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www.SanTanSun.com Community Commentary Dichotomy of intersection construction


by R. J. Zeder, director of Chandler’s Transportation & Development Department


It has been 10 years since Chandler’s Transportation & Development Department began an ambitious program of widening the congested intersections in the City’s more mature north side. As the person ultimately responsible for such projects, I’d like to say two things; I apologize and, you’re welcome. The dichotomy of these statements speaks to the dual


nature of these challenging projects: the negative impacts their construction can have on commuters, pedestrians and surrounding


businesses, and the positive outcomes of improved access, reduced congestion and fewer accidents. These competing natures will once again exhibit themselves in early 2012 when the intersection of Alma School Road and Ray Road will be reconstructed. The genesis of our intersection improvement program was a transportation study performed


in 2000 as part of a comprehensive update of Chandler’s 1993 Transportation Plan. The City’s population had exploded during this period from 107,000 to 187,000, putting more cars on our streets, many of them heading to work or school, or to grocery stores, shopping centers and strip malls surrounding our major intersections. The prohibitive cost of purchasing the right-of-way necessary to widen entire streets in


the City’s already developed areas lead to a study recommendation of widening only the intersections. It was determined that the addition of a third through-lane, combined with a second left turn lane and dedicated right turn lane, could increase a roadway’s capacity by nearly 5,000 vehicles per day. Using a prioritization process involving factors such as current and future traffic volumes,


delay times and accident rates, the City identified 10 intersections to be widened. The Alma School Road/Ray Road intersection will be the eighth intersection widened since the initial project occurred in 2001. A 2009 analysis of accident numbers at the seven intersections widened under the intersection improvement program showed an average reduction in accidents of 42 percent. The relocation of privately owned underground utilities such as telephone, natural gas, cable and electric is an important part of every reconstruction project. Many of our early


intersection projects had this activity occurring concurrently with the City’s reconstruction of the intersection. However, the presence of multiple contractors in a confined area resulted in coordination and construction challenges that often caused delays. For this reason, underground utilities owned by Salt River Project, Arizona Public Service Company, CenturyLink, Southwest Gas and others are now being relocated prior to the City’s project. If you’ve followed the news recently, you may have read where this activity unfortunately interrupted telephone, data and water service to several businesses at the Alma School/Ray Road intersection. For this I truly apologize. We are working with the private utility companies to eliminate, or limit as much as possible, such occurrences in the future. As you might imagine, underground excavation is fraught with unknowns, no matter how much pre-planning you do. One issue that came to light was the importance of calling the City’s project hotline whenever a service interruption or other construction-related concern arises. Several businesses called their service provider, but not the City, even though they possessed the hotline number. Had the City known about the service interruptions, we could have helped coordinate with the contractor and utility company to resolve the problem quickly. Learning from this experience, we have redoubled our efforts to educate business owners


and the public about the project hotline (602-697-9566), project website (www.almaschoolray. com), and weekly e-newsletter established to provide updated information, address concerns and keep stakeholders informed. Additionally, we are in the process of implementing an advertising program to promote the businesses surrounding the intersection once the widening project commences. In addition, we are designing temporary wayfinding signs for placement around the intersection to help customers navigate the construction zones. These colorful signs will prominently display individual business names and direct vehicles to driveways closest to the listed businesses. So as the New Year approaches, and in keeping with the custom of making resolutions, I


vow to do everything I can to make this eighth intersection improvement project the best ever. Your support of the businesses at this intersection is appreciated, as is your patience and understanding during the construction.


Opinion


December 3 - 16, 2011 37


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