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Roundabout stripes, signals and arrows, oh my!

A ROUNDABOUT UPDATE: Some reader questions have come up as work continues on the traffic-calming $1.9 million roundabout going in at Rio Grande and Candelaria.

THE STRIPES: Wally emails, “Rio Grande between Griegos and Candelaria was resurfaced weeks ago. It still has not been painted. A good 60% of the little reflective flag markers have fallen off. Do you happen to have any info on what is happening? It’s looking like Boston or New York where drivers take on lanes of their own.”

Patti Watson, who is handling information on the city project, says Rio Grande north of the Candelaria intersection was recently repaved, the city’s Street Maintenance Department was scheduled to lay out the new striping last week, “and the permanent striping will likely be applied … after Memorial Day, depending on weather and scheduling.

THE SIGNALS: But Wally has more. “They hung temporary directional dedicated left-turn stop lights. The lights went live (May 17). The light timing is abysmal. There was a backup all day (on) southbound Rio Grande a good ΒΌ of a mile, backed up to Matthew Road. In my 30 years of living here, this has never happened.”

Watson says, “Traffic engineers are continuing to look at the timing of the signals to minimize the delay, particularly to northbound traffic on Rio Grande. The challenge is to allow motorists in all four directions to go straight through the intersection as well as turn, which is indicated by the turn arrows. Engineers have optimized the signal timing based on the current conditions.”

THE TURN ARROWS: Wally adds that crews “are actually temporarily doing what was recommended in a 2013 study. Turn arrows (are) all that we wanted.”

Watson explains, “The turn arrows may help with traffic, but the reason for the roundabout is safety. The federal Highway Safety Improvement Program found that the roundabout is needed due to the long record of a high rate of severe injuries from crashes at the intersection and the high frequency of damage to private property abutting the intersection.”

AND NO SMART SIGNALS: And finally, Wally reported “super-frustrated drivers right now – and (it) was only Day One. Lots of red-light runners. They are apparently timing each direction the same, 30 seconds times four. Why isn’t this a smart light?”

Watson says, “The traffic signals are not smart traffic lights because they are temporary and therefore are not tied into the Intelligent Transportation System (ITS). They will be removed after the roundabout is installed. The temporary signals are timed to accommodate left-turn and through movements.”

POTHOLE REPAIRS A SOLID START: That comes from Chris Timm, who emails, “Kudos to the city for the very responsive pothole repair program. They have been quick and thorough. Now they should consider getting more proactive on pothole prevention. One way would be to start a seam or crack sealing campaign that would seal bad cracks before the weather grew them into potholes.

“One example of an intersection that could definitely use sealing is Eastridge Avenue on the west side of Indian School Road just north of Cavalry Chapel. They’ve filled potholes there, but there are a lot of cracks that are precursors to more.”

The city – and county and state – do have preventative maintenance programs that include crack sealing, slurry or microsurfacing, hot-mix overlay, mill and inlay, heater scarification and overlay, and repaving. All are designed to prolong the life of roads, because as traffic engineers have explained in this column over the years, it is much more cost-efficient to maintain a road than rebuild it from the dirt up. Much of that work is funded through bond questions that go to voters or through capital outlay requests.

However, as with many things, there always seems to be a longer to-do list than there is funding.

Editorial page editor D’Val Westphal tackles commuter issues for the Metro area on Mondays. Reach her at 823-3858;; or 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, N.M., 87109.