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Tempe expecting bustling New Year’s Eve block party

PHOENIX — The city of Tempe is preparing for its annual New Year’s Eve Block Party on Tuesday, which is expected to draw tens of thousands of people to the city’s downtown area.

The festivities will take place primarily on Mill Avenue and will include three street-sized dance floors, two firework displays, a family fun zone and other attractions, Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell said.

“I think it’s very, very important to our downtown community in Tempe, and also to our residents,” Mitchell said.

With thousands swarming downtown and the city readying Mill Avenue, Tempe police have been charged with handling two important aspects of the event, Commander Noah Johnson said.

“The police department focuses on two main areas — that’s traffic control and obviously safety and security,” he said.

Johnson said the department is used to handling large crowds and events, and he said the department is well prepared to handle the influx on Dec. 31st.

“It’s always challenging when you bring tens of thousands people in the city of Tempe, but the bottom line…is we do this all the time,” he said. “I don’t want to say it’s routine, but we’re good at it.”

Johnson said those heading to the event, or those who might be in the downtown area, should expect delays and some traffic restrictions.

“People should be aware who are attending the event that clearly Mill Avenue will be closed primarily from University to Rio Salado (Parkway). Other than that, there will not be any other traffic restrictions,” he said.

Johnson encourages people who might be coming to the event to use public transportation to reduce congestion in the area and also help prevent impaired driving.

“With any large event, there’s always a concern about impaired driving, and law enforcement wants to remind everybody (to) please use a designated driver,” he said. “Please have a plan on how you are going to get home safely that night.”

The East Valley DUI Task Force will be assisting Tempe Police as part of a partnership with the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety to crack down on holiday drunk driving, Johnson said.

Valley Metro’s Susan Tierney said they’re making special arraignments for New Year’s Eve to help assist the large amounts of people, including free fares starting at 7 p.m.

“This is the first time we’ve had free rides across our entire system on any day,” she said. “We hope that people will ring in this New Year safely and responsibly.”

Tierney said the light rail will operate like a normal weekday service, but the hours of operation will extend until 2 a.m. on Jan. 1.

She added that buses will also be running to and from the block party.

“There are six local bus routes and five Orbit routes that will be serving the Mill Avenue festivities,” she said.

Between the New Year’s Eve block party and Saturday’s Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl Game at Sun Devil Stadium, Mitchell said they estimate roughly $85 million will be brought to Tempe and the surrounding area.

He said the annual event in known across the state as a premier New Year’s Eve event and that he expects this the block party to be a great start to 2014.

“We are expecting tens of thousands of people to come down to have a great time on Mill Avenue, and that’s exactly what we’re going to give them: A fantastic time to ring in the New Year,” said Mitchell.