By Jon Johnson
PIMA – Walkers rejoice! Construction has begun on the long-awaited Pima pedestrian bridge and pathway along U.S. Highway 70.
The project consists of a half mile of 6-foot-wide concrete sidewalk from 300 West to 200 North (Tripp Canyon) along the southern shoulder of U.S. Highway 70 and will include a free-standing 233-foot four-span, pre-stressed concrete girder pedestrian bridge across Cottonwood Wash.
The bridge will be in between the existing Cottonwood Wash Bridge, which carries highway traffic, and the railroad bridge. It will be the same width (6-foot) as the rest of the pathway and will be along the same grade and feature a chain link fence to discourage people from climbing on it. The bridge will be strictly for pedestrian and non motorized traffic.
The pathway will connect to existing sidewalks in Pima and will allow pedestrians to get from the interior of the town to the burgeoning west side and vice versa without having to walk on the highway or train bridge.
Arizona Department of Transportation Safford District Engineer Bill Harmon said the project fell under an old enhancement program that was absorbed into a reorganization of federal funding. An $856,000 contract was awarded in October to C S Construction, of Phoenix, which specializes in bridge building.
“It’s a good project,” Harmon said. “It’s a neat project. It will be well used and serve the public well and keep the kids off the highway or off the railroad tracks.”
The Pima Town Council unanimously approved a resolution in June 2009 to support a grant to pay for the project after people approached it with safety concerns for people attempting to walk on the highway or train bridge to get into town from the west side.
The initial proposed completion date was in 2013, but the project suffered a variety of delays, including a recent delay of having to purchase a sliver of land in the wash itself after discovering the area was not entirely in the right-of-way for either the railroad or the highway. That purchase also had to be followed up with an environmental study before construction could begin.
While heavy machinery is currently preparing the area, construction should increase after the new year begins. Harmon said the project should be fully completed and open for business by this summer.
“It’s an unusual feature for this corner of the world but not completely unique,” Harmon said. “There are pedestrian bridges elsewhere. This one, I think, will actually be used quite a bit because it has the same grade as the sidewalk. You don’t have to climb up and over something and then go back down.”