone’s safety, no one should use the shared-use path at this time.”
But it might be just as well that the path remains closed.
A leader of the cycling community who has been working with ADOT said the agency still must address a number of issues along the 6-mile path that impact the safety of bikers and pedestrians who will use it.
Those issues are important, said cyclist Joe Struttmann, because of the interest people already have shown in the path.
While ADOT wants people to stay off it, Struttmann said many cyclists have been taking an early spin and that “I think it’s going to be a bigger attraction than we even expected.”
Struttman has raised a number of issues like adequate signage, the timing of signals for path pedestrian and cycling traffic as it crosses 32nd Street, a dropoff as steep as four inches from the path’s surface to the adjacent berm, reports of water pooling on the path’s surface near 32nd Street and the need for more signage around a barrier near 17th Avenue to ensure cyclists don’t accidentally wind up on a freeway exit ramp.
“It has now been over seven weeks since we have heard from your team acknowledging our inquires, or been provided a status of the path elements that remain to be finalized or installed,” Struttmann wrote ADOT Senior Engineer Robert Samour last week.
“The revised opening date of 10/30 is rapidly approaching, so we are requesting an updated status to avoid any additional safety issues or surprises for the users, due to any misunderstandings.”
Although ADOT has not replied, Struttmann and other cyclists have been working for months with the agency to address construction details along the multipurpose path.
That and the 32nd Street Interchange are the remaining pieces of the $1.7 billion freeway, which opened in December and connects the Chandler and 59th Avenue interchanges of I-10.
The 6-mile multiuse path is open to nonmotorized vehicles and pedestrians and is likely to quickly become a mecca for cyclists across the Valley.
For years, bicyclists across the Valley flocked to Pecos Road, which was considered a premiere training facility where they could cruise up and down hills while reaching speeds of up to 40 mph.
The path is accessible at each freeway cross street, including 40th, 32nd and 24th streets, Desert Foothills Parkway and 17th Avenue.
Struttmann hopes ADOT addresses some of his concerns before the end of the month, but added there are longer term issues that also will need to be resolved.
“The facility is coming up pretty nicely overall,” he said, “but, yeah, there are definitely safety concerns."