North Central News

Reducing lanes on Central draws concern

By Colleen Sparks
A proposal to reduce part of Central Avenue to one lane in each direction and add a center turn lane and bike lanes is drawing concerns from neighbors, who fear it could cause safety issues and more traffic congestion.

City of Phoenix officials are considering a plan to reduce the number of traffic lanes on Central Avenue from four to two, adding a center turn lane, on the stretch of road between Bethany Home Road and the Arizona Canal. The proposal has drawn concerns from some residents about increased congestion on the street (staff photo).

City of Phoenix officials are considering a plan to reduce the number of traffic lanes on Central Avenue from four to two, adding a center turn lane, on the stretch of road between Bethany Home Road and the Arizona Canal. The proposal has drawn concerns from some residents about increased congestion on the street (staff photo).

The city of Phoenix drew about 500 people to its online/virtual meeting on May 20 to talk about the proposed changes. This proposal would transform Central Avenue from two lanes in each direction to one lane in each direction with a center turn lane between Bethany Home Road and the Arizona Canal (between Northern Avenue and Dunlap Avenue). City officials say center turn lanes help to decrease traffic conflicts by allowing drivers to turn left to wait for a gap. They add that the bike lanes and buffers would provide space for bicyclists while also separating the popular Murphy Bridle Trail from motor vehicle traffic. The changes also would align with the voter-approved Transportation 2050, as well as fit with the city’s Complete Streets policy.

Phoenix officials say Central Avenue already is going to be paved from Bethany Home Road to Northern Avenue this fall and then from Northern Avenue to the Arizona Canal in the spring/summer of 2022. They want to decide after the paving is done how they will restripe the street.

“One of the things we always look at is safety aspects of a four-lane roadway,” Carl Langford, Traffic Operations Engineering Supervisor in the city’s Street Transportation Department, said.

Langford added that research revealed a 47-percent reduction in collisions when streets’ lanes are decreased to two lanes, with one in each direction, and a center turn lane is added, based on national traffic engineering research.

“It does provide dedicated space for people bicycling and turning left,” he added.

Meeting participants were asked to fill out a survey online with multiple choices indicating if the proposed design for Central Avenue meets their priorities and how much it would address their objectives, among other questions. The survey revealed the majority of people said the new design is “very different” from their priorities for the road.

Many residents said during public comment time that they were concerned the new design would create more traffic congestion, would prompt drivers to cut through their neighborhoods to get off Central Avenue and it could cause safety issues for children riding bicycles to schools in the area. A few residents said they frequently ride their bicycles and like the idea of the bike lanes.

“I am an industrial engineer,” said John Hathaway, a resident on east Maryland Avenue. “If you cut the capacity of Central Avenue by 50-percent, those cars still have to go where they have to go. This is a perfect storm.”

Michael Stenner, who lives on east Griswold Road, said drivers already frequently cut through his street, often speeding.

“When are you going to take us serious?” Stenner said. “We have an issue with speeding. We have an issue with too much traffic in rush hours. Come and take a look for yourselves instead of looking at these models.”

Kini Knudson, director of the city’s Street Transportation Department, said officials are unsure about the “level of diversion of traffic” that will occur if this new design is implemented but “there might be greater efficiencies with having a center turn lane.”

“What we try to do is focus on these impacts and what they would do to travel delays on Central,” Knudson said.

A decision on the proposal will be made by fall at the latest. The Street Transportation Department will decide whether to go forward with the changes.

Anyone can answer a survey about the proposed lane changes through 11:59 p.m. on Friday, June 11 by visiting


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One Comment

  1. Jill GoldsmithJune 2021 at 11:55 amReply

    Over 750 North Central residents are alarmed by the proposal and even more upset after the public hearing on May 20. We are submitting an opposition petition that describes the following flaws in the process and objections to the proposal. We are asking everyone to email: to add their names to a petition in the form of a letter to the City leaders. Here are just some of the flaws:
    The proposal was poorly conceived and the City failed to fairly and fully obtain public comment in many ways.
    1. The only limited traffic study was done on Central during COVID (in February, 2021) when Central area schools, churches, preschools, etc. were closed or operating in a limited capacity so the results are not valid.
    2. No study was done, or will be done, to evaluate the impact of the proposed changes to the surrounding streets and neighborhoods, including 7th Avenue and 7th Street and beyond. Significant changes the North Central area without traffic impact studies is irresponsible.
    3. The signs giving notice of the hearing were posted on Central during COVID when fewer people than normal were driving on Central to see it.
    4. Many people struggled to use or download the WebEx technology to attend the meeting.
    5. People without access to computers were unable to attend the meeting.
    6. Many speakers could not be heard during the meeting due to technical issues so their views were not heard.
    7. Two of the questions asking about priorities in the polling questions during the meeting and in the survey are biased and required forced choice answers rather than allowing citizens to express their views.
    8. The survey questions should have simply asked whether a person was in favor of the proposal or not.
    9. Only people who attended the meeting were directed to fill out the survey. While the project website has information about the survey, there is no process to drive citizens to the website to voice their opinion.

    The proposal should be rejected in its entirety for many reasons.
    1. The buses and watering trucks will partially block the only thru lane on Central, impeding the flow of traffic or stopping it altogether.
    2. While the apparent goal is to push traffic off of Central, 7th Street is already at maximum capacity.
    3. Whenever there is an accident or incident on Central, motorists flood the east/west neighborhood streets, and then use 3rd Avenue and 3rd Street to drive north and south. The speed bumps are no match for the influx of traffic that occurs when traffic is diverted off of Central. These streets are not arterial streets. More cars on these streets will transform neighborhoods into unsafe thoroughfares.
    4. The proposal violates the Phoenix Complete Street policy that requires safe bike routes for children. The City acknowledges that it did not design the new bike lanes for children. Third Avenue is the safe bike route that is used by all kids from Northern to Glendale, 7th Ave to Central to get to Madison Meadows and All Saints, using the crossing guard at Glendale. With increased traffic expected on 3rd Avenue, children, who often ride 5 or 6 abreast, will be unsafe.
    5. We do not need more bike lanes. Third Avenue is a safe bike route from the Arizona Canal to Bethany Home where bike commuters pick up the bike lane on Central. Third Avenue is part of the Phoenix Sonoran Bikeway. Recreational road bikers also use the Arizona Canal so more bike lanes are not necessary. The surface of the paths on canal banks are paved or hard packed dirt, which hundreds of road bike enthusiasts use daily.
    6. We need two lanes in each direction because there are thousands of people who must use Central to access their homes, churches, and schools. Specifically,
    a. there are more than 20 streets and small access roads to homes and home/townhouse communities that are only accessible from Central,
    b. there are 6 churches and the Self Realization Fellowship between Bethany Home and Northern, many of which are only accessible from Central,
    c. many homes face Central, which are only accessible from Central Avenue,
    d. 1 restaurant is only accessible from Central Avenue,
    e. many families use Central to access All Saints and Madison Meadows either directly from Central or by turning from Central onto Maryland,
    f. there are preschools, summer camps, and other events that take place at schools and churches that must use Central,
    g. many parents must use Central to access All Saints and Madison Meadows because they live outside of the North Central area and Maryland ends at the 51N,
    h. many people use Central to access Central Avenue schools and churches south of Bethany Home
    i. city and school buses must travel on Central.

    This proposal violates the Phoenix Compete Streets Policy, which requires “projects to be tailored to the specific needs of each community.” Projects must meet the needs of all of the North Central residents, not just a few Central Avenue residents who hope the restriping encourages people to travel in the surrounding area instead. This proposal does not meet the needs of the North Central Community.

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