Weeks after gruesome wreck, city reveals new signal plan - Albuquerque Journal

Weeks after gruesome wreck, city reveals new signal plan

Roberto E. Rosales/Journal
This was the scene at Coal and Girard SE in January 2015 when a bus crashed into a house after hitting a commercial vehicle that ran a red light.

HITS KEEP COMING ON LEAD/COAL: In September, the Lead Coal Safety Brigade shared a copy of an engineering study that revealed drivers on the 30-mph streets were hitting 92, 104 even 141 mph, and intersections that recorded 60- to 70-plus crashes each over four years.

And the hits keep on coming.

Dr. Joseph Aguirre, brigade spokesman, emails, “For decades the city of Albuquerque has been operating an expressway on two narrow residential side streets. … What are the consequences of building and operating a principal arterial road with only 60 feet of right of way, 15 feet away from homes? Thousands of crashes just outside of living room and bedroom windows. Hundreds of crashes into front yards, side yards and back yards. Cars driving alongside homes, commonly, at 70-100 mph. Constant danger.”

And now the good doctor is going to get graphic — consider saving the next paragraph for after breakfast if hearing about the carnage his neighbors deal with will make you queasy.

Aguirre says, “Early on Oct. 16 we experienced the second ejection fatality crash on Lead Avenue in less than four years. The first was in front of homes. This second crash was into a home. What does ‘ejection fatality’ mean exactly? It means blood and human remains on the street. On Oct. 16 it meant a quantity of human remains so large and dispersed that first responders and the medical investigator each had to return separately later the same day to complete their work on the site. In front of living room and kitchen windows. The search for accountability continues.”

CHANGES COMING BY SUMMER: Johnny Chandler of the city’s Department of Municipal Development says, “Lead and Coal have lower crash rates compared to other principal arterials such as Louisiana Boulevard, (but) higher crash rates than roads with a similar character like San Pedro or Washington, and the homes are fairly close to the roadway, making it more likely a vehicle will hit private property if there is a crash.”

And so “neighborhoods, City Council and most city departments worked together and convened a yearlong Lead/Coal Safety Taskforce (which recommended) adjusted signal timing, additional roadway educational signage and significant media publicity,” Chandler says.

Guess what. “None of these steps appear to have been effective at reducing speeds or crashes on Lead and Coal.”

Now the city will change some Lead/Coal signals from “non-actuated/coordinated conditions,” where “if you go 30 mph from Washington to I-25 on Lead and Coal you will get all green lights. This operation could encourage speeders as drivers try to ‘catch up’ to the green lights.” Chandler says the new signalization will be “fully actuated/non-coordinated, using rest-in-red with speed feedback. This simply means that a driver must be going the speed limit on Lead and Coal to receive a green light. If a driver is speeding, the light will stay red until the vehicle comes to a complete stop.”

For example, he says, if a driver traveling west on Lead Avenue starting at Morningside Drive maintains 30 mph to Carlisle, a detector placed around Solano or Hermosa would measure that driver’s speed and change the Carlisle/Lead signal from red to green. If the driver of the vehicle is speeding, the Carlisle signal would not change to green.

Right now, DMD has funding for six to eight signals along Lead and Coal (the rest-in-red study said it would run $30,000 to $56,000 an intersection), “with additional funding efforts underway,” Chandler says. “DMD anticipates being able to install the first phase of rest-in-red traffic signals by late summer 2022.”

And while “traffic engineers will still have the option to have the signals run coordinated during peak hours and change them back during non-peak hours … (and) the corridor may take slightly longer to navigate under this new system … slower driving and fewer crashes are worth the changes.”

 

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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