Tempe partnership leads to more desirable streetscapes

The Seventh Street and Forest Avenue intersection just got an upgrade. A partnership with Downtown Tempe Authority enabled Tempe artist Kyllan Maney to transform the look and increase the safety of the intersection using asphalt art.

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“We are bringing art and joy to the community,” said Kate Borders, president and CEO of DTA. “This project is part of a partnership with the city to look at our downtown area and make improvements. “Not only are we looking at art elements, but also infrastructure elements like lighting and shade that will allow people to enjoy the downtown and stay longer.”

Asphalt art, the practice of combining public art with temporary transportation infrastructure improvements, comes in many forms. The Seventh and Forest intersection artwork visually creates a curb extension, narrowing the roadway and shortening the crossing distance for pedestrians.

According to officials, Tempe, the first city in Arizona to adopt a Vision Zero goal, prioritizes the safety of all road users. “This project is intended to improve safety,” said Cathy Hollow, the city’s traffic engineer. “Not only are we increasing the visibility of crosswalks and encouraging drivers to be more alert of pedestrians and cyclists, but we are also encouraging users to safely cross at the crosswalk.”

A Bloomberg Philanthropies study indicates that asphalt art can create safer, more desirable streets and public spaces. When analyzing 17 diverse sites over a two-year period, the study found a 50% decrease in the rate of crashes involving cyclists and vulnerable road users at mural sites.

To address the changing demands on Tempe’s roadways to meet the needs of its community, while continuing to prioritize safety and efficiency, Tempe created an Adaptive Streets program, allowing for quick implementation of temporary changes to the city’s public rights of way.

Earlier this year, City Council voiced support for the streets program and guide. The design guide includes a toolbox of lowercost, temporary strategies, identifies when and how those strategies can be applied and provides guidelines for implementation. The asphalt art project at Seventh and Forest is the first use of the Adaptive Streets guide.

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