Construction on 59th avenue finally winding downBy Brent Whiting
Freelance Reporter, The VOICE
Relief is on the way, and not a moment too soon, for students and faculty members who have been stuck in traffic and made late for class because of renewed road construction on 59th Avenue.
The $300,000 repaving project, which began last month [cq – Oct.] with the posting of traffic barricades along the busy route, was expected to be largely completed just a few days before Thanksgiving, [cq – Nov. 21] according to Glendale officials.
"Nothing else is planned," said Craig Johnson, an assistant city engineer who said workers were putting down rubberized asphalt along most of the one-mile stretch of 59th Avenue between Olive and Peoria avenues, just east of campus.
Johnson described the work as the last of three improvement projects that have restricted travel along the heavily traveled thoroughfare since August 2007.
"We always tried to keep the traffic moving," he said. "I admit this is a complicated project, but once it's done it will look like a brand new roadway."
Johnson said that because of funding considerations and other issues, Glendale has been unable to coordinate the final paving work with the previous roadway-widening and storm-drain projects, both of which resulted in several months' worth of traffic restrictions affecting GCC entrances and exits.
Because of the steady road work, students have had a longstanding joke that GCC actually stands for "Glendale's Constant Construction," said Jenna Duffy, editor-in-chief of The Voice, the student newspaper at the Glendale campus.
Other people are not amused, including students who have been trapped in traffic jams, said Jack Themer, an adjunct psychology professor at the Glendale college.
"Well, this work has been very inconvenient and annoying," Themer said. "I just feel this project should have been done with the work previously performed."
Another professor, Rachelle Hall, who teaches computer information services, said she devised a strategy for avoiding commuting problems. "I come to work early, so the traffic snarls really don't hurt me," Hall said.
During campus interviews, several students offered other opinions.
Bart Johnson, 18, a first-year psychology student, offered a briefer assessment of the latest road project, saying, "It's ridiculous."
Jose Maldonado, 19, a second-year business student, said it has really been a "hassle" trying to get to class on time because of the renewed construction.
Glendale launched the first road project in August 2007, just before the start of the fall session at GCC. Left turns were restricted along the route between Olive and Peoria avenues with the widening of 59th Avenue and other improvements.
In addition, heavy traffic was expected during the rush-hour commute, so motorists were encouraged to plan accordingly, said Jennifer Stein, a Glendale spokeswoman.
In May, officials embarked on a second project to install what they described as much-needed storm drains to reduce flooding along 59th Avenue during heavy weather.
During that road construction, there was limited access to the Glendale Main Library, 5959 W. Brown St., the Glendale Adult Center, 5970 W. Brown St., and Sahuaro Ranch Park, along 59th Avenue and north of the college.
Larry Broyles, the city engineer for Glendale, said earlier this year there was some coordination between the first two projects, but it was not possible to do all of the construction at the same time.
The projects involved different contractors and funding sources, so the work had to be done in separate segments, Broyles said.
Al Gonzales, the facilities coordinator at GCC, said he sent an advance announcement to school officials advising them of the latest 59th Avenue project so that revised commuting plans could be formulated, if necessary.
Gonzales said some faculty members wrote back, expressing personal opinions about the project as well as worries that were voiced by students.
However, the feedback for this project has been far less than for the other two, probably because the previous road work was for much longer duration, he said.
The work along 59th Avenue isn't the only road construction that is affecting GCC students and faculty, as well as other Valley motorists.
There are two ongoing projects along 67th Avenue, another thoroughfare east of the school that is used to get commuters to and from campus.
One of them involves the installation of underground utilities between Camelback Road and Glendale Avenue. The other is for the installation of storm drains and other improvements between Peoria Avenue and Thunderbird Road.
Both are scheduled for completion by late January.