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Arizona Canal Multiuse Path Improvements

Project Overview

The City of Scottsdale is in the early stages of construction on the Multiuse Path Improvements along the Arizona Canal. We understand there is a great deal of confusion as to what is happening with the trees on the west side of the canal bank where the path will be located. While a number of trees have been tagged along the canal bank, we want to make it clear that not all of these trees will be removed. As part of the construction process, any tree near the path alignment is tagged, then evaluated to determine which trees can stay, which will be trimmed and which trees must be removed. It is our intent to remove as few trees as possible. Please also keep in mind that as part of this project we will be adding a great deal of landscaping to the canal bank.

The city of Scottsdale is getting ready to construct a series of improvements to the Multiuse Path along the Arizona Canal between Chaparral Road and Indian Bend Wash path which is adjacent to Indian Bend Road. Construction work is slated to begin on May 2 and is scheduled to be complete this Fall.

The project will include a desert colored concrete path, landscape enhancements, connections to neighborhoods, pedestrian bridges over the canal at Jackrabbit Road and Silverado Golf Club, and enhanced pedestrian crossings at Chaparral and McDonald roads. 

The path will enhance mobility for bicyclists and pedestrians throughout the region and provide connectivity to Papago Park, the Phoenix Zoo, the Desert Botanical Gardens, Tempe Town Lake and the Indian Bend Wash path system.

The cities of Tempe, Phoenix and Scottsdale have been working to complete a 17-mile regional pathway system that includes segments of the Sun Circle, Papago and Rio Salado trails and the Indian Bend Wash path. Once constructed, this project will complete Scottsdale’s portion of the 17-mile loop.

Improvements to this segment of the AZ Canal Multi-use Path are included in the City of Scottsdale Transportation Master Plan, the MAG Regional Off-Street System Plan and the Maricopa County Regional Trail System Plan. The project is utilizing both the city of Scottsdale and federal funding through the CMAQ air quality project process.

Frequently Asked Questions

Path Locations

The multiuse path will be located on the west side of the canal. After an extensive public outreach process and a through evaluation by the transportation commission and trails task force, the decision was made in November 2013 to place the improvements on the west side of the canal. The east side of the canal will remain unchanged and will still be available for recreational purposes.

The path will continue south of Chaparral Road but will not be constructed as part of this project. The path is going to be constructed by a developer when construction activity occurs between Camelback and Chaparral roads. In general, the City requires path and trail construction as part of the development review process when a new project is adjacent to a planned path or trail.

The path will continue north of the Silverado Golf Club but will not be constructed as part of this project. The path between Silverado Golf Club and the existing city-constructed path under the Indian Bend Road Bridge will be built by the developer of the adjacent housing project. The City requires path and trail construction as part of the development review process when the project is adjacent to a planned path or trail. This will connect to the existing path just south of the Indian Bend Road Bridge.

Path Usage

Pedestrians, runners, bicyclists, skaters, and equestrians can use the path. Runners and equestrians typically use the unpaved portion adjacent to the concrete.

No. Scottsdale Ordinance Number 3186, § 2, 8-31-98 Section 17-00 prohibits unauthorized motorized vehicles from paths. This subsection shall be inapplicable to the use and operation of a motorized wheelchair by a person who ordinarily uses such equipment. It shall also be inapplicable to city employees or others authorized by the city to perform inspection, repair or maintenance work, and to persons providing emergency medical or veterinary services, in the performance of their official or professional duties. A violation of this shall be punishable as class 3 misdemeanors are punishable under state law.

Path Materials

The city constructs the paved paths with concrete to provide an all-weather surface for all non-motorized users. The concrete surface accommodates strollers, cyclists using thinner tires, in-line skaters, wheelchairs, and other mobility assisted devices used by disabled and older pedestrians. Asphalt paths do not hold up as well as concrete, so asphalt is not typically used. Maintenance vehicles could cause damage to the edges if asphalt is used instead of concrete.

Decomposed granite will not hold up to maintenance vehicles driving on them, which is necessary on the canal. The application for Federal Transportation Funds for this project stated that a concrete surface would be installed. These funds are not available for unpaved trails.

