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Paseo project gets rolling

Gov. Susana Martinez, Mayor Richard Berry and other government officials turn ceremonial dirt on Thursday at a groundbreaking ceremony for the Paseo del Norte/I-25 interchange project. (Adolphe Pierre-louis/journal)
Gov. Susana Martinez, Mayor Richard Berry and other government officials turn ceremonial dirt on Thursday at a groundbreaking ceremony for the Paseo del Norte/I-25 interchange project. (Adolphe Pierre-louis/journal)
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The $93 million project to rebuild the Paseo del Norte/Interstate 25 interchange officially broke ground Thursday, though motorists aren’t likely to see work begin before mid-October when the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta concludes.

“We did it,” Mayor Richard Berry told a large crowd in a sweltering tent set up for the event near the intersection.

“It’s a good day when good government comes together to make things happen in our community,” he said. “That’s exactly what we’re celebrating today.”

Construction is expected to conclude in either late 2014 or early 2015, meaning it will likely overlap the 2014 Balloon Fiesta, officials said.

Traffic disruptions are expected to be “negligible” during the upcoming Balloon Fiesta, Oct. 5-13, said Tim Parker, a district engineer for the New Mexico Department of Transportation, which will oversee the project.

“After our tourists and folks head out after Balloon Fiesta, we’re going to go full-bore, full-on and flat-out,” Parker said.

Pre-construction work, such as moving utility lines, is underway. Motorists can expect intermittent lane closures until 5 a.m. this morning on the Paseo del Norte bridge over I-25 as surveyors work on the overpass.

Officials promised real-time updates about traffic delays and travel times that motorists can access with smart phones and other mobile devices.

Motorists can sign up for text and email updates by visiting the project’s website at www.paseoi25.com.

The City of Albuquerque will pay more than half the tab with $50 million in gross-receipt tax revenue bonds approved by city voters last year. Bernalillo County voters approved $5 million in general obligation bonds for the project.

Other sources include $29.75 million from the state and $8.25 million from federal sources.

“This is truly the people’s project, as it was overwhelmingly approved by city of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County voters in last November’s election,” Gov. Susana Martinez said.

Martinez also cited benefits from the project that include 3,000 new jobs, $2.8 billion in new economic activity and an annual fuel savings of $2.5 billion.

A variety of state, federal and local officials were at the event, including U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., and state Department of Transportation Secretary Tom Church.

Officials recited benefits the project is intended to provide, such as improved air quality and a reduction in the 470 traffic accidents that occur each year at the intersection.

The project is meant to reduce travel times and ease congestion at the intersection, which handles an estimated 154,000 vehicles a day. Paseo del Norte is one of the city’s major east-west commuting routes, and traffic often backs up at rush hour.

The project will also provide a designated bicycle and pedestrian path across I-25.

Key features of the project are a flyover ramp that will allow traffic to flow from northbound I-25 to westbound Paseo, and a free-flow ramp from eastbound Paseo to southbound I-25.

The project will also build an overpass at Jefferson, eliminating the need for traffic signals at the intersection.

Berry last month announced the team that will design and build the project, including Kiewit New Mexico Co., Bohannan Huston Inc. and Terracon.

“These folks have a track record of getting projects done on time and on budget, with the least disruptions as possible,” Berry said.

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