Tempe Town Lake may be a diamond in the desert, but for years the south bank's west side looked like bare dirt.
Life came to the area west of the railroad and light-rail bridges with last year's opening of the Tempe Center for the Arts. Now, the city is on the verge of two more additions: an extension of the walking path and a pedestrian bridge over the river.
It's the bridge that will garner most of the attention. When it opens in early 2010, it will be the biggest addition to the lake since the arts center's debut more than two years before. The city is in the final stages of preparation before construction starts in January, city engineer Andy Goh said.
Once this bridge is open, walkers and bicyclists no longer will have to compete with vehicles on Mill Avenue or Priest Drive to get from one side of the river to the other. And once on the south side, they can take the new path west to Priest. That lighted, landscaped trail is scheduled to open next month.
Designing the bridge is T.Y. Lin International. The firm, which has an office on the lake, also designed the segment of Loop 202 over the Salt River from McClintock Drive to the Loop 101 interchange, and the span upon which light-rail trains will cross the river.
When finished, the 1,000-foot span will cross the river atop the lake's west dam piers, with the south end anchored at the doorstep of the arts center. Above the bridge will be a series of intercrossing pipes that not only will support the pathway via cables, but also will hold shade structures ("sun sails") to be illuminated at night.
In engineering terms, this will be a bowstring arch bridge.
Because the bridge will rest on the dam supports, there shouldn't be a problem if the city must replace the four rubber bladders making up the dam, Rio Salado project manager Nancy Ryan said.
On the bridge's north end, there will be a landscaped entry plaza. The south end will look more plain because, as community development official Chris Salomone explained, "We don't need to compete with (the center)."
Another element in the bridge is patterning in the walkway to echo the span's structure.
The total cost of the bridge is $5.7 million, Goh said, with federal grants paying for all but $1.55million. There may be more federal funding if the city is successful in its application for a grant through the Innovative Bridge Research and Deployment Program, which is overseen by the Federal Highway Administration.