Cars are, with frequency, knocking down trees, running onto the sidewalks or into walls.
Residents Want the City to ‘Keep Cars On the Road’ and Off Sidewalks
BY JUANI HOPWOOD
Joseph Aguirre, a plaintiff in a recent lawsuit against the City seeking an injunction to stop the $119 million Albuquerque Bus Rapid Transit project, says ART will lead to more traffic accidents on Lead and Coal avenues.
Aguirre and his neighborhood association know about accidents on Lead and Coal. Last year, a red light runner at Girard Boulevard sent a city bus careening into a house. He and his neighbors can offer up a photo portfolio of accidents involving trees, signs, landscaping and, of course, cars that have led them to call the traffic on the two streets a “demolition derby.”
‘There are these high velocity, high impact collisions. People have had rollover accidents in proximity to their homes, cars crashing through corners, bringing down signposts’ – Lead Avenue resident Joseph Aguirre
City officials have argued in public hearings that sending more Central traffic to the two one-way streets will lead to more congestion and thus speeds will be slower. A spokesperson for the ART project says there’s plenty of capacity for diverted Central traffic on the two streets and that city and federal officials have deemed the Central Avenue traffic diversions safe.
“There will be one lane of traffic open in each direction of Central during the entire construction period and afterwards,” said Joanie Griffin of Griffin & Associates, an ART spokesperson. “If people want to take Lead and Coal or other side streets to avoid Central, there is plenty of capacity according to traffic studies.”
Aguirre, who lives on Lead, doesn’t buy it. “It’s very likely that the number of accidents is simply related to the volume of traffic. So, to argue that, somehow, affecting speed by causing more congestion is going to reduce the accident count – it’s not a carefully thought-out and studied analysis,” he said.
Aguirre is a party to a Bernalillo County District Court lawsuit against ART. Another lawsuit to delay ART construction is pending in New Mexico U.S. District Court.
“There are these high velocity, high impact collisions. People have had rollover accidents in proximity to their homes, cars crashing through corners, bringing down signposts – collisions where, easily, someone would have been killed if they had been standing on a corner,” he said.
“Cars are, with frequency, knocking down trees, running onto the sidewalks or into walls,” he said. “The City is fundamentally just not doing its job; they need to keep the cars on the road.”
Aguirre worries residences on Lead and Coal are too near the street, with some as close as 18 feet away. Also hazardous are the numerous access points. “There are so many intersections, and they’re very closely spaced, plus alleys, plus driveways, so there are all these points where people cross the roadway, and that creates more accident risks,” he said.
Melanie Martinez, a spokesperson for Municipal Development, the lead city agency on ART, said the department worked to reduce crashes on Lead and Coal during a redesign completed in 2012. “Driving lanes were reduced from three to two, bike lanes were added and sidewalks were widened, 1,200 trees and 8,200 bushes were planted,” she said.
Martinez referred questions on the safety impact of ART on Lead and Coal to Griffin, who cited traffic study data by the Mid-Region Council of Governments. The study, performed as part of a federal grant to seek funding for ART, estimated that 200 cars will be diverted from Central during each of the morning and evening rush hours “which is approximately five cars per minute – hardly a ‘demolition derby,’” Griffin said in an email.
Aguirre agrees that the 2012 Lead/Coal redesign succeeded in improving accessibility and landscaping but, “from a safety point of view, many of us feel it was a failure; there are still unacceptable safety problems in immediate proximity to people’s homes and sidewalks. As much as the ART planners might want to ignore that, they can’t. They can’t propose a configuration that will send more traffic to Lead and Coal when there are these unacceptable problems.”
Neighborhood associations sent letters to the City Council proposing adjustments to the project’s plans before the City Council voted to approve ART. “Our bottom line was we did not want the vehicle lane reduction between San Mateo and Girard, the one adjustment that could have made the project have less onerous impacts . . . a more realistic plan would be to give up the dedicated bus lanes and use the existing Rapid Ride model with enhancements,” Aguirre said.
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