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Tuesday, May 8, 2007
Mayor Proposes Fix for Paseo del Norte Congestion
FOR THE RECORD: The name of the agency that reported traffic counts on Paseo del Norte has been corrected in this story.
By Jim Ludwick
Journal Staff Writer
Mayor Martin Chávez on Monday unveiled a plan for easing traffic congestion at Paseo del Norte and Interstate 25, calling it an "interim fix."
Chávez said it could take years for the state and federal governments to provide a more complete solution. It could cost more than $200 million to reconstruct the intersection, he said, and he doesn't want to wait.
A stopgap project, including more turn lanes and through lanes, could be built in about eight months and could improve traffic flow at a cost of less than $1 million, he said.
Chávez said the city could split the cost with the state, using available city money.
Paseo is the second-largest commuter road in the region, carrying drivers from the Northwest Mesa and Rio Rancho to job centers east of the river. Interstate 40 is the only busier commuter route, officials said.
Chávez's plan recognizes the importance of dealing with backups at Jefferson, near Paseo and I-25.
It will require state approval, but the mayor said he has talked with state transportation officials and is confident the project can be built.
Major elements include:
A double right-turn lane onto Jefferson from eastbound Paseo.
An additional through lane as eastbound Paseo approaches I-25. One of the two existing right-turn lanes onto the freeway would be turned into a through lane. Construction would be required to create a new right-turn lane.
An additional through lane on westbound Paseo at Jefferson, continuing for a distance beyond the intersection. There is enough space to add a fourth lane, but some minor construction would be needed at the intersection, said Ed Adams, the city's chief operating officer.
A longer distance for dual left-turn lanes onto Paseo from Jefferson, to increase the number of vehicles that can get through a green light there.
Chávez said improvement of traffic in the vicinity of Paseo and I-25 "is clearly the single greatest need the city has in terms of traffic infrastructure right now."
More than 86,000 vehicles use the Paseo and Jefferson intersection daily; the count is more than 90,000 at Paseo and I-25, according to the Mid-Region Council of Governments.
However, the mayor said city government can't simply reconstruct the intersection.
"The city can't get in the business of building state roads and federal roads. We just don't have that kind of muscle," he said.
But he said the city can share the cost of the more modest improvements.
"We're talking about an interim fix. It will get us additional capacity until the state and federal governments get together on a larger project," he said.
Adams said it would be a worthwhile effort.
"In the road business, it's a fairly nominal amount of money for a fairly substantial gain," Adams said.
The City Council on Monday night approved a proposal by Councilor Michael Cadigan that makes it a priority for the city to find money for substantial interchange construction.
It mentions a new interchange at I-25 and Paseo and a grade-separated interchange at Jefferson and Paseo.
Cadigan's measure also says the city should join with the state and others on a committee that would find ways to come up with the needed money for a more thorough fix, about $200 million.