Some of the potential projects included in the 2015 COMPASS Study of Grand Avenue were already planned elsewhere or dovetailed with needs in that area — see the ADOT Grand Avenue/Bell Road interchange project in Surprise.
Other proposals for improving traffic flow along Grand have since been met by practical concerns at a local level and will need to be revamped or scrapped altogether. Concepts to change all four Grand Avenue intersections in Sun City fall into this category.
The study’s proposed grade separations at the intersections of 99th, 103rd, 107th and 111th avenues are under scrutiny in the coming months. The Maricopa Association of Governments commissioned the US-60/Grand Avenue — Sun City Implementation Study in the fall to look at Grand Avenue intersections from 91st Avenue in Peoria to Thunderbird/Thompson Ranch in El Mirage.
“What you have in that area is a large population of ‘seasoned’ citizens, a large number of whom live south of Grand Avenue. Meanwhile, the medical facilities are north of Grand Avenue. So we don’t want to affect response times,” said Youngtown Mayor Michael LeVault, chairman of MAG in 2014-2015.
The COMPASS study proposed 99th, 103rd and 111th avenues going over Grand and 107th Avenue going under Grand. Upon taking these proposals to Sun City boards and Youngtown officials, at least three caused major concerns and are unlikely to proceed.
Jim Powell, chairman of the SCHOA Roads and Safety Committee, said the Sun City Fire Department in particular spoke against a grade separation at 103rd Avenue that would change access from Grand Avenue to Banner Boswell Memorial Hospital. SCFD also has a station just south of Grand on 111th Avenue and another a bit further south of Grand on 99th Avenue.
Mayor LeVault said the 111th Avenue proposal is also problematic for Youngtown, since it envisions the southbound exit at 113rd Avenue as a relief for traffic now exiting at 111th. He said 113th, which accesses a QuikTrip, Best Western and a Youngtown neighborhood, could not handle the additional traffic.
“I don’t believe it’s going to be configured that way,” Mayor LeVault said. “(The proposed Sun City grade separations) would create all kinds of negative consequences, in my opinion.”
The MAG Sun City Implementation Study received proposals from qualified consultants through Nov. 22. MAG is expected the begin the study for no more than $150,000 in the first quarter of 2017.
Movement of emergency vehicles around the Boswell campus and surrounding areas is mentioned as a priority several times in the proposal document.
Bob Hazlett, project manager of the COMPASS Study for MAG, said the upcoming implementation study is a way to step back from the vision for improving traffic flow on Grand Avenue laid forth in the COMPASS study can fit in with the public safety and commercial needs of the avenues that branch off Grand.
“It has to be flexible. This is what we thought would work and thought would make sense. We need to step back and receive opinions on what works and what makes sense,” Mr. Hazlett said.
One grade separation proposal in Peoria factors into this new study. City of Peoria Traffic Engineer Jamal Rahimi said the grade separation proposed at 91st Avenue would see that road pass over Grand with a traffic signal up top.
When completed, northbound traffic on Grand would not have a stop light at the intersection. Other than some concerns about access to Valley of the Sun RV Park, the city of Peoria has no qualms about the proposal on 91st Avenue.
“91st and Grand is a very congested location so we need to see some improvements there,” Mr. Rahimi said.
He said this is the lone proposed project along Grand in Peoria that he thinks might come to fruition in the next decade, owing to its inclusion in the Sun City Implementation Study. Other ideas in Peoria are more than a decade off.
Two proposals in Glendale are also further down the road in terms of approval, funding and construction.
“At this time, we are not aware of any funding programmed for design or construction of any improvements recommended by the COMPASS within the City of Glendale boundaries,” said Patrick Sage, Glendale transportation planner.
Similar treatment is proposed for two intersections in the city in the study. The primary goal of the COMPASS project was to devise ideas to improve traffic flow on Grand, typically by removing or reconfiguring intersections or
At both the intersections of 67th and Northern avenues and 51st Avenue and Bethany Home Road with Grand, the study proposes a more direct intersection for the two other streets a bit south of Grand.
At Northern and 67th, this new intersection would have its own traffic signal and Grand would not. Connections to and from Grand would be away from the current intersection with the other streets going over Grand.
The proposal at 51st and Bethany Home is similar. However, a new traffic signal on Grand is proposed west of the current signal and would have a side road connecting Grand to 51st Avenue.
In regard to both intersections, Mr. Sage said Glendale is supportive of evaluating different alternatives to improve traffic flow and safety at all intersections, and city staff reviewed the COMPASS recommendations and provided comments to MAG.
“The Final Recommendations generally reflect the City’s technical input regarding future improvements to the project corridor within Glendale, with the understanding that all future improvements as depicted are conceptual. Any projects moving forward will require the completion of additional planning, detailed design, and environmental studies, as stated in the “disclaimer” accompanying the recommendations in the COMPASS memorandum, and must include close coordination with city staff and a substantive public involvement process,” Mr. Sage said.
Whatever projects remain in Sun City, Glendale and Peoria may have the same gestation period since most COMPASS study projects did not — and do not — have a dedicated funding source. Conversely, Surprise is already seeing traffic flow changes from a completed and an almost- complete project included in the study.
These are the two major ADOT projects, the bridge at Loop 303 and Grand Avenue and the Bell/Grand interchange. The completion of the Bell Road bridge should reduce delays on the city’s main artery and once a realigned Grand is completed and provided ramps to access Bell, it will be the first large scale COMPASS Study project completed to improve traffic flow on Grand.
Another construction project in Surprise, while not on Grand Avenue itself, has some ties to the study.
“The West-MEC project near Dysart and Grand is underway, and the signal to provide access to their project will be retained and activated as part of opening that campus. Additionally, the West-MEC project will close two access points along Grand adjacent to their site,” said Surprise Deputy City Manager Nicole Lance.
Ms. Lance said the city is in the design phase for the Grand Avenue pedestrian access control project, which includes pedestrian controls and a pedestrian plaza to provide aesthetics improvements.
She said the pedestrian design project addresses missing pedestrian access to the north of Bell/Grand and in the area around the Original Town Site including items like bike lanes, a multi-modal path, taking the drainage channel underground, identifi cation of future transit stops and the limitation of vehicle and pedestrian conflicts.
In Surprise, and throughout Grand Avenue’s southbound course through the Valley, the highway is littered with curb cuts for businesses and side streets. A major goal of the COMPASS Study was to recommend doing away with many of these spots for people to turn off to transform the flow of traffic into something more comparable to a parkway than an arterial street.
“Probably the biggest impact will be removing those side streets that now enter onto Grand,” Mr. Powell said.
Mr. Rahimi said not all of the access points recommended for elimination will make sense as municipalities try to balance improving travel with commercial necessity. Projects further south of 91st Avenue in Peoria and murkier and likely more than a decade away, he said. Unless grants or federal funding materializes, this applies to pedestrian bridges over Grand proposed near Peoria High School and in between 83rd and Peoria avenues.
Neither bridge, Mr. Rahimi said, is in the city’s 10year Capital Improvement Project plan.
Futher south and further into the future is what he called a “complex intersection,” at 75th, Olive and Grand avenues. The plan would leave Olive Avenue elevated above Grand, elevate Grand over the railroad tracks, and add two new signals to bypass the interchange.
Peoria is opposed to one COMPASS Study proposal, namely removing the traffic signal at 85th Avenue and Grand and replacing it with a new signal at 89th. Mr. Rahimi said the study group believed the light at 85th was unnecessary with signals at both 83rd and Peoria avenues.
“To us, 85th is used heavily for access to the City Hall campus and by residents,” Mr. Rahimi said.