Bottleneck Bridge

Southbound traffic merges from two lanes of South Fourth Street into a single lane to cross the pair of bridges over Interstate 40 Thursday afternoon.

Jake Bsacon, Arizona Daily Sun

The Flagstaff City Council gave the go-ahead to begin work on an agreement with the Arizona Department of Transportation to widen and lengthen the Fourth Street overpass of I-40 at its meeting Wednesday night.

The bridge project is expected to cost about $9 million --  $1 million for design and $8 million for actual construction, Community Development Director Mark Landsiedel said. The city has decided to take on $5 million of the expense, with ADOT to fund the other $4 million.

The city’s portion of the cost, should the council and ADOT come to a consensus on an intergovernmental agreement, would be funded through the city’s transportation tax. When the tax was approved, there were four major projects that were included, and the Fourth Street overpass of I-40 was one of the major parts, he said.

Landsiedel said the city has previously applied for a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant for the project, but has not yet been chosen to receive one. However, a partnership with ADOT on the project might improve the city’s chances with the grant, he said.

ADOT has said the portion of Interstate 40 beneath the existing bridge will eventually need to be widened to six lanes, Landsiedel said. Lengthening the bridge before the freeway is widened would work in the department’s favor and prevent future reconstruction of Fourth Street.

In April, Flagstaff city Manager Josh Copley sent a letter to the Arizona State Transportation Board proposing the partnership. In the letter, Copley noted that the state was preparing to spend $1.8 million to repair the bridge, and said the partnership could save money on repairs by replacing and widening the bridge.

In the letter, Copley said the bridge creates a bottleneck when Fourth Street goes from five lanes down to two, which creates a dangerous situation for drivers trying to merge.

“The bridge has no accommodations for pedestrians and bicyclists,” Copley wrote. “Students from nearby schools continue to utilize the bridge despite the absence of sidewalks and bike lanes. Conditions are bad and will get worse.”

In June, the council approved the budget, which included the $5 million that would be used for this project. Landsiedel said the city and ADOT would also split the cost of the design, but said the city had enough money in fund balance to “front” the money to ADOT for the design, then receive “credit” for that money toward the actual construction cost.

The city is asking the state to have the design work on the bridge begin in 2018 and have actual construction begin by 2020, Landsiedel said.

Councilman Scott Overton said he was glad to see the project make progress after being discussed for years, and he was ready to see the bridge construction get moving.

Landsiedel said the next step in the process will be working with ADOT staff to create an intergovernmental agreement solidifying the details of the project, and he hoped to have it back to the council in the fall for consideration.

The reporter can be reached at cvanek@azdailysun.com or 556-2249.

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Corina Vanek covers city government, city growth and development for the Arizona Daily Sun.

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