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Pandemic prompts feds to kick Real ID can to May 2023

DRIVERS GET A 19-MONTH REPRIEVE: Remember the big push to get your Real ID license or identification card by Oct. 1 this year to fly on a commercial airliner or enter certain federal buildings? The one that had you scrambling to find your Social Security card and update your passport? Order certified copies of your birth certificate, marriage license and/or divorce decree? Or go to court to get your name changed so your documents all match?

In the words of late, great comedian Gilda Radner as “Saturday Night Live” character Emily Litella, “Never mind.”

On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced it “is extending the REAL ID full enforcement date by 19 months, from October 1, 2021, to May 3, 2023, due to circumstances resulting from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.”

As of Friday evening, the New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division still had the old deadline on its website and was encouraging people whose credentials expire before Oct. 1 to renew upon expiration and those whose expire after Oct. 1 “to renew sooner than later.” A spokesman for MVD did not respond to a request for information after the announcement.

But it bears repeating New Mexico has done an amazing job of getting residents switched over to the new, more vetted, licenses and ID cards. Pre-pandemic, more than 1.1 million N.M. Real IDs had already been issued by October 2019, according to the state Motor Vehicle Division. And more than 80,000 residents had already opted for the standard license or ID that requires fewer documents. (The documents accepted for each are listed at mvd.newmexico.gov, and remember you can stick with a standard license if you have a valid passport or don’t plan to fly commercial.)

Although the MVD closed its offices under the state public health order in March, it continued to process renewals for standard licenses and IDs online. And when it reopened on an appointment-only basis last year, it limited those to just a few transactions that included first-time Real ID. That means many more of the state’s 2 million residents have already gotten their desired credential.

Meanwhile, everyone left can take a breath.

DRIVE-THROUGH LINES: After readers voiced concern in recent columns about drive-through lines backing up on to major arterials and blocking traffic, Van emailed “was just by Starbucks at Paseo del Norte and Golf Course. Line was back out and around to Golf Course, blocking any chance of using the entrance. And I would not be surprised to see the same thing at the Blake’s on the next block, (plus a) new Taco Bell going in, and it is going to be tight quarters for persons going in to the Neighborhood Wal Mart.”

Steve adds that “new Taco Bell on Golf Course, about 1/4 mile north of the problem Starbucks, will be the next danger spot when they open for business in a week or so. It looks to be worse than the Starbucks backup and the Blake’s burger drive-through right next door.”

An earlier column quoted a city spokesman as saying much of the drive-through crush is pandemic-related and should abate as the state opens up, as well as be helped by more businesses opening up their drive-throughs, which should spread out the crowds. Frustrated readers weren’t buying it.

Now Rick De Reyes with the city’s Planning Department has looked into the Taco Bell concerns and says, “Based on the standards of the Institute of Transportation Engineering and the Development Process Manual, the number of general peak hour trips associated with the use – a restaurant with a drive-through window – and the overall size of the new Taco Bell building – approximately 1,600-sq. ft – fall well below the requirement threshold that would necessitate a traffic impact study.”

Editorial page editor D’Val Westphal tackles commuter issues for the metro area on Mondays. Reach her at 823-3858; dwestphal@abqjournal.com; or 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, NM, 87109.


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