Fifth Street Traffic Calming

Tempe, Arizona
Source: Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (PBIC)


Neighborhood residents were concerned about increasing traffic volumes, excessive speeds, and air pollution on a major collector street. They wanted the street to be redesigned to maintain the character of the neighborhood, and improve the safety of pedestrians, bicyclists, and bus patrons.


Artistic features were incorporated throughout the project to improve the pedestrian environment.

Fifth Street is a major collector street in the middle of the Riverside and Sunset neighborhoods, and is adjacent to destinations such as a neighborhood market, Scales Elementary School, Jaycee Park, and the Tempe Boys and Girls Club and Community Center. In 1995, residents of the neighborhoods approached the City of Tempe with concerns about increasing traffic volumes and speeds on Fifth Street. The residents wanted to move around their neighborhood safely and easily by bicycle, bus, or foot; reduce high-speed, cut-through traffic and vehicle emissions; and maintain the character of the neighborhood. Given that one of the goals of Tempe's Transportation program is to enhance and preserve the physical character of Tempe and promote accessible transportation options, the City of Tempe instituted the Fifth Street Pedestrian Enhancement and Traffic Calming Project.


A median island and bicycle lanes encourage slow vehicle speeds and wide sidewalks provide pedestrian access along Fifth Street.

The City obtained a federal grant to add traffic calming and pedestrian enhancements to the street. Temporary traffic calming devices were placed on Fifth Street so residents could envision the look and operation of the final project. Following a successful test period that included narrowed lanes and traffic chokers, the City, with the help of neighborhood input, constructed permanent traffic calming and artistic features on Fifth Street.

In the final project design, the existing sidewalks were widened to between 6 and 8 ft to allow greater pedestrian comfort, and 5 ft bicycle lanes meeting national standards were provided. The street was redesigned to include traffic chokers, intersection bulb-outs, pedestrian-level street lighting, shade trees, and low shrubs. Median chicanes, speed tables, and on-street parking were added next to Jaycee Park. In addition, artistic features were added throughout the project. The design elements were approved by a majority of residents at a series of neighborhood meetings.


In 1995, after the widening of a nearby major arterial street and the opening of a nearby freeway entrance, traffic counts on Fifth Street were nearly 10,000 average daily traffic. The narrowed lanes and traffic chokers cut traffic by 40 percent to 6,000 average daily traffic.

Traffic counts conducted after completion of the project indicated significant reductions in average daily vehicle traffic. For example, volumes on Fifth Street east of Ash Avenue dropped 21 percent from 9,898 ADT before to 7,789 ADT after the project, and volumes between Roosevelt and Wilson fell 63 percent from 10,186 ADT to 3,804 ADT.

The Fifth Street Project has received a positive reaction from the community.

Following implementation of the long-awaited pedestrian and traffic calming improvements to Fifth Street, the City received numerous positive comments from residents praising the enhanced walkability and increased safety due to reductions in traffic speed and volume. Cut-through traffic and speeds have decreased, bus service to the area has increased, and the character of the neighborhood remained intact.

The Fifth Street Pedestrian Enhancement and Traffic Calming Project has become a model for many other cities across the country. The City of Tempe and its residents used pedestrian enhancements to promote aesthetically-pleasing, environmentally-friendly transportation alternatives while making Tempe a more livable community.


Sue Taaffe
Transportation Division Publication Information Officer
City of Tempe Community Relations Office
31 E. Fifth Street
Tempe, AZ 85281
Phone: (480) 350-8663

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