Path Width

The City of Scottsdale follows national guidelines from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). The current minimum width set by AASHTO for two-directional shared use paths is 10 feet. This allows space for people to travel in both directions, walk side by side on one half of the path and give safe passing room.

According to AASHTO, “in very rare circumstances, a reduced width of 8 feet may be used where the following conditions prevail:

  • Bicycle traffic is expected to be low, even on peak days or during peak hours.
  • Pedestrian use of the facility is not expected to be more than occasional.
  • Horizontal and vertical alignments provide frequent, well-designed passing and resting opportunities.
  • The path will not be regularly subjected to maintenance vehicle loading conditions that would cause pavement edge damage.”

AASHTO guidelines also allow a path width of 8-feet for a short distance if there is a physical constraint such as a bridge abutment, utility structure, fence, environmental feature, etc.

There is an 8-foot path along the west side of Hayden Rd. south of Camelback Rd., but the city currently has plans to widen any existing 8-ft paths to 10-ft or 12-ft depending on activity levels and demand. There is a 10-foot path with adjacent 2-foot running surface at Camelback Park, which is east of Hayden between Camelback and Chaparral.

No, eight feet is the minimum width for Scottsdale paths.

Yes, guidelines also allow a two-way path width of 8-feet for a short distance if there is a physical constraint such as a bridge abutment, utility structure, fence, environmental feature, etc. The minimum width of a one-directional shared use path is 6 feet.

Path Improvement

An unpaved surface will be included adjacent to the concrete that can be used by runners and equestrians where there is space available.

One of the project goals is to maintain a natural running surface on both canal banks. There is sufficient space to do this if the path is located on the east bank. The west bank is narrower and doesn’t provide the same opportunities for adjacent paved and unpaved surfaces.

It has not yet been determined if lighting will be a part of this project and the duration they would be lit. Any additional lighting associated with this project would be low, pedestrian scale lighting or bollard lighting to light only the path surface.

Yes. Any new landscaping will meet both SRP’s approved plant list and the lists of native, drought-tolerant and low water-use plants, trees, and shrubs from the Arizona Department of Water Resources.

The city will work with each individual property on possible landscaping that could be added. The new landscaping will not necessarily be tall, but would still form a buffer to keep path users away from the outside edges of the canal, while keeping the view open for residents.

No, not unless there is a conflict with the proposed improvements.

No, there are no plans to replace or underground existing power poles at this time. Both SRP and APS have overhead power poles along this segment of the canal. City staff is working with both companies to obtain overhead to underground conversion costs.

Any new landscaping will be added on the side with the path. Art could be installed on either side of the canal. If any lighting is included in the art components, they could be installed on either side. However, non-art lighting would only be installed on the same side as the path.

The 2007 Canal Corridor Study identified Jackrabbit as a good location to not only provide neighborhood access to the canal path, but also provide key links in the City’s on-street bicycle system. A goal from the study was to provide pathway access at quarter mile intervals. Jackrabbit is approximately half a mile from both Chaparral and McDonald. It has bike lanes east of the canal and is a designated bike route west of the canal. There are low vehicular volumes and speeds on Jackrabbit compared to Chaparral and McDonald. Although bicyclists can ride on any street, Jackrabbit is more comfortable for different types of bicyclists. A bridge in this location provides direct access to Chaparral Park, less than a half mile from the canal. A bridge at Jackrabbit will provide Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Compliant access to the canal for disabled path users.

No. Motorized vehicles will be prohibited from driving on the bridge. Similar bridges in the city’s system are 14-feet wide and sometimes have a bollard to prevent vehicles from accessing the bridge.

Enhanced at-grade crossings, such as flashing beacons or a pedestrian-hybrid beacon, are planned to make crossing at these mid-block locations more convenient and comfortable. While the city does support using grade separated crossings along many paths and trails, their cost (typically around $500,000) makes them practical only at the highest speed and volume facilities.

