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NMDOT: Rio Bravo closure was cheaper option

WHY RIO BRAVO HAD NO EASTBOUND BRIDGE: Last week crews wrapped up much of their repair of a pier under the Rio Bravo bridge over the Rio Grande. But the pain of a weekslong complete eastbound shutdown on commuters has raised some questions.

One reader emails, “I fully support our N.M. state engineers’ effort (to) maintain our bridges. However, why did traffic engineers not consider using the westbound Rio Bravo bridge for one-lane traffic in each direction? Another option would have been using the westbound bridge for eastbound traffic midnight to noon, then for westbound traffic noon to midnight.”

And ezparker adds, “Since Rio Bravo is open for two lanes westbound, wouldn’t it make sense to have one lane westbound and one lane eastbound?”

It comes down to signals, sightlines and safety.

Kimberly Gallegos, who handles information for the District 3 Office of the New Mexico Department of Transportation, has this background:

“The team at NMDOT discussed other options to minimize the traffic impacts as much as possible during the part of the repair that required full closure of the eastbound bridge.” She says both the above-mentioned options were discussed, but “what appears to be an easy solution is complex when you have to consider the location of the signals to be in the line of sight for those that drive on Rio Bravo.

“The intersections would also have to be modified to allow for traffic to safely cross into the westbound lanes, other safety devices would have to be put in place to ensure all westbound traffic was completely cleared out and no one from any side roads/driveways accessed Rio Bravo to head westbound that could result in a safety issue with traffic going eastbound in those lanes.”

And that would not have been cheap.

“The design, construction and cost of these temporary improvements would have more than doubled the cost of the project and delayed the critical repairs to the bridge,” Gallegos says. “If this bridge was going to take longer to repair, there would have been a benefit for the additional cost and coordination to implement this recommendation. Since the closure (was) scheduled to be less than a month, the decision was to expedite the bridge repair to minimize the cost and overall timeline for the project.”

NMDOT reopened the eastbound lanes on the bridge Friday, three days early. Gallegos reminds motorists to watch for crew members who are still working underneath and around the bridge to wrap up the repair.

MORE ON THOSE DARK STREET LIGHTS: After last week’s column on the number of street lights out for conversion to LED as well as repairs, and the call for residents and motorists to report outages, a few readers chimed in.

RB says streetlight outages have “been going on for years and no one claims ownership. Even our elected officials can’t seem to get the ‘process’ to fix lights corrected. Some friends who relocated to ABQ mention that ABQ is such a ‘dark’ city with inadequate lighting, both on the streets as well as commercial businesses. See (Joel) Jacobsen’s (column in the Feb. 10 Journal) on the increased crime. Crime and no light go hand-in-hand. And we can’t even fix our street lights. Comical.”

And David Blacher emails “in the late 1990s and early 2000s, I was a trained and active volunteer with the Pasadena Police Department and did regular ride-alongs with on-duty patrol officers. In addition to the many devices in the driver’s reach, there was a small pad of paper onto which the officer could make a notation of general city road issues and turn it in at the end of her/his shift.

“For example, non-functional street lights, graffiti, non-urgent downed trees, etc. Of course jotting these things down was not the top priority, but it was additive to the regular traffic division’s roving inspectors.”

David says he shared his tip with the Albuquerque Police Department and “I was informed that the APD does not consider this to be part of their operational mandate. It should be.”

If that’s right, he has a point. Shouldn’t “see something, say something” apply to everyone?

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.


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