Plans to make downtown Chandler more pedestrian-friendly in part by narrowing a segment of Arizona Avenue could cost up to $1 million more than initially thought, city officials said Tuesday.
The City Council is expected Thursday to vote on awarding a construction contract worth up to $10.6 million to Achen-Gardner Engineering to reduce Arizona Avenue from six lanes to four just south of Chandler Boulevard. The plans also call for improving sidewalks and landscaping, and installing more on-street parking and bicycle lanes between Chandler Boulevard and Frye Road.
A few months ago, city officials estimated that construction would cost about $9.6 million. But new features were added to the plan based on residents' input during a series of public meetings, said Tim Krawzczyk, city project manager.
Downtown businesses also have expressed concern that construction might interfere with customer access and visibility, and have requested that the city alter the construction schedule to include more overnight work, Krawzczyk said.
The City Council is being asked to consider two options regarding the construction schedule. The first would take eight months and cost about $10.2 million. The second would take nine and a half months and cost more than $10.6 million. Either option would be funded through municipal bonds.
Krawzczyk said city staff and downtown businesses prefer the longer schedule because of the increased night work and guarantees to do the work between Buffalo and Boston streets during the slower summer months.
"One contract is shorter in length and costs less. The other takes a little longer and costs a little more," he said. "For the businesses, it is a net positive."
The project, called the South Arizona Avenue Corridor Plan, was adopted by the City Council in 2006. It's aimed at creating a pedestrian-friendly feel to the city's core and a new "front door" into downtown from Loop 202. It's also meant to spur downtown redevelopment, officials have said.
Krawzczyk said construction could begin in January. Officials have said the work is expected to be done by the end of next year, when the new $76 million City Hall under construction at Arizona Avenue and Chicago Street is slated to be done.
Jim Phipps, a city spokesman, said it's common for estimates of construction costs to change as designs become more detailed.
"It was based on a concept," Phipps said of the original cost estimates. "We didn't have hard designs at the time."
Several details suggested by the public contributed to the higher price tag, such as creating an "attractive transition from the streetscape to the building facade" of the new City Hall, adding aesthetic elements to Dr. A.J. Chandler Park, and using energy-conserving lighting, according to Krawzczyk's report to the council.
City officials also want to go ahead and install a traffic light at Chicago Street in front of the new City Hall because the contractor already will be on site, the report states.
Other items in the plans were pruned back, such as a reduction in the use of specialty pavers at two intersections and the elimination of a water feature and a pedestrian node, according to Krawzczyk's report.
In October, members of the city's Planning & Zoning Commission expressed concern that designs to widen sidewalks in the South Arizona Avenue Corridor Plan remained too narrow. Some commissioners felt the planned widening of sidewalks to 15.5 feet in the northern half of the project area - along Arizona Avenue between Chandler Boulevard and Frye Road - could crowd pedestrians and outdoor dining. However, because the City Council already approved the roadway designs in June, it's too late to change the plans, officials have said.
The council had rejected alternative designs that would have created more sidewalk space within the available 100-foot-wide public right of way at the cost of reducing Arizona Avenue to just one lane in each direction. The decision, however, left only 15.5 feet of width for sidewalks in the project's northern half, officials have said.