Friday, January 14, 2005

Coalition Guest Column Encourages Unity Around 4th & Montaño Issue

A guest column by Chris Kenny, Vice Chairman of the Fourth Street & Montaño Area Improvement Coalition, appeared in the January 13, 2005 edition of The Albuquerque Journal under the headline "4th/Montaño Study Shot at Uniting City"
(http://www.abqjournal.com/opinion/guest_columns/289399opinion01-13-05.htm). Due to space limitations, the Journal had to shorten the original letter. The full text appears here:

"On a recent Friday, without any notice to potentially affected residents or business owners, Mayor Martin Chavez, Councilor Michael Cadigan and Municipal Development Director Ed Adams stood on the Montaño Bridge and announced that the following morning city crews would begin re-striping nearly all of Montaño Road between Coors and Fourth Street.

Because the city has enacted several resolutions requiring that numerous infrastructure improvements be completed before Montaño can be re-striped, a state district court enjoined the city from proceeding, specifically rejecting the Mayor’s ambitious legal argument that the earlier Montaño resolutions were merely “advisory” and therefore not binding on him.

The Council has since passed (7-2) a resolution calling for an independent study of the Fourth and Montaño intersection. The Mayor has threatened to veto this measure and to move ahead with his own plans, including a city-directed study of Fourth Street. He will hold a public meeting on Thursday “to discuss the study of travel lane configurations on Montaño Boulevard [sic] between Coors Boulevard and Fourth Street.”

Following the Mayor’s lead, Councilor Cadigan plans to introduce a resolution that will nullify the city’s prior commitments regarding Montaño.

In the best interest of our city, we call on Councilor Cadigan and the Mayor to reconsider their approach.

A preliminary assessment of the traffic flow impacts that would result from four lanes on Montaño conducted by the Mid-Region Council of Governments (the federally-designated body charged with developing a regional transportation plan) concluded that travel times for many commuters, particularly those in Taylor Ranch, would actually increase unless there is a prior, substantial overhaul of the Fourth Street intersection. More recently, two prominent West Side leaders have publicly called for upgrades to the Fourth Street intersection prior to re-striping.

While we should not condone Councilor Cadigan’s attempt to shift traffic problems from one part of the city to another, the Mayor’s actions are even more objectionable. Unlike Councilor Cadigan, the Mayor was elected to serve the interests of the entire city. Instead, the Mayor’s commitment to deliver a four lane Montaño corridor to his West Side political base in anticipation of this fall’s mayoral election, couched under the pretext of “public safety,” has thoroughly clouded his judgment. Further evidence of this fact can be seen in his repeated attempts to mischaracterize the issue as a “City of Albuquerque vs. Village of Los Ranchos” or “West Side vs. East Side” confrontation. Such intimations are unnecessarily divisive and ignore the collaborative work that has been undertaken by hundreds of concerned Albuquerqueans on both sides of the river.

Equally troubling are comments made by Mr. Adams who has suggested on several occasions that there is only a minimal correlation between traffic flow at Fourth and Montaño and the negative economic effects on surrounding businesses. I do not profess to be an authority on the matter, but for the Mayor’s appointed “expert” to suggest this idea, coupled with the Mayor’s own statements and actions to date, reveals an administration that is either unwilling or unable to conduct itself in a competent, objective manner concerning this issue.

The administration also has done nothing to discourage the widely-held misperception that its currently proposed solutions for the Montaño corridor somehow will create a Paseo del Norte-like facility across Albuquerque. Whether desired or not, a simple examination of the number of traffic signals (at Coors, Fourth, Second, Edith, Renaissance, Culture Drive, and I-25) and driveways along Montaño reveals the fallacy of this misrepresentation.

Before we saddle ourselves with impractical, unsustainable solutions to this mounting crisis, we need objective data that only a thorough, independent analysis will provide. Such a study could be completed in months, not years. It should include the key elements of our Community Visioning Report (www.cabq.gov/council/communityvisioningreport.html) and should examine alternatives – such as utilizing Montaño to connect commuters with the planned commuter rail project or other similar mass transit options – that irretrievably will be lost if the Mayor’s current proposals are implemented. Together as a community we could then make intelligent, rational decisions that would benefit our city, now and into the future.

The Mayor has promised to support our efforts. He should act on that promise by initiating the type of thorough, independent analysis that has been recommended to him by the Coalition and that has already received the support of our state legislators, the city’s two leading newspapers, and a majority of the City Council.

With visionary leadership, perhaps – just perhaps – the Montaño and Fourth Street corridors will actually unite our community."