From U.S. 550 in Sandoval County to Bridge Boulevard in Albuquerque, five crossings over the Rio Grande are the top five most congested traffic roadways in the entire metro area, according to the latest Corridor Rankings from the Mid-Region Metropolitan Planning Organization.
The analysis of roadway congestion is done every two years to fulfill a federal requirement for metropolitan planning organizations. The just released rankings are based on 2014 data – the most recent available – tracking peak hour traffic volume, average peak hour travel speed, and crashes. Ranked 1-5, the most congested corridors are:
⋄ 1. Alameda from San Pedro to Coors Bypass (also No. 1 in the 2012 analysis);
⋄ 2. Montaño, from Interstate 25 to Unser (No. 6 in 2012);
⋄ 3. Bridge/César Chávez, from University to Unser (No. 3 in 2012);
⋄ 4. U.S. 550, from I-25 to Paseo del Volcan (19th in 2012); and
⋄ 5. Paseo del Norte, from Tramway to Universe (13th in 2012).
Two other corridor river crossings did not make the 2014 top 10 but were still among the list of 31 most congested. Central Avenue was ranked 16th (12th in 2012); and Rio Bravo/Dennis Chavez was ranked 12th (17th in 2012).
Rounding out the top 10 most congested corridors are: 6. San Mateo from Gibson to I-25 (6th in 2012); 7. Paradise from Eagle Ranch to Universe (11th in 2012); 8. Isleta from Bridge to Rio Bravo (4th in 2012); 9. Osuna from I-25 to 4th Street (7th in 2012); 10. Arenal from Isleta to Unser (15th in 2012).
“What this tells me is that there is still quite a lot of demand to cross the river eastbound in the morning and westbound in the evenings,” said Willie Simon, transportation planner with the MRMPO.
The fix, however, is not more river crossings, which at the moment only has a single member agency proposing one – Los Lunas, and that would have minimal impact on metro area traffic, said MRMPO senior planner Nathan Masek.
“We have no indication that member agencies will propose a new river crossing for our area. So far, there is no political will or financial support. River crossings are very expensive and there are significant environmental challenges in putting one through.”
Besides, new bridges across the river are a short-term solution, “and then the roads that lead to the river crossing points become congested themselves, and the river crossings get filled up,” Masek said. “You can’t build your way out of a congestion problem.”
There are, however, other strategies to mitigate congestion, Simon said.
“We need more jobs on the West Side so that people don’t have to cross the river for work,” he said. Congestion can also be eased by improving traffic signal timing, providing better mass transportation to move more people more efficiently, and the use of phone apps to tell people about road conditions, accident locations, delays and alternate routes, Simon said.
The Mid-Region Council of Governments is a multi-county governmental agency representing Bernalillo, Valencia, Torrance and Sandoval counties in planning in the areas of transportation, agriculture, workforce development, employment growth, land-use, water, and economic development. It also provides a forum for groups and individual communities to meet and address regional issues.