Saturday, December 11, 2004

Mayor's Attempt to Re-stripe Montaño Enjoined; Coalition Issues Press Release

In an apparent effort to effectuate a fait acomplis, City of Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez - without any notice to affected residents and business owners - held a last-minute, surprise press conference late Friday afternoon at which he announced that, beginning first thing Saturday morning, City crews would re-stripe Montaño Road from 4th Street to the Bridge and from the Bridge to Coors Boulevard.

The Mayor made his decision despite the conclusions of the Mid-Region Council of Governments that widening Montaño without making significant improvements to the intersections at 4th Street and 2nd Street will not improve West Side commute time and will further aggravate the traffic safety and congestion crisis in the North Valley, and further despite the Mayor's own recent past statements acknowledging that the true problems with traffic flow throughout the Montaño and 4th Street corridors result from the intersections at 4th Street and 2nd Street and NOT from the number of lanes on Montaño (a fact that, though patently obvious to even the most inexperienced urban planner, apparently was lost on the Mayor when the bridge was constructed in 1997).

Both Mayor Chavez and City Councilor Michael Cadigan, who joined the Mayor at the surprise press conference on Friday, have apparently decided to ignore the views of even the most vocal proponents of widening the Montaño corridor. As noted in an earlier post on this blog (see "More on 'Problems with Progress'" below), Larry Weaver, President of the West Side Coalition, recently stated in his letter to the Albuquerque Journal that "there should be no rush [to restripe Montaño to four lanes] until the Fourth and Second Street intersections are improved." Clearly, both Mayor Chavez and Councilor Cadigan are interested in applying a "quick fix" to a serious problem of the City's own creation - the lack of significant and meaningful infrastructure improvements in the 4th Street and Montaño corridors, including the complete reconstruction of the 4th Street and 2nd Street intersections - in favor of a short-sighted and divisive proposal that doesn't address the true source of the problem.

The Mayor's surreptitious efforts have been temporarily thwarted, however. At 10:12 p.m. on Friday night, John and Cynthia Sparks, residents of the Village of Los Ranchos whose property borders Montaño Road, obtained a Temporary Restraining Order from State District Court Judge Theresa Baca. The TRO states that the City "including any person acting on behalf of the City of Albuquerque, are hereby temporarily enjoined from proceeding or effecting, in any manner, any improvement to Montano Road, Albuquerque, New Mexico, between Second Street and Coors Boulevard, which is intended, designed or has the effect of changing said Montano Blvd., from two lanes of traffic to four lanes of traffic."

Earlier in the day, Councilor Debbie O'Malley issued a press release in which she observed that the Mayor has not complied with several City Council resolutions pertaining to Montaño, and that he also did not comply with required notice and public input procedures.

The Coalition also issued a press release, which reads as follows:

"The 4th Street & Montaño Area Improvement Coalition regrets Mayor Chavez’s announcement late today that City crews will begin working over the weekend to add lanes to Montaño Road. The Mayor’s actions are short-sighted, contrary to good public policy and a waste of taxpayer dollars.

According to the Mid-Region Council of Governments, widening Montaño without making significant improvements to the intersections at 4th Street and 2nd Street will not improve West Side commute time and will further aggravate the traffic safety and congestion crisis in the North Valley.

The Mayor’s Friday afternoon announcement of work to commence Saturday morning violated the spirit of trust and cooperation that is necessary for effective government.

For over a year, the 4th Street & Montaño Area Improvement Coalition has been working with the Mayor and City staff to develop comprehensive solutions to the traffic crisis along the 4th Street and Montaño corridors. Only three days ago, the Coalition presented its Community Visioning Report to City Council. The Report includes several recommendations designed to accommodate West Side commuters while reducing traffic congestion and revitalizing 4th Street. The Coalition’s work to date demonstrates that individuals with widely divergent views can work together to build a “world class city.” However, doing so will require that the Mayor and the City Council demonstrate the political will and long-term vision that will bring the City together rather than further dividing it.

We will continue to insist that the City make long-overdue, substantial infrastructure improvements – including the complete reconstruction of the 4th Street and 2nd Street intersections – before the City adds more traffic on these corridors.

For more information about the Coalition’s efforts, visit http://www.4thstreetcoalition.blogspot.com/. You may download the Coalition’s Community Visioning Report at http://www.cabq.gov/council/communityvisioningreport/html (click on the "Community Visioning Report [pdf] link). The Community Visioning Report reflects the consensus of over 100 citizens who are participating in a grass-roots effort to make the 4th Street & Montaño area a “jewel” within the heart of Albuquerque."

We strongly encourage you to contact all members of the City Council and inform them that we need a comprehensive approach to solving the many issues along the 4th Street and Montaño corridors, not the "band-aid" approach that the Mayor is advocating. A good place to start is the independent, comprehensive study being presented to the City Council by Councilor O'Malley.