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New 550 interchange confusing for drivers

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — U.S. 550 HAS A STEEP LEARNING CURVE: The reworked interchange at Interstate 25 – now classified as a single-point urban interchange – has drawn a lot of feedback from readers.

Primarily from confused readers who question if how it looks now will be how it looks down the road, and why it was done this way at all.

Donn Fishburn, whose email is complete with photographs and graphics, has concerns about the alignment and visibility of the striping, signage or lack thereof that has “many cars start toward Placitas, wander around the intersection, and finally turn left onto northbound Interstate 25 … (or) go up N.M. 165 to the frontage road and make a U-turn.”

Lilyturbo emails, “The eastbound driver on 550 trying to drive north onto I-25 is in for a very confusing turn. Heaven forbid if it is night. This is a serious flaw in engineering design. Hopefully it is only temporary or else a terrible accident could occur.”

Beverly A. Bailey says, “The new off ramp from eastbound 550 to southbound I-25 is extremely dangerous, especially if you are (in) the far right lane.” Her email explains “drivers are running on and off the rumble strips with uneven lanes, while cars are merging and accelerating. It can get pretty scary. What are the plans for fixing this?”

Another reader says “coming off southbound I-25 heading west to 550, the lights are very confusing. There is confusion as to whether right-on-red arrow is allowed or do we wait for the green arrow? There is no signage, so some drivers will go right on a red arrow while others wait for the green arrow.”

And Kathleene Parker emails ,”I urge you, if you have not already, to take N.M. 550 eastbound into the new interchange on I-25 and try, just try, to figure out how to get onto northbound I-25 at the new Bernalillo interchange. I have driven all over the nation, and I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a more confusing and, likely, dangerous intersection than recent ‘improvements’ have made this.”

Phil Gallegos, who handles public information for the District 3 office of the New Mexico Department of Transportation, has two points to make.

1. The interchange is not complete. There will be a “lot of grinding” as crews remove poor pavement and replace it, then lay down the final layer of asphalt, put down the final thermoplastic striping and adjust the signal mast arms for final alignments. That work is weather dependent, much of it requires it be 60 degrees Fahrenheit and rising, and will preferably be done at night to mitigate traffic disruptions.

Which puts the project roughly on a track for completion in mid- to late May.

2. The new interchange is markedly different from the old. It is only the third single-point urban interchange in the Metro area that Gallegos could think of; the others being Louisiana and Interstate 40 and Coors and Paseo. That change “takes some learning” and requires drivers “to pay attention” to the new configuration until, like those others, it becomes familiar.

IS THERE A WATER LEAK ON ALAMEDA? With all the drain cleanup going on recently on Alameda, courtesy of Bernalillo County, an alert driver called to report a possible leak at Rio Grande South that is “progressively deteriorating the pavement.”

David Mitchell, director of the county’s Operations and Maintenance Department, issued a request for crews to check it out, and they found not a leak but “water sitting in the intersection that looks … like it’s coming from the sprinklers from the shoulder of Alameda Boulevard to the east of Rio Grande.”

And they subsequently adjusted them.

Assistant editorial page editor D’Val Westphal tackles commuter issues for the Metro area on Mondays and West Siders and Rio Ranchoans on Saturdays. Reach her at 823-3858;; P.O. Drawer J, Albuquerque, N.M. 87103; or go to to read previous columns and join in the conversation.