The City of Flagstaff is concluding the design phase for the $7.4 million Beulah/University roadway project -- putting the project on track to begin construction in spring.
During last Tuesday's meeting, the Flagstaff City Council was shown the latest design. Since the council last discussed the project, new safety features for bicycle and pedestrian commuters have been added.
The project will bring a quarter mile of new road, a roundabout connecting Beulah Avenue and University Drive, and a pedestrian undercrossing beneath Milton Road.
The new roadways also serve to remedy the current disconnect on either side of Milton Road -- an improvement city officials say is not only vital to reducing congestion, but also making the streets safer.
“That intersection is one of the more accident-prone places in the city, and we have known this for more than 20 years,” City Engineer Rick Barrett said.
Once the final touches are added to the roadway designs, Council will revisit the matter in early spring to award a construction contract. Crews could break ground on the project as soon as May, Barrett said.
The news comes after the council requested in June that better safety features be included for bicycle and pedestrian commuters, such as removing the on-street bikeways in favor of separated bike lanes.
Updated plans presented to the council included 6-foot sidewalks, 3.5- to 5-foot parkways, signalized crosswalks and separated bike lanes. The new stretch of Beulah leading into the roundabout also features a 15-foot landscaped median.
The roundabout has perhaps seen the most changes since the last council discussion in June, while retaining previous features such as dedicated bus lanes. It now adds shared-use paths for bike and pedestrians with a raised crosswalk, which officials say will have a calming effect on traffic.
“I would like to thank you for putting safety at the forefront of this, and what an amazing project for our community,” Councilmember Miranda Sweet said.
Another roundabout was considered at the Milton and University intersection per the council's request, but after conducting a traffic study, it was left out of the project’s final plans due a significant impact on the current design.
As Barrett mentioned, the roadway project itself dates back more than 20 years, when in 2000 the city passed a transportation tax to extend Beulah Boulevard and realign University Avenue.
The city eventually collected $7.375 million from the tax to pay for the road realignment and the new connection.
But in order to realign University Avenue, the former Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) campus to the east of the Milton intersection needed to be demolished and relocated.
In 2014, the City of Flagstaff formally entered a three-way public-private partnership with developer Vintage Partners and ADOT to relocate the motor vehicle campus to the former Harkins building.
That first phase of the agreement has since been completed, creating space for the University realignment and the construction of the roadway project to begin.
As per the agreement, Vintage Partners now owns the land from the former ADOT building as well as an adjacent parcel and will collaborate with the city to complete the roadway project.
Vintage Partners is responsible for seeing that the pedestrian undercrossing is completed simultaneous to the roadway improvements. The undercrossing is a stipulation in the agreement that allows for a future housing development planned by the developer.
That development has been known as Mill Town throughout the project, a planned 1,200-bed student housing complex on the land to the northwest of the Milton and University intersection.