Update: The Scottsdale City Council approved the McDowell bike lane project on April 6.
Millions of dollars in federal grants funds could be used to help add bicycle lanes along the entire three-mile stretch of McDowell Road in Scottsdale between 64th Street and Pima Road.
On April 6, Scottsdale City Council will consider awarding a $3.8-million contract to AJP Electric to construct the lanes.
If approved, the project would narrow motor vehicle lanes and medians along McDowell Road to make room for bike lanes.
Even with that modification, the road would maintain three vehicle lanes in each direction and “will not remove any lanes along the corridor, only narrowing lanes to accommodate bike lanes,” said Gregory Davies, a city senior transportation planner.
If approved, construction should begin this summer with an estimated construction time of nine months.
About $3.6 million of the costs will be covered by the Federal Highway Administration’s Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program. The remaining $240,000 will come from the city’s 0.2 percent transportation sales tax, according to Scottsdale’s capital improvement budget.
Davies said the city applied for the grant funds in 2016 as part of its longstanding efforts to revitalize McDowell Road.
The corridor was a retail and auto sales hub in the city for decades before the closure of Los Arcos mall in 1999 and the relocation of many of the city’s car dealerships away from the Motor Mile – the stretch of McDowell Road between 64th Street and Scottsdale Road – to the nearby Salt River Pima–Maricopa Indian Community in the 2000s.
The area has slowly transformed over the past 20 years following investments by the city and new development, including the SkySong research park, the Papago Plaza redevelopment and the thousands of new apartment units.
“McDowell Road Corridor is a transitioning corridor from predominantly retail to mixed use and residential,” Davies said. “The increase in population and employment over the past five years has been significant.”
The bike lane project should also increase safety for cyclists along McDowell Road, which features two busy intersections and has a higher accident rate than many other Scottsdale streets.
According to Scottsdale Police data, McDowell Road accounted for more car accidents than almost any other street in the city last year.
Scottsdale Police officers filed a total of 28 incident reports connected to crashes on McDowell Road in 2020, trailing only Scottsdale (85) and Hayden (36) Roads.
For comparison, McDowell Road in Scottsdale is only approximately three miles long, much shorter than Scottsdale and Hayden, both of which are well over 19 miles long.
According to the Maricopa Association of Governments, the intersection of Scottsdale and McDowell Roads had 122 vehicle crashes between 2015-2019.
That ranked 184 on MAG’s list of intersections countywide ranked by crash risk.
The project should complement the city’s efforts to become more bike friendly in recent years.
According to city documents, Scottsdale bike lane coverage increased from just eight miles in 1995 to 174 miles in 2019.
In 2019, the League of American Bicyclists named Scottsdale a gold-level bicycle-friendly city, the organizations third-highest designation, making Scottsdale one of over 480 communities to receive some level of recognition from the group.
At the time, Councilwoman Solange Whitehead, who can often be seen riding her bike to council meetings, praised the city’s efforts.
“Our kids would hop on bikes and end up miles away at Tempe Town Lake or thousands of feet up at Windgate Peak,” said Whitehead. “I cherish riding to work on the greenbelt and mountain biking in Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve….”