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Phoenix Grand Canal Plan Flows On

John Henry, 27, walks along the Grand Canal near Central Avenue and Camelback Road in Phoenix. Credit: Ben Moffat/The Arizona Republic

By Dustin Gardiner for The Arizona Republic

Of the nearly 200 miles of canals that flow through the Valley, the Grand Canal in central and southeast Phoenix arguably is the most forgotten.

But plans to transform the waterway into a thriving transportation corridor and gathering place are moving forward, with construction slated to start early next year. The vision, though, has faced delays and aspects of the plan have been scaled back.

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A detailed plan for the first phase of the project was released earlier this summer and includes fewer trees, shade structures and other amenities than planners had sought.

Phoenix wants to revive the canal along a nearly 12-mile stretch from Interstate 17 to Tempe. The roughly $22.5M effort, labeled the “Grand Canalscape,” includes crosswalks and traffic signals where the canal meets roads, a paved multiuse pathway, lighting and some landscaping and public-art installations.

The project is part of a movement to reclaim Phoenix’s canals, first built by the ancient Hohokam civilization more than 600 years ago, as a community asset and gathering space. Supporters envision canal improvements spurring waterfront development on adjacent property — development that treats the canals like a front porch and not a back alley.

Phoenix’s plans are first focused on making the Grand Canal a better transportation corridor, an alternative route away from the city’s car-centric streets. Eventually, the city hopes to improve the entire Grand Canal, including its western portion to Glendale.

What improvements are coming?

Among the improvements in the first phase:

  • Special pedestrian-activated traffic signals where the canal crosses Seventh Avenue and Seventh Street, and a crosswalk with a flashing beacon at 12th Street.
  • A 10-foot-wide concrete path on one side of the entire canal.
  • Trees and pedestrian lights in areas with enough room between the canal bank and power poles or the property line.
  • Shade structures with seating where the canal meets Ninth Avenue and 36th Street.
  • Obelisk like trail markers designating entrances to the canal trail.
  • Decorative benches and seating in limited areas.
  • More “neighborhood connections” or entrances with landscaping and sidewalks leading to the canal.
  • A pedestrian bridge spanning the canal between Central High School and Brophy College Preparatory.

The shade structures, benches and trail markers are designed by artist Michael Singer, a sculptor known for designing art for public spaces. His designs will incorporate concrete, steel and sandstone.

Construction on the second phase of the Grand Canalscape, which will improve the canal the rest of the way from Interstate 17 to Tempe, is expected to start in early 2018.

Last year, the city received a $10.3 million grant from the federal government to help pay for the second phase. Phoenix officials said the rest of the funding for the roughly $22.5 million project is coming from the city and Salt River Project, the utility that operates the canals.

Read more at The Arizona Republic

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