ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The city is one step closer to widening a busy stretch of Paseo del Norte where officials say frequent backups stymie commuters and first responders alike.
State lawmakers this year appropriated $2.1 million toward the planning, design and land acquisition necessary to expand a 1.5-mile section between Kimmick and Universe to four lanes from two. The stretch of Paseo del Norte on Albuquerque’s far West Side sees about 20,000 cars per day, said Pat Montoya, director of the city’s Municipal Development Department. Securing money to improve it was among the city’s top priorities during this year’s Legislature, Mayor Tim Keller said.
State Rep. Joy Garratt, an Albuquerque Democrat who represents the area, said Paseo expansion was high on her list given the traffic.
“It’s bad and it stresses people out,” said Garratt, part of a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers who helped fund the project. The freshman representative put in $640,000 of the $1.1 million in discretionary capital outlay money she had available this year.
“I live four minutes up the road in Ventana Ranch. I drive it everyday. I know personally what it’s like,” Garratt said following a news conference with state Sen. Sander Rue, R-Albuquerque, Keller, City Councilors Cynthia Borrego and Ken Sanchez and other officials on a dusty patch of vacant land along Paseo.
“This is not just a convenience issue for the commuters, it’s a public safety issue, it’s an economic development issue,” Rue said.
Albuquerque Fire Rescue data show that response times for Station 22 – at Unser and Paradise NW – are longer than the city average at all times of day. Fire Chief Paul Dow said the undeveloped terrain on either side of Paseo keeps even fire trucks from driving around the traffic and said he was optimistic a wider Paseo del Norte “will help us respond more efficiently.”
The city has $750,000 available for the project’s planning and design phase, which Montoya said should be complete in about 1½ years. Constructing the improvements – which also include updated intersections, bicycle lanes and sidewalks – would likely take an additional 12-14 months and require about $20 million more, he said.
Rue, who contributed about $600,000 of his capital outlay pot this year, said he does not expect the city to wait too long for additional support, expressing confidence in both the state’s revenue picture and the appetite among state leaders to further invest in such infrastructure projects.