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Montaño Study Vetoed

By Dan McKay
Journal Staff Writer
    Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chávez has vetoed the City Council's call for an independent traffic study of the congested Fourth and Montaño intersection.
    City Councilor Debbie O'Malley, who requested the study, said she may seek a veto override at Wednesday's council meeting. Councilors approved the study request last month on a 7-2 vote. It would take six votes to override the mayor.
    In vetoing the bill, Chávez said the $150,000 price for the study was exorbitant, and that it shouldn't be conducted by the Mid-Region Council of Governments.
    "The resolution is also unnecessary when a study can be accomplished in-house," Chávez said in his Jan. 3 veto message.
    He also said city councilors overstepped their legal bounds by calling for the study to be done by the Council of Governments. Only the mayor can provide money for contracts, identify agencies to carry them out and designate the "scope of services" in the agreements, Chávez said. Under the City Charter, the council is to provide merely "advice and consent," he said.
    O'Malley said the COG study is needed because an independent, objective group should lead a study of traffic along Montaño NW.
    O'Malley said Monday that she believes she can get the votes necessary to override the veto. But she said she hopes to negotiate a compromise that would still allow for an independent study, while not formally overriding the veto.
    The veto comes amid a bitter dispute over whether to expand the lanes of traffic along the Montaño corridor, which runs through the North Valley and West Side.
    Chávez favors striping the road from two to four lanes.
    O'Malley, whose district includes the North Valley, said expanding parts of Montaño to four lanes would just shift traffic problems to different parts of the corridor, not solve them.
    Her proposal calls for studying the possibility of bus, carpool or reversible lanes for Montaño, among other options. The study was to be done by June.
    The Montaño corridor— especially the bridge over the Rio Grande— has long been a sore point. The bridge opened in 1997 after a decades-long battle between the village of Los Ranchos, which borders Montaño, and the city of Albuquerque.
    Opponents said it would destroy the semi-rural nature of the North Valley and threaten the bosque and wildlife. Supporters said the bridge was necessary for the growing West Side.
    Voting for O'Malley's bill last month were Brad Winter, Miguel Gómez, Eric Griego, Martin Heinrich, Sally Mayer and Tina Cummins.
    Michael Cadigan and Craig Loy voted against it.