IT’S HARD TO CROSS THE RIVER SOUTH OF I-40: That’s what Adrian found out recently.
“As a South Valley resident, there are only three ways to get across the river south of Interstate 40: Central, César Chávez/Dolores Huerta/aka Bridge, and Rio Bravo. Currently, Bridge is under a heavy redesign and is one way in each direction. Therefore, do city planners know that when they close lanes on Central like they have recently at Central/Atrisco and then at Central/Rio Grande, it creates major headaches? There needs to be some détente, aka common sense, on the closing of lanes on Bridge, Central and Rio Bravo when one of the three other roads are closed.”
Amor Solano, of Bernalillo County’s Operations and Maintenance Department, gets it.
“I myself use Bridge to commute to work and home, and I feel the pain when an accident occurs on I-40, and all the river crossings are a slow crawl, and it takes me over an hour to get home. My commute to work and home is delayed with this construction, but not as much as I anticipated – maybe because many people are still working from home. Construction is frustrating, but I really appreciate that the construction industry did not stop during the past year through the pandemic; in fact, we took advantage of the light traffic and tried to get more road repairs/projects done.”
Solano adds “We apologize for the delays, but the end result will be improved roadways, improved sidewalks, bike lanes, lighting, drainage, landscaping, etc. No pain, no gain – that’s the philosophy I try to put in my head, along with some loud music on my drive home.”
CONSTRUCTION SEASON = LOTS OF REPAIRS: Johnny Chandler with the city’s Department of Municipal Development says, “Construction has a season in Albuquerque, and thankfully our weather allows for a longer construction season than a lot of communities. We invest at least $20 million annually on road rehabilitation and another $1 million-plus on striping. This amount of investment does not include larger roadway projects such as an intersection or a bridge rebuild.
“We do work with area agencies to minimize construction conflicts as much as possible, but with 4,600 miles of roadway to maintain and tens of millions going into roadway improvements every year, we can understand why from about March to September, navigating with construction may be frustrating. We also use the motto ‘no pain, no gain.’ Big I construction many, many years ago was a multi-year headache for residents, but we all enjoy the finished project many, many years later.”
Solano adds that “our county/city/state infrastructure is in continual need of improvements. I know for the county, our funding is limited and we take advantage of any opportunities for funding projects. Sometimes our funding has time restrictions, so we have to get construction completed according to those deadlines or we risk losing the funding. All these crossings have massive infrastructure that requires large-scale funding to maintain and improve. Our agencies do coordinate together on projects, but it can be impossible to make sure that our projects don’t overlap.”
And agencies do coordinate. “The (Mid-Region) Council of Governments looks at the ‘big picture’ infrastructure network in the Albuquerque area and applies federal funding to all agencies to improve that infrastructure,” Solano says, “so some of the overlap issues are addressed at that level. There also needs to be consideration that there may be one large-scale project in construction and an emergency project may need to be done on the detour or relief route, like a gas or water/sewer project. There are no guarantees in coordination efforts, but we do try.”
And she has this reminder for all drivers: “Please SLOW DOWN in construction zones. These are temporary routes meant to keep the roadway open for use. They are not designed for normal speeds. Please be cautious and courteous, for your safety and the safety of our staff and contractors’ staff. Thank you!”
Editorial page editor D’Val Westphal tackles commuter issues for the metro area on Mondays. Reach her at 823-3858; firstname.lastname@example.org; or 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, NM, 87109.