Trail crossings in Gilbert

Trail crossings in Gilbert can pose a risk to pedestrians and bicyclists because of the absence of any signals or other warning signs for motorists on intersecting roads.

Gilbert resident Scott Mallor is an avid bicyclist who has pedaled far and wide but often cycles along the Eastern Canal in town.

Despite riding for 15 years, logging on average 100 miles a week, he still becomes uneasy when he approaches trail crossings.

“For me personally, I’m just very apprehensive,” said Mallor, a manager for Bike Masters on Williams Field Road. “I look at every car like if they will hit me. 

“I’ve ridden for years so I’m aware of the dangers and peek around and make sure everything is clear,” he explained. “But for someone who is entry-level it can be dangerous for them if they don’t pay attention. On trail crossings some have lights but the ones without, you are on your own so I’m a bit apprehensive about crossing.”

The town hired a consultant to determine just how safe are Gilbert’s crossings and completed the report last August.

Town Council in October 2019 pushed up the trail crossing safety assessment study because more people are using the trails, according to officials.  

“The schedule for that study was moved forward because of several bike and pedestrian initiatives that were showing increased use of trails, which in turn necessitated the need to review the safety of the crossings,” said spokeswoman Jennifer Harrison.

Council’s decision also came a month after a teenage bicyclist was fatally hit by a vehicle near the Western Powerline Trail and Greenfield Road. The crossing is included in the consultant’s “Safety Improvements for Trial Crossings” report.

The town awarded the job to Y2K Engineering, which is owned by Councilwoman Yung Koprowski. The bid was awarded to the company for $90,580 before Koprowski was appointed to Council in April 2020.

The 95-page report reviewed and provided recommended fixes for 46 trail crossings in Gilbert – 10 signalized crossings, three crossings with pedestrian-hybrid beacons and 33 uncontrolled crossings.

All the crossings are primarily along four main trails – Heritage, San Tan Vista, Marathon and Western Powerline trails – that connect to most of the town’s parks and parallel the Valley’s canal system maintained by the Salt River Project. The first three trails run north-south while the Western Powerline Trail runs east-west.

The report looked at various factors, such as average daily traffic volume, sight visibility and five years of crash data through December 2019.

The consultant used crash history within 500 feet of the crossing for each location. Altogether, the 46 crossings saw a total of 704 incidents, according to the report.

The signalized and pedestrian-hybrid trail crossings were evaluated based on existing traffic-control devices, traffic operation and pedestrian accessibility and came with recommendations based on current standards rather than the standards in place at the time of their construction, according to the report.

The crossings were then ranked, based on the anticipated safety benefits of proposed improvements. 

The top 10 uncontrolled trails ranked by need of improvements are: San Tan Vista Trail and Pecos Road at No. 1; Heritage Trail/Consolidated Canal at Warner Road, No. 2; San Tan Vista Rail and Val Vista Drive, No. 3; Marathon Trail and Pecos Road, No. 4; Marathon Trail and Higley Road, No. 5; 

Also, Heritage Trail and Lindsay Road, No. 6; Heritage Trail and Guadalupe Road, No. 7; Western Powerline Trail and Greenfield Road, No. 8; Marathon Trail and Power Road, No. 9 and San Tan Vista Trail and Ray Road, No. 10.

The cost estimates to improve the 10 totaled $2.4 million.

At No. 1 was the Heritage Trail at Baseline Road, which has a pedestrian light midblock. The consultant recommended that crossing include a high-visibility crosswalk and improved signage.

     For the 33 uncontrolled crossings, the report named the top 10 and included cost estimates for their improvements.

Estimates for improving the controlled crossings were not included because they can be completed through maintenance and operation activities, according to Harrison.

“Low-cost improvements such as these are estimated internally and typically do not warrant an estimate from a consultant,” she said.

The No. 1 ranked San Tan Vista Trail and Pecos Road included recommended improvements such as installing stop signs on both trail approaches to Pecos, widening the existing sidewalk on the north and south sides of Pecos between the trail approaches.

It also recommended signs directing users to the nearby intersection of Lindsay and Pecos roads, which has a traffic signal. The cost of that project was estimated at $243,562.

The most expensive fix was the No. 9 ranked Marathon Trail and Power Road at $552,172, which include recommendations such as building a new pathway under the existing East Maricopa Floodway bridge at Power Road and at Guadalupe Road and installing overhead pedestrian lighting underneath both the bridge decks to light the pathway.

The Greenfield Road trail crossing, where the teen girl was killed, and No. 3 ranked San Tan Vista Trail and Val Vista Drive were already scheduled in the town’s Capital Improvement Plan.

“There were seven additional projects identified and created as part of the Safety Crossings Study that are in the draft CIP update that will be presented to Council as part of the budget process this year,” Harrison said.

The seven trails proposed for funding are Marathon Trail at Higley Road, Marathon Trail at Pecos Road, Heritage Trail at Guadalupe Road, San Tan Vista Trail at Pecos Road, Heritage Trail at Lindsay Road; San Tan Vista Trail at Ray Road and Marathon at Power Road.