Tempe Town Lake pedestrian bridge opens to walkers, runners, cyclists

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

TEMPE, Ariz. -- After months of construction, the long-awaited Tempe Town Lake pedestrian bridge opened at dawn Tuesday.

"I've been waiting for this for about four years," said one of the first people to cross the new bridge.

Construction of the pedestrian bridge began in April, about nine months after one of the four bladders that make up the lake's dam burst, sending millions of gallons of water gushing into the normally dry bed of the Salt River.

The lake was dry for about three months while repairs on the dam bladders were completed. It reopened in late October. Works crews started building the bridge the following spring.

The new bridge not only spans the lake, it also will function to shade the dam's bladders and a built-in sprinkler system under the deck will cool them.

The uniquely beautiful bridge is made up for four separate spans, one over each bladder. Each of those individual spans is 228 feet long and weighs about 165,000 pounds.

The bridge is 12 feet wide and 34 feet tall. Its arches are suspended by 32 metal cables.

The main construction was completed in August. Crews finished installing hand rails, shade canopies, lighting systems -- the bridge is lit with blues lights at night -- and all of the final detail work earlier this month.

Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman, who was on hand for Tuesday morning's grand opening, said the bridge is the last link in a countywide system of pedestrian and bike paths.

“This actually completes a missing link for the county system so that people can continue to bike, believe it or not, to work,” Hallman said at when construction first started. “This is one of those elements of a bike system that allows people to commute from as far away as Gilbert all the way into downtown Phoenix.”

The new $5 million bridge spans the lake from the south bank at Tempe Center for the Arts to the north shore. Most of the funding for the bridge came from federal money and matching funds. It was being built with American steel and local companies provided products and services whenever possible.