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Tempe's University Drive to Get a Bike and Pedestrian Makeover in 2013

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More than a decade in the making, a stretch of University Drive in Tempe is finally set to get a makeover that will bring improved bike lanes, sidewalks, public art and landscaping to this roadway that is the western gateway into ASU's Tempe campus.

The City of Tempe's Streets Department released initial plans and calls for public meetings to discuss and outline the renovations that will run between Ash Avenue and Priest Drive. The improvements are funded with $1.1 million in federal grants that the city has secured.

Planners anticipate construction kicking off in the summer of 2013 after additional rounds of public meetings this fall and final city council signoff. The University Drive project is one of four street enhancement projects currently in planning in Tempe.

"We want University Drive to look like its own cool place while also showing influences from its surrounding neighborhoods such as Maple Ash and Mitchell Park," says Eric Iwerson, transit official for Tempe and the project manager. "The goal is to make this part of University Drive much more comfortable for cyclists and pedestrians."

Initial discussions about roadway improvements to this stretch started more than 10 years ago with residents pushing the city to do capital improvement projects.

The project was reintroduced to the community at a public meeting in January because the city had finally secured federal funding.

The new plan calls for new median islands down the center of University and isolated bike lanes separating cyclists from auto traffic between Beck Avenue and Hardy Drive. Public art installations are targeted near Margo Drive on the west end and Farmer Avenue to the east. A call for artist concepts could come in the late fall, after the second public meeting.

"Tempe is an older community as far as the region goes and our roadways have been at or near capacity for nearly sixty years," says Iwerson. "The City of Tempe is now trying to reconfigure its roads, especially arterials such as University Drive, to a current vision of what our roadways should be to bring modal sustainability for the future."

A key demand from residents that the city wants to implement is to ensure easier and safer crossing so that those living on the south side of University can get to Tempe Town Lake and all of its amenities more easily, and those on the north side can get to the parks and the ASU campus. But the primary goal is to create a vibrant multi-modal boulevard that will enhance the neighborhood experience for businesses along University and the residents both along the street and from the neighborhoods behind it.

"Very few arterials are claimed by neighborhoods like University Drive is," says Iwerson. "This enhancement will allow University Drive to be treated as a place, not just a street."

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