Wednesday, December 15, 2004

The City's Current Plans for the 4th Street & Montaño Intersection: Like Trying to Fix the Titanic with Duct Tape

Judge Theresa Baca granted a preliminary injunction to John and Cynthia Sparks yesterday, halting the Mayor's overreaching and surreptitious efforts to re-stripe the Montaño corridor last Saturday following his last minute press conference on Friday afternoon.

In today's West Side Journal, Joe Valles, President of the West Side Coalition of Neighborhood Associations, writes that improvements to the intersections at Second Street and at Fourth Street are imminent. With the planned construction at I-40 and Coors, Mr. Valles argues that we should not "stack" improvements to the City's transportation grid, and asks "doesn't it make more sense to cooperatively and comprehensively begin to address these problems now?"

We absolutely agree with Mr. Valles. Our Coalition has been calling for a comprehensive study of the 4th Street and Montaño corridors for the past 18 months. We recently presented our Community Visioning Report to the City Council (http://www.cabq.gov/council/communityvisioningreport.html). That Report contains recommendations for addressing the complex issues of traffic congestion and economic revitalization in our Area. We believe the Report is an excellent place to start "cooperatively and comprehensively" addressing these issues. However, as expressed in our Report, it is of paramount importance to us that whatever solutions are imposed along the 4th Street and Montaño corridors, those solutions MUST be consistent with our Vision and cannot serve merely the interests of commuters.

Unfortunately, the current perception of the supposed "improvements" to the intersections at 4th Street and 2nd Street are terribly inaccurate, due largely to the incomplete information being provided to the public by the City. Particularly with regard to the proposed changes to 4th Street, those design changes are only meant to alleviate the congestion associated with a 2 lane facility on the Montaño corridor. Despite what the City would like all of us to believe, anyone who has taken a look at the plans for the 4th Street and Montaño interchange can easily see that they fall far short of the kind of comprehensive re-engineering that would need to occur at that intersection before the City even considers allowing 4 lanes on Montaño. The proposed changes at 4th Street are analogous to doing no more than adding an additional traffic lane along the shoulder at Coors and I-40, rather than spending millions of dollars to wholly rebuild that interchange so that it actually works.

Indeed, the Mid-Region Council of Governments has concluded that adding lanes to Montaño, without significantly greater infrastructure improvements at 4th Street than those currently being contemplated by the City, may actually increase commute times and will definitely adversely impact our Area. Those kinds of changes do not represent the kinds of "collaborative and comprehensive" solutions called for by either Mr. Valles or our Coalition.

The challenges facing West Side commuters cannot begin to be solved until the intersections at 4th Street and points east are overhauled. That won't happen without significant investment. We all desire a more efficient traffic grid. As the significant dollars being spent at Coors and I-40 demonstrate, that will not happen "on the cheap." And before we spend a whole lot of money (or any money, for that matter) trying to solve a problem of such magnitude, we should properly understand what the possibilities are for making real, lasting improvements.

Councilor O'Malley will be introducing a bill calling for a comprehensive study of the 4th Street and Montaño corridors, so that we might identify and work toward the kinds of collaborative and comprehensive solutions requested by Mr. Valles. Our Coalition wholly supports Councilor O'Malley's bill, and we ask for Mr. Valles's support as well. At the same time, West Side Councilor Michael Cadigan will be introducing a bill asking the City Council to eliminate many of the prerequisites identified by earlier City Councils as requirements for opening the Montaño corridor to four lanes of traffic. In his zeal to satisfy the demands of his West Side constituents, we believe Councilor Cadigan is putting the cart before the horse. Let's have a comprehensive, independent study of these corridors so that we as a community can identify and develop real solutions that are consistent with our Community Vision and that meet the legitimate concerns of West Side commuters.

We ask Mr. Valles, other citizens who want to see better traffic flow, increased economic development, and useful expenditure of taxpayer dollars, to call on the full City Council to support Councilor O'Malley's bill. Simply re-striping Montaño, or making a "band-aid" fix to the 4th Street intersection, are like trying to fix the Titanic with duct tape. They simply won't get the job done.