ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Copyright © 2013 Albuquerque Journal
It was a giant, annoying traffic snarl during Tuesday’s afternoon rush hour.
Get used to it.
The reality of commuting through a major construction site struck home as stop-and-go traffic backed up about a mile on northbound Interstate 25 at Paseo del Norte on the first day of major construction at the interchange.
Orange flags and barrels and a giant flashing arrow greeted motorists as they waited to exit I-25 onto westbound Paseo in lines that backed up south to San Antonio NE.
The $93 million project to rebuild the interchange is expected to take 14 months and crews may be working around the clock.
Motorists seemed caught off guard by closure of one of the I-25 off ramp’s left-hand turn lanes, forcing three lanes to merge into two before they could turn west. Many drivers were stuck waiting at a barricade for an opportunity to merge.
It took a Journal reporter and photographer who drove through the interchange after 5 p.m. about 25 minutes to drive the mile from San Antonio to Paseo del Norte.
The commute from Presbyterian Hospital at I-25 and Central to Cottonwood Mall, 10000 Coors NW via the Paseo/I-25 interchange took 46 minutes.
By comparison, a commute from the same starting point and destination but using a different route was much quicker. Taking I-25 to Interstate 40 to Coors took about half the time as I-25 to Paseo to Coors – though longer than the projected GPS travel time of 17 minutes.
No overhead message boards warned I-40/Coors drivers of possible delays because of the Paseo project. The only notice of construction was a portable electronic message board in the Coors median near Montaño alerting drivers of a separate project to start there on Oct. 2.
The Paseo project officially broke ground last month, but the design-build team promised to delay construction until after the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta concluded on Sunday.
Crews had barricades in place by 6 a.m. Tuesday in time for the morning commute. Workers also closed the outside lane of westbound Paseo from three lanes to two between I-25 and the railroad tracks, and reduced Jefferson NE to a single lane in each direction.
Transportation officials recommend motorists allow extra time to reach their destinations and use caution in construction zones.