In the case of Chaparral and McDonald, our observations and analysis leads us to believe that in most cases there are adequate gaps in traffic for pedestrians to cross the street. The addition of the pedestrian refuge in the median will mean pedestrians only have to cross one direction of traffic at a time and have a much narrower crossing. In addition, during the relatively short peak periods of the day a flashing beacon can help supplement the refuge to draw drivers’ attention to the crossing only as needed.

No, a parking lot is not being built with this project. The people who choose to drive to the area before accessing the bike path will be directed to nearby existing City parking lots, such as those at Chaparral Park. If a parking issue arises in the neighborhoods near the path, the City can post “No Parking” signs on neighborhood streets.

Current erosion mitigation is not a part of this project. Although, additional landscaping and ground cover is proposed to enhance the canal bank provide visual screening for the existing homes from the canal users. This additional landscaping will help mitigate the existing erosion problems.

Path Operations

The project team completed user counts for this portion of the canal. The purpose of the study was to determine how to safely move path users across the intersections. As part of the study, path users were counted each time they crossed an intersection. For the purpose of this study a path user could be counted each time they crossed one of the major streets. The study found that in November 2012, 552 and 562 path users crossed a major street.

The City maintains paths in other areas to include trash/litter pick up and refilling bags twice a week. The surface is swept monthly. Also, Scottsdale Ordinance Number 3186, § 2, 8-31-98 Section 17-00 prohibits littering and leaving dog waste along paths. A violation of this shall be punishable as class 3 misdemeanors are punishable under state law.

The Scottsdale Police Department is already aware of the public use of the canal and will make modifications to their existing patrol of the area as needed. Citywide there are currently 88 miles of paved paths and 140 miles of unpaved trails outside the Preserve. Many of these are adjacent to homes and the presence of a path or trail has not created a significant increase in criminal access to properties.

Project Planing & the Public Process

The overall project budget is $4.1M. The City of Scottsdale received $2.2M in Federal Grants from the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) Program specifically for this project. The remaining $1.9M will come from Scottsdale’s 0.2% Transportation Sales Tax.

The City Council approved the Arizona Canal as part of the planned path network in the 2008 Transportation Master Plan and in previous General Plans as a non-motorized corridor. The project is listed in the City Council approved Five-year Capital Improvement Plan as a component of the annual budget. Most recently, the City Council approved the design contract for this project and the associated expenditure of funds on Aug. 21, 2012. The project will be presented to the City Council again after design is complete.

This project had to go through an extensive public process before the project can be constructed. The project will need a recommendation from the Transportation Commission, Design Review Board and Scottsdale Public Art Board. Finally, when design is complete, it will need City Council approval for a construction contract.

If the path isn’t constructed, City of Scottsdale will return the federal funding to Maricopa Association of Governments. MAG will redistribute the funds to other local cities in the region for non-motorized projects.

Numerous planning documents listed the Arizona Canal as a paved bicycle facility or paved shared use path since 1966. This route is an important local and regional off-street connection to Downtown Scottsdale. Improving the canal will make the corridor more comfortable for all users, including all types of bicycles and disabled pedestrians.

This path will provide a direct connection to downtown. The nearby paths do not provide a direct off-street connection to downtown. They are all part of a planned network that will connect together so that pedestrians and bicyclists will have multiple routes to travel on, similar to how the street network provides multiple routes to vehicles.

Visit the project website to review the latest information or register for the project newsletter at Let us know what you think by joining the conversation at


Public Involvement & Meeting Materials

Previous Community Meetings & Presentation Materials

Several public meeting have been held though out the design process to solicit input on the project from the surrounding community. The materials used thought the public outreach process can be found below.

Public Meeting #5 - May 20, 2014

Trails Sub-Committee Meeting #1 - November 5, 8:30 a.m.

Transportation Commission Meeting #2 - November 21, 6 p.m.

Public Meeting #4 - October 29, 2013

Transportation Commission #1 - September 19, 2013

Public Meeting #3 - September 9, 2013

Public Meeting #2 - May 1, 2013

Public Meeting #1 - December 6, 2012


Project Contact Information

Anna Leyva
Project Manager
P: 480-312-7769

Project Map