By Adrian Marsh
Motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists could potentially be safer when the city of Phoenix Street Transportation Department implements a new project beginning next year.
City of Phoenix officials and community members gathered Feb. 15 at Madison Camelview Elementary School to review and comment on the 20th Street Improvement Project, which intends to improve transportation infrastructure along 20th Street between Glendale Avenue and the Grand Canal.
This was the first public outreach event for the pre-design phase of the project, according to Mark Melnychenko, deputy director of the Street Transportation Department’s Planning and Programming Division.
“It will help pedestrians, the area and it will also reduce speeds and safety concerns for all modes,” he said.
The project, estimated to cost up to $3 million, has two phases. Phase I focuses on the Grand Canal to Missouri Avenue, and Phase II targets Missouri Avenue to Glendale Avenue.
According to the city of Phoenix website, the proposed improvements for the project include: Shared-use pathways; bike lanes with delineators or landscape barriers; and new sidewalks with accessible ADA accessible wheelchair ramps.
Melnychenko added phase I is projected to take off in 2019, while Phase II is proposed for funding in 2021 or 2022.
Melnychenko said traffic lanes will not be taken away, but narrowed in certain areas for greater cyclist protection along already existing bikes lanes.
Another goal of the 20th Street Improvement project is to create a network of bicycle and pedestrian low-stress routes, according to Melnychenko. He explained that the department has a project involving Piestewa Park that connects to the Grand Canal, which further connects to a multi-use project running from the Interstate 17 to Tempe.
These projects are intertwined with the Oak Street Project, which runs over to Third Street, he added.
Joseph Perez, bicycle coordinator for the city of Phoenix, said bike lanes, crosswalks and medians are helpful in improving safety and encouraging people to walk and bike.
“It’s a really thrilling plan because it will, in my opinion, make 20th Street more pedestrian and bicycle-friendly,” he said.
Perez said he has ridden his bike in the 20th Street area quite a bit and by having these amenities available, it makes for a better, healthier and more attractive city.
Paul Sheldon, a 35-year Phoenix resident, lives on 20th Street and Weldon Avenue. He said he doesn’t think there is enough people that rides bikes for the project to make much of a difference. “I think it’s a complete waste of money,” he said. “I think there’s other things they could use the money for.”
However, he did say the infrastructure changes might force people to slow down, which he noted is an issue in the area.
“ I think everybody notices that people in the city of Phoenix drive like maniacs,” Sheldon pointed out.
On the other hand, Caroline Davies said she is excited about the project. Davies, who lives on 20th Street and Maryland Avenue, said she found out about the project two weeks ago through an e-mail. “It feels like bikers are always the last people to be taken into account in Phoenix.”
Davies said she takes notice of the dangerous bike paths, which she uses only when she needs to. “I think it’s a good step forward, and I hope enough of the voices of the bikers do get heard because I know that they typically don’t seem to get represented.”
The public can find more information on the 20th Street Improvement Project, and future public meetings, at https://www.phoenix.gov/streets/projects.