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Drivers are looking for a sign

METHOD BEHIND THE CONSTRUCTION SIGN MADNESS: Franklin Halasz asks if there is one.

He emails that “about mid-May there was a road-repair project on southbound Interstate 25 that reduced the usual three lanes to one. A programmable sign well before the lane squeeze warned of this. But the signage immediately before the barrels said ‘left lane closed’ instead of ‘left 2 lanes closed’ and sure enough, there was a crash just where the lanes went away.”

Franklin says, “This is but one instance of bad signage at construction sites,” and gives the I-25/Paseo project as an example of having “small and poorly lighted” signs. He’d like to see earlier, larger and more frequent signs alerting drivers to construction conditions and asks “why are the standards set as they are?”

Melissa Dosher of the New Mexico Department of Transportation explains, “There are both state and federal guidelines for temporary traffic control (TTC) plans and for sign/stripe design criteria. The signs are designed to be reflective and readable to motorists based on the speed of the roadway. The NMDOT TTC plans usually provide for significant advance signing – 1 mile, ½ mile, 1,500 feet – especially in the urban metro area. The state strives to provide the most accurate work zone information to the public at all times.”

That said, “sometimes changes that were not anticipated occur for short periods of time within a work zone, which may differ from the original set up. The district continually conducts work-zone inspections for most major projects, which should identify any traffic-control needs and to ensure clear guidance to the motorist.”

As for Franklin’s additional concern “about the crews that edge the barrels into what remains of the driving lane, reducing it to nine feet instead of 10 or 12?” Dosher says, “Traffic control devices should not impede the active driving lane unless there is a lane shift identified in the temporary traffic control plan.”

CAN PASEO GET ANOTHER SIGN? Along these lines, Cliff Goodson called to say the signage is late for drivers going from westbound Paseo to southbound Pan American (the frontage road). Not only that, but the frontage is called Pan American west even though it’s a southbound road. Cliff gets that’s because it’s on the west side of the interstate, but he says that has to be confusing to out-of-town drivers. Also, if you miss the turn, you have to drive west all the way to Second and flip a U-turn.

So is additional signage in order?

Dosher says NMDOT “will evaluate, but that area is very congested with signing already. For westbound traffic, there is the overhead sign on the approach to the interchange that indicates both north and south I-25 traffic (should) use (the) right lane. There are several route signs on the right shoulder to encourage motorists to use the right lane to gain access to southbound I-25.”

SENSING A PROBLEM AT PASEO/RANCHO SERENO: Mayolo emails: “The traffic light on (westbound) Paseo del Norte and Rancho Sereno Road I believe to be on (a) sensor, but after the construction (in April) it is on cycled time. Maybe they forgot to switch it back to “sensor” mode?

Nope. It was damaged during construction – a somewhat common occurrence – and they have to replace it.

Melanie Martinez, program manager for the city’s Department of Municipal Development, says, “Until the loop detector (i.e. traffic sensor) is replaced, the northbound movement will receive a green indication every cycle even if no vehicles are present. This damaged loop is on the list to be replaced.”

Assistant editorial page editor D’Val Westphal tackles commuter issues for the Metro area on Mondays. Reach her at 823-3858;; or P.O. Drawer J, Albuquerque, N.M. 87103.