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Alameda/Paseo work conflict

paseoalamedaCopyright © 2013 Albuquerque Journal

Drivers seeking alternate routes to westbound Paseo del Norte during its massive interchange reconstruction project say they’re frustrated that a city-funded project has closed Alameda NE from San Pedro to Louisiana.

“What brain-dead person decided to work on (Alameda) and close it at the same time that they’re closing lanes on Paseo?” said Gloria Sandoval, a Northeast Heights resident who commutes to Rio Rancho twice a week.

Alameda and Paseo del Norte are the two major east-west roadways that link the city’s far east side to the west and to I-25.

Workers closed the half-mile section of Alameda on Monday, a day before construction began on the $93 million reconstruction of the Paseo del Norte/Interstate 25 interchange. The closure was part of a multi-phase project that earlier affected Alameda traffic closer to I-25.

On Tuesday, workers narrowed westbound Paseo from three lanes to two from just east of I-25 west to the railroad tracks. The project also shut the far left lane on the northbound I-25 off-ramp for motorists turning west onto Paseo del Norte.

The lane closures have resulted in massive traffic snarls, particularly for westbound commuters during the afternoon rush hour.

Another commuter sounded off Tuesday on the Journal’s Facebook page, also asking why the city would close Alameda at the start of the Paseo/I-25 interchange project.

“Why wouldn’t they finish the Alameda construction before they start on Paseo,” Anamarie Rael wrote. “So ridiculous!”

The $5.4 million city project will keep Alameda closed at least through March. The first phase widened Alameda from two lanes to four from I-25 to San Pedro and installed traffic signals at the intersection of Alameda and San Pedro.

City officials pressed the contractor to complete the first phase of the project before the start of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, said Mark Motsko, spokesman for the city’s Municipal Development Department. Motsko said work completed on Alameda to date will help commuters seeking alternatives to the Paseo/I-25 interchange, suggesting they exit Paseo del Norte and go north onto San Pedro, then turn west on Alameda.

“That’s why the signal is there instead of the old four-way stop signs,” Motsko said. “We knew we needed that signal at Alameda and San Pedro, so that’s why we had the contractor finish it before the Paseo project started.”

Motorists can avoid the Alameda closure by traveling other east-west streets, such as Wilshire, Eagle Rock and Oakland, he said.

The Alameda project began in April to widen the road, build medians, make drainage improvements and install traffic signals from I-25 east to Wyoming NE. Completion is expected by summer 2014.

The city did not consider delaying the project until after completion of the Paseo/I-25 interchange in late 2014 or early 2015, Motsko said.

“We feel that because the project continues eastward, that it gets farther away from the most impacted area of the (Paseo/I-25) reconstruction project,” he said.

The city has imposed a construction moratorium to limit the overall impact on drivers, Motsko said. The moratorium means the city will not issue building permits for construction north of Montaño that would result in the closure of city streets.

But other construction projects in the region are also creating headaches for commuters.

Work continues in Bernalillo to widen U.S. 550 from two lanes to three in each direction, add frontage roads and rebuild the I-25/U.S. 550 interchange, said Phil Gallegos, spokesman for the New Mexico Department of Transportation.

And work started Monday to repave a four-mile section of Tramway from the Bernalillo County line northwest to Sandia Casino and Resort, Gallegos said. The project narrows the road to a single lane in each direction, requiring drivers to follow a pilot car, he said.