• Arizona Contractor & Community

Light Rail Hastens I-17 Central Avenue Bridge Replacement

It took a train to help take down one of the oldest freeway bridges in Phoenix.

The Central Avenue Bridge over Interstate 17 is being replaced in a $13.5 million project that is nearing completion this fall. The overpass located south of Downtown Phoenix was constructed in 1962.


“It was nearing the end of its useful life,” according to an Arizona Department of Transportation press release. “The existing vertical clearance of 13 feet, 11 inches over Central Avenue does not meet current design standards, prohibiting high-profile vehicles from using Central Avenue beneath the bridge and cannot accommodate Valley Metro’s future South Central Avenue light-rail line.”


The new I-17 bridge, which features steel girders for added strength to handle the freeway’s large percentage of truck traffic, is wider to accommodate regional plans for additional lanes along the interstate when future funding is available.


Construction started in May 2020 on the new Central Avenue Bridge, which narrowed I-17 to two lanes in each direction to allow for a work zone between Seventh Street and Seventh Avenue.

Work on the new bridge has taken place in stages, which has kept I-17 traffic moving as much as possible. A limited number of full freeway closures have been needed while work has been underway to construct the bridge that will be wide enough to support additional lanes. Motorists have also had to contend with additional closures and temporary lane restrictions for paving and other project work, including installing new lighting.


Last year, the first stage of work involved the demolition of the old southbound half of the I-17 bridge, followed by the construction of an improved steel girder structure. As a result, I-17 traffic was switched to that new section of the bridge earlier this year, allowing the project team to reconstruct the northbound side of the bridge.


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This article originally appeared in the bimonthly Arizona Contractor & Community magazine, Nov/Dec 2021 issue, Vol. 10, No. 6.