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County, Bernalillo lower response time during roadwork

The Sandoval County ambulance at Fire Station 1 in Bernalillo.
Photo Amy Byres / Observer

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Sandoval County and the Town of Bernalillo have teamed up to reduce response times on US 550 from 30 minutes to less than 5 minutes.

A spike in response times has resulted from construction on US 550.

“Within the first week of construction, we had started collecting some data that had shown we did have some extended response times. Luckily, there was nothing critical and no negative outcomes,” said Sandoval County Fire Chief Eric Masterson.

By stationing a Sandoval County ambulance with two crew members at Fire Station 1 in Bernalillo, each side of the construction site is more accessible for emergency calls.

The area west of the construction site is accessible from Sandoval County Fire Station 21 off Tamaya Boulevard, and places east of the construction are accessible by emergency responders at Bernalillo Fire Station 1 off Camino del Pueblo.

Sandoval County Fire Chief Eric Masterson in the commission chambers in the Sandoval County Administration Building on Dec. 27.
Photo Amy Byres / Observer

“This was also impacting areas of the county such as Algodones and Placitas. We do have an ambulance on that side of the interstate. However, if they were out on another call, we weren’t able to get across US 550 to get to those other county areas,” Masterson said. “So having that other truck in the town helps the town citizens out significantly, but also backs up our truck on the other side to help out our county residents as well.”

Masterson said the county responds to about 2,000 calls a year in Bernalillo.

“Partnerships in emergency services are essential because ultimately, at the end of the day, the person who calls 911 doesn’t care what the side of the truck says; they just want someone to come and help them. Agencies working together is essential to ensure that our mission of providing aid to those in need is fulfilled,” Masterson said.

This solution will cost neither Bernalillo nor the county extra money. Bernalillo Fire Chief Michael Carroll and Masterson went through the county and town to propose an addendum to the existing contract between Bernalillo and Sandoval County.

Bernalillo Fire Chief Michael Carroll talks about stationing a Sandoval County ambulance with two responders at Fire Station 1 in Bernalillo.
Photo Amy Byres / Observer

“This was the best solution we could come up with to serve the needs of the community as far as medical response,” Carroll said.

Despite delays in response times, he said construction on US 550 is a good thing.

Carroll said the last traffic study he saw from the state Department of Transportation indicated the daily traffic count on US 550 is over 45,000 vehicles.

“The way the highway was previously configured was far exceeding its capacity,” he said.

To continue to keep response times low, Sandoval County and Bernalillo will evolve their tactics as construction progresses. The estimated completion date for this phase of US 550 roadwork is in 2021.

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