Thomas Road makeover to boost safety, image
2 comments by Edward Gately - Jul. 27, 2012 03:30 PM
The Republic | azcentral.com
A bridge across Indian Bend Wash in south Scottsdale will get a dramatic makeover next year as part of a $4 million streetscape project along a portion of Thomas Road.
The project is aimed at making the street safer for pedestrians and cyclists along Thomas Road from 73rd Street to the bridge.
The most striking aspect of the project will be a $137,000 public-art component featuring 8- to 14-foot-tall steel reeds made to look like multicolored grass with seed pods. They will be installed along both sides of the Thomas Road bridge over the wash.
The overall streetscape project includes most of Thomas between the Hayden Road and Scottsdale Road intersections. The bridge is just west of the Hayden intersection.
Construction could be delayed, however, because of a disagreement between the city and Salt River Project over who should pay for replacement of an old irrigation pipe.
The streetscape is one of two projects being initiated by the city to improve safety along Thomas. The other project involves improvements at the Thomas-Hayden intersection.
Thomas-Hayden has ranked as the No. 1 intersection for accidents in Scottsdale annually since 2006, according to city records. The intersection has tallied 29 accidents so far this year, police say.
The streetscape will cost $4 million, including $3.5 million left over from the 2000 bonds approved by voters and $500,000 from the streets department budget. The Thomas-Hayden intersection project will cost $1.3 million, most of which is covered through a federal highway-safety improvement grant.
The first project will be the streetscape, which involves widening Thomas to create bicycle lanes, improved striping, wider sidewalks and a landscape buffer between the sidewalk and street, said Gary Meyer, project manager.
The project will include adding landscaped medians, upgrading the road with rubberized asphalt and installing lower-level pedestrian lighting, he said.
"Safety is the primary issue," Meyer said. "Secondarily, landscape enhancements and public artwork will enhance the aesthetic value of this area. It's a combination, but the primary focus is safety."
Construction could begin in November, and total construction time is 10-12 months, he said. The project will be on hold during spring training to accommodate heavier traffic in the area, he said.
"We won't be closing roads (during construction) but we will have lane restrictions during the course of construction," he said.
A beacon and gateway
The public-art component, titled "Swale," was created by Pennsylvania-based sculptor Stacy Levy. Her website, stacylevy.com, illustrates her public-art works in several parts of the country.
According to Levy's website, "Swale" "creates a pattern like leaves or flames, evoking the flow of the park below and the traffic above." She designed it to be a "beacon" for people below the bridge, and a "gateway" for those crossing the bridge.
"(Levy) looks for sites that give the opportunity to bring the patterns and process of the natural world into the build environment," said Jana Weldon, senior project manager for Scottsdale Public Art. "By focusing on the bridge crossing at Indian Bend Wash, the artist's proposal can give an experience to all modes of transportation -- vehicular, bike and pedestrian -- and become a landmark for the neighborhood."
Scottsdale Public Art, an independent contractor to the city, selected Levy for the project. The city is required to spend 1 percent of its capital projects budget on public art, and while there is no funding requirement for transportation/pedestrian projects, the city chooses to do so in such projects as the Thomas streetscape, Weldon said.
The streetscape originally was to span Thomas from Pima Road to 64th Street, with Levy's art "sprinkled along the whole stretch," she said. The city then scaled the project back with Levy's art only on the bridge, she said.
The $137,000 for "Swale" is included in the $4 million for the overall project, Meyer said. That breaks down to: $100,000 for fabrication and installation; $34,000 in artist's fees, including travel expenses for design, creation of a model, community meetings and presentations; and $3,000 for structural engineering, which did not go to the artist.
Levy's fee is higher than normal because she created two designs, one for the larger stretch and then another for just the bridge with the scaled-down project, Weldon said.
In addition to the art, the bridge will include other features to make it safer for pedestrians and cyclists, Meyer said.
"Currently, the railing is a low barrier meant to keep cars from going off the bridge, but it's not good for pedestrians," he said. "So the project will create a better sidewalk that's raised above street level ... and then a 54-inch-high railing for the safety of pedestrians and cyclists. It adds a more elegant look to the bridge."
Other project elements
The city is in discussions with SRP over who will pay for replacing an old irrigation pipe that will not accommodate the new construction. SRP relies on the pipe to deliver canal water to such customers as El Dorado Park, Coronado High School and Coronado Golf Course for irrigation.
"It's a 30-inch diameter, cast-in-place pipe and the location is such that when we widen the roadway, the curb line will be right on top of this old pipe," Meyer said. "It is not going to stand up to the new construction loads, so it needs to be replaced."
The pipe stretches about a quarter-mile, which is "a significant portion of the project, and it's costly because you have to dig up the old pipe and put in a new, improved pipe and those costs run about $150 per linear foot, including removal and reconstruction," he said.
Patty Garcia-Likens, SRP spokeswoman, said SRP agrees the pipe will need to be replaced.
"The pipe was laid down and constructed prior to Thomas Road, and so for this reason, the city is responsible to pay for those costs to upgrade that section of pipe," she said.
The city's position is "SRP should pay to upgrade their pipe," Meyer said. The cost for replacing the pipe is "approaching $200,000," he said.
Meyer said there should be funding available, if necessary.
In 2014, the city should begin construction on improvements to make the Thomas-Hayden intersection safer for vehicles and pedestrians.
Officer David Pubins, a Scottsdale police spokesman, said the city has tallied 29 traffic accidents so far this year at or around Hayden and Thomas, which includes a 250-foot radius around the intersection.
Private driveways near the intersection, general congestion, the high number of left-turning vehicles in all directions and failure to reduce speed all contribute to making the intersection prone to accidents.
The project will add a second left-turn lane to all four intersection approaches and reconstruct the medians to eliminate some of the existing turns allowed, said Paul Porell, the city's traffic engineering director.
The dual left-turn lanes will allow the traffic-signal phasing for east-west traffic to be changed to fully protected left-turn arrows rather than allowing turns on both arrows and the full green, he said.
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