Pedestrian Underpass Approved Across University Drive by Tempe City Council
By Arielle Nelson, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism
The Tempe City Council voted unanimously on Sept. 7 at a city council meeting to move forward with the design of an underpass along College Avenue and across University Drive.
The total cost of the design is $1,561,379. If construction is approved, the underpass would connect the Arizona State University sports venues, the ASU Tempe campus, the Tempe Transportation Center, and Downtown Tempe. The design will include stairs, American with Disabilities Act-compliant ramps, art, a terraced plaza, shaded sitting areas, safety lighting, security cameras, drinking fountains, and desert landscaping.
Chase Wallman, the principal planner of the Engineering and Transportation Department of the City of Tempe, who has been with the city since 2016, is in charge of the design. He oversees transportation demand strategies and larger capital improvement projects from their preliminary design to their final construction.
According to Wallman, the project started out as a joint study between the City of Tempe and ASU in 2019. The study looked at three different crossing locations and found that the College Avenue and University Drive intersection had one of the highest pedestrian volumes.
“So, the goal of the project will be to separate pedestrians and vehicles. Instead of a pedestrian waiting on a light, it’ll provide an opportunity to have a direct connection across University Drive without having to wait for the signal,” said Wallman
The project, which aims to improve the safety of pedestrians and the flow of traffic, could benefit many ASU students, who make up just around 49 percent of Tempe’s population.
Ryan Paslecznik, a junior at ASU, uses a variety of transportation methods to get around Tempe. Before Paslecznik had a car, he used to ride his bike or walk from class to class. He believes that an underpass could benefit students.
“I noticed that there are a lot of students that are just constantly crossing the streets needing to get from one point to another,” he said. “I think with this underpass, what it’s going to do is, you're going to see more students use it, and you’re not going to see as many of them, you know, just walking the streets per se.”
Paslecznik also thinks the underpass could help students save time walking from class to class.
“Sometimes if you’re waiting at a stoplight and you’re waiting to cross the street, but there’s a bunch of cars that are just driving by, you know, you wouldn’t have to wait as long,” he said.
According to Wallman and TaiAnna Yee, the City of Tempe’s Public Information officer, the project is still in its preliminary phase, and the city of Tempe is a long way away from finalizing the project and beginning construction.
“Later on, in the summer or fall next year, is when we’re actually beginning public outreach on the final design,” said Wallman. “The final design could take anywhere between probably 12 to 18 months, depending on the complexity of the project.”
With support from the Tempe City Council, the underpass has the potential to improve the flow of traffic and reduce issues involving pedestrians and vehicles.
“The proposed College Avenue underpass at University Drive is an important project that will provide a safer connection between ASU and downtown Tempe,” Tempe Mayor Corey Woods said. “This intersection sees some of the highest pedestrian traffic in the city. Anything we can do to minimize conflicts between vehicles and pedestrians while improving traffic flow for all involved is a win-win.”