A stretch of University Avenue running through the heart of Provo may not be rebuilt this summer after all.

For weeks city officials and the Utah Department of Transportation have been saying that the $2 million first phase of University Avenue reconstruction will start in July on a segment between Fifth South and Eighth North.But now Mayor Joe Jenkins says Provo may push to have UDOT rebuild University Avenue between 2230 North and the mouth of Provo Canyon this year and complete the downtown stretch in the future.

A final decision could come as early as next week, when Jenkins is scheduled to meet with UDOT officials.

Jenkins told City Council members that he prefers UDOT do the northern segment of the project first because safety problems and inadequate traffic capacity on the two-lane highway north of 2230 North have contributed to several recent traffic accidents.

"UDOT considers three criteria in looking at reconstruction projects the most important concern is safety, then come capacity and rideability," Jenkins said. "On the downtown segment, rideability is the problem, but safety and capacity are all right.

"In the north, safety and capacity are real problems. My preference would be to do the northern part first because of the danger there."

Two weeks ago, some merchants who met with Jenkins and UDOT engineers said closing the downtown segment for reconstruction this year during the peak tourist period could force them out of business. Construction during that portion of the project will make customer access to many downtown businesses and to nearby parking very difficult.

The merchants favor delaying reconstruction of the downtown segment until April 1989, when many Brigham Young University students leave Provo for the summer. That way the downtown portion could be completed by September, when the students return, which is typically a large-volume sales period.

UDOT has proposed doing the first phase Fifth South to Eighth North of the $4.5 million University Avenue reconstruction between July and October. The second phase, the stretch between Eighth North and 1650 North, was proposed for rebuilding next year. But that schedule is not final.