Friday, August 12, 2005

More Than a Bucket of Paint

On Tuesday, August 9, approximately 75 citizens attended a City public meeting to review design options and offer input on the future of the Montaño Road corridor and the 4th Street & Montaño intersection. Many expressed their strong belief that the important issues of safety, walkability, ingress/egress, environmental quality, public transit, economic revitalization and smooth traffic flow, must all be factored into the City’s plans for the area.

The 4th Street & Montaño Area Improvement Coalition is encouraged by Hall Planning and Engineering’s presentation and by the comments that were aired by City residents. Rick Hall’s initial recommendations included bus/high occupancy vehicle dedicated lanes, reduced lanes on 4th Street to enhance walkability and economic vitality, an improved local neighborhood street grid, grade-level pedestrian crossings on Montaño and acequia preservation. He agreed to further investigate several citizen suggestions, including a single, reversible bus/HOV lane.

Mr. Hall’s perspective is long overdue and stands in sharp contrast to the politically popular but foolhardy “solutions” advanced to date. Unlike the less imaginative proposals put forward previously, Mr. Hall has suggested an option that envisions Montaño as a vital public transit link from the West Side to important north-south transit options east of the river. Under this type of scenario, a multi-modal Montaño corridor would enable more people to access jobs, restaurants, shopping and the performing arts throughout the city, including the Cottonwood Mall, the shops at Coors & Montaño, the revitalized (and pedestrian-friendly) 4th Street District, Downtown, Uptown, the