A new pedestrian pathway to campus across University Drive in Tempe is officially underway.
At the city council meeting on Sept. 7, Tempe Mayor Corey Woods signed an intergovernmental agreement with the Arizona Department of Transportation to find prospective contractors to design a new pedestrian underpass. The tunnel will go along College Avenue and under University Drive into the north side of campus. The city council approved the agreement unanimously.
Woods said the pathway would be accessible to cyclists and pedestrians and could include public art, desert landscaping, and access ramps. Woods said the project was signed to deliberately separate cars from cyclists and pedestrians to make Tempe a safer city to travel around.
"I am very excited about is how do you create that kind of actual, formal, hard separation so vehicles have their ability to get to and from where they need to go, but also pedestrians and bicyclists can do the same thing," Woods said.
The project is mainly funded by federal grants through the Federal Highway Administration. Other projects in the city done with federal grants include the Scottsdale Road Bike Lane project in north Tempe and the Grand Canal Connection Project. There may not be a designer for the project until the Spring.
Woods said the design process uses over $1.5 million of federal grants, and the construction of the bridge could receive a grant of around $4.5 million.
Tempe transportation planner Chase Walman said the project was born out of a joint study with both the city and ASU, which showed the need for a pedestrian underpass under University Drive at College Avenue. Walman said the pathway being an underpass is still up in the air, and it could be designed as a pedestrian pathway over University Drive if an underpass is "not feasible." He said this project provides mutual benefits for drivers and pedestrians.
"We'll want to make this underpass ADA accessible and provide the opportunity in this high volume intersection for pedestrians to not have to wait for any lights so they can commute directly across the University Drive," Walman said. "It provides for a higher level of service for vehicles as well because no longer will these vehicles have to wait for the pedestrian movement to go across the University Drive."
Walman said the city and the eventual designers will collect data and feedback from property owners along College Avenue, including ASU and the All Saints Catholic Newman Center, over the next year. Once all the feedback is collected, the project will be shown to residents. He said it's a "complex project."
"We want to get as much public outreach as possible," Walman said.
Walman said the city is prioritizing all kinds of transportation as the city grows, "not just one mode."
"This underpass will provide a higher level of service for all modes of transportation," Walman said. "This project is really going to enable a higher level of service to provide more efficient travel for pedestrians and vehicles at the intersection."
The project is designed with the Vision Zero goal, where Woods said the city aims to eliminate traffic-related injuries and fatalities. Woods also said the city is in communication with ASU to ensure student safety on and off campus.
"We want to make sure that they arrive to class safe, that they arrive home safe every day, that they get back home to their families during breaks," Woods said.
Edited by Alysa Horton, Walker Smith and Caera Learmonth.
Correction: An original version of this story said the construction of the pathway could cost $4.5 billion instead of being built with a grant of $4.5 million and said the project was a part of Vision Zero. The story was updated at 9:40 a.m. on Wednesday Sept. 27 to reflect the error.
Shane Brennan is the Editor-in-Chief at The State Press. He was a sports and politics reporter, before becoming the editor of the politics desk. He has covered local and state politics for the Arizona Capitol Times and Cronkite News.