Bullard Avenue project pushed back to 2018

Be prepared for another backup on Bullard Avenue — at least in terms of construction to restore the road’s four-lane configuration, adding traffic lights, medians and a cycle track.

This proposed $1.9 million project will be built and managed by the Arizona Department of Transportation. And ADOT’s timeline is about eight months further out than the estimated timeline the city unveiled a year ago.

During the first meeting of the Bullard Avenue Task Force in that year Thursday, city officials revealed that construction should start in May 2018 instead of this September and finish in October 2018 instead of February 2018.

“Now it’s not even going to start until after we thought it would be completed,” Surprise Public Works director Mike Gent said. “It’s an ADOT-managed project so we’re on their timeline. This is how it slotted into their schedule.”

The task force’s original recommendation was for a city-funded project with two “skinny” travel lanes in each direction, partial bike lanes and two traffic signals.

That project would have taken about 14 months, wrapping in around April or May. Without federal money it would have cost the city between $650,000 and $800,000.

It was replaced by the ADOT project, which would use $1.7 million in congestion mitigation air quality funding and no more than $500,000 in city money.

One benefit of the delay in the project is Surprise will have one more period to apply to the Maricopa Association of Governments. Mr. Gent said if the city gets the extra funding it seeks, that would take Surprise’s portion of funding for the whole project to less than 6 percent.

The final design submittal should happen in December. When a contractor comes on board, likely in the next month, the final timeline should come into focus.

“We will know nothing about that until the contractor gets hired in January 2018. Everything we’ll have is estimated timelines until the contractor is on board,” Mr. Gent said.

At the brief meeting Thursday night, task force members discussed what type of physical boundary would separate the road and bicycle lanes. Straight edges, rolled curbs and other types of barriers are available.

Hopes are to finish the Bullard intersections with new traffic signals, Acoma Drive and Sweetwater Road, before the start of the 2018-19 school year. One task force member said the focus of the project shouldn’t jump around.

“I’d start at the north end and work your way south. Otherwise it will be a cluster,” said task force member John Norton.

When Surprise implemented the current Bullard configuration in August 2015, a large public outcry caused several public meetings in southwest Surprise and led to the formation of the 13-member task force.

But with more than a year of data, the stated goal of reducing traffic and speed with more students crossing Bullard has been realized.

Mr. Gent said there are less traffic accidents despite 700 child crossings daily. In nearly 18 months, there have been zero vehicle-pedestrian conflicts.

“Effectively, our road diet reduced the traffic by as much as 1,500 to 2,000 cars a day on average. They’re going to Reems or Litchfield, or a completely different route,” Mr. Gent said. “As far as driver behavior — in the beginning there was confusion. Now there’s some people that ignore the law.”

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