Amended design revealed for Roosevelt Street

The city of Phoenix's new plans narrow Roosevelt Street to three lanes including a middle turn lane, widen sidewalks significantly and add bicycle lanes. (Rendering courtesy of the city of Phoenix)

The city of Phoenix revealed an amended plan to redesign a portion of Roosevelt Street Thursday at Bioscience High School during its second public meeting about the project.

The current plan will narrow the street from four to three lanes — a westbound lane, an eastbound lane and a center turn lane — and will significantly widen sidewalks and add a lane for bicycle traffic in each direction.

As the plan stands now, the car lanes will be 10 feet wide, the bike lanes will be five feet wide, and the sidewalks will be 20 feet wide. Construction is scheduled to begin in May 2014 and end the following September.

The Roosevelt Row Pedestrian Project has been in progress since 2005, when the street was re-striped between Central Avenue and Fourth Street. It began as a community initiative to make that section of Roosevelt Street more pedestrian-friendly, said Kerry Wilcoxon, a traffic engineer for the city of Phoenix.

“The community has been giving a lot of great ideas, and some of them have worked better than others,” Wilcoxon said. “We’re going to do our best to make this project as open to response as possible, but there are some constraints we have to conform to.”

Wilcoxon said that although the community’s requests from the first public meeting for bike lanes and a wider sidewalk had been met in the design, others, like parallel parking spots to create a barrier between automobile and pedestrian traffic, are not in the plans because property owners did not approve.

The proposed design allows for sidewalks to be 20 feet wide. (Rendering courtesy of the city of Phoenix)

Community advocate Sean Sweat said the lack of parallel parking is one of the plan’s weaknesses.

“There are surface lots everywhere, but the surface lots will go away with development. There are garages, but they’re for long-term parking,” Sweat said. “Parallel parking is key to having short-term, visible parking.”

Downtown resident Will Novak said that without parallel parking to provide a barrier, the bike lanes should be widened from five to six feet, which could be accomplished by narrowing the proposed sidewalks.

“The 20-foot sidewalks are too big,” Novak said. “They’re a good width for Michigan Avenue in Chicago or 5th Avenue in New York, but we don’t really need something that wide here.”

Another suggestion not met in the plan is the sharpening of street corners at intersections between Central Avenue and Fourth Street. The suggestion, brought up at the previous public meeting, was intended to encourage foot traffic.

But such a measure would have the opposite effect, Wilcoxon said.

“If you have corners that are too tight, you can and do get cars and large trucks that come up over the curb onto the sidewalks where the pedestrians are, and where you’ve invited pedestrians,” he said. “The last thing people are going to want on the side streets is seeing large trucks being diverted onto their streets.”

The plan includes metal shade structures on the triangular plots of land between Third and Fourth streets. Concept drawings of the structures resemble trees with chunky trunks and multi-angular branches designed so that they cast a shadow at any time of day and provide maximum sun relief.

Project manager Gail Brinkmann said the project is primarily funded by a federal transportation enhancement grant of $750,000. The city of Phoenix will add 5.7 percent of that figure — about $43,000 — and the city of Phoenix Public Art Program is expected to provide $210,000, she said.

“Now we’ve got to design,” Brinkmann said when the meeting ended. “We need to set something in stone. I think now that we have the traffic lanes designed, we can finally move on to the pedestrian areas.”

Contact the reporter at

Clarification: Sept. 24, 2012

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that sharper corners on Roosevelt Street was intended to encourage pedestrianism and reduce the number of vehicles on the street. The measure was intended to encourage pedestrianism, but would not have had any effect on the number of vehicles travelling on the street.