In pandemic, lines for coffee, chicken, burgers cause wrecks

DRIVE-THROUGHS, MAJOR STREETS COLLIDE: One of the lesser-known complications of COVID-19 is apparently drive-through-itis and the resulting traffic congestion it causes.

Last week, Laurence DiCola followed up on an email from early in the pandemic on the awful traffic pattern at Petroglyph Plaza on Golf Course Road just south of Paseo del Norte. He writes, “The number of accidents going in and out of this shopping center continues to grow. Three vehicles ploughed into each other (the first weekend in April). It is a common occurrence. The Starbucks drive-through causes backups out of the entrance onto Golf Course. And the traffic flow within the parking lot of this plaza sees multiple fender-benders weekly. The city really needs to investigate what needs to be done to alleviate the traffic congestion and traffic patterns at this plaza.”

Last June, Laurence wrote, “The entrances into and out of Petroglyph Plaza from Golf Course Road has become a death trap getting into and out of the plaza. This has been the case ever since the new Starbucks opened. Has the city looked at redoing the access from Golf Course or forcing the plaza ownership to rectify the situation?”

Apparently not – the city is chalking it all up to pandemic demand for drive-through service. I frequent that shopping center and can say from personal experience Laurence is not exaggerating. I saw the wreck he is referring to, as well as one a few weeks earlier in which a motorcyclist was injured.

But it’s not just coffee on the West Side that has drivers queued up and crashing.

Over in the Northeast Heights, Wanda emails, “The Popeyes Chicken on San Mateo and the Bob’s Burgers on Menaul regularly have cars back up into the street. This causes a major safety issue as other cars try to pull around them into the other traffic lanes.

“I have almost been hit several times on San Mateo due to the Popeyes’ traffic.”

And like Laurence, she asks if anyone in charge is paying attention.

“I have not seen the Albuquerque Police Department address this or the businesses try to get cars to line up on side streets. Is this legal to block traffic lanes? The Dion’s on Academy is very active on managing traffic flows in the parking lot and making sure cars aren’t blocking the flow of traffic.”

Johnny Chandler, public information coordinator for Albuquerque’s Department of Municipal Development, says much of the congestion has to do with the pandemic and limited dining options.

“As anyone may have seen, the drive-thru restaurants and coffee shops seem to be busier than ever,” Chandler says. “This is a phenomenon that has incrementally increased as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact indoor dining in Albuquerque.

“The Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO) calls for allowing at least six vehicles between the end of the queuing lane and the pick-up window for the restaurant. Architects and engineers are encouraged to place the pick-up window location as far away from the adjacent street as possible and are taking this into consideration when providing the city of Albuquerque with their plans.”

Those designs could not have anticipated a pandemic or yearlong emergency shutdown.

Chandler says, “There (has been more) demand for drive-thru coffee shops and fast-food restaurants this year than there has ever been in the past. The city of Albuquerque is seeing many more applications for new drive-thru coffee and food facilities that should alleviate traffic from other areas.”

When those new sites are open, and given “much of the current demand is pandemic-related and as Albuquerque continues to open up, the drive-thru demand should also decrease.”

SEWER WORK SHUTS SAN MATEO RAMP TO I-40: The Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority will be doing sewer rehabilitation work overnights from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. Tuesday through Thursday this week near San Mateo and Interstate 40 and will have the on-ramp to the westbound freeway lanes closed.

A news release Friday says, “The Water Authority encourages motorists to avoid this area and to seek alternate routes during construction.”

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, NM, 87109.

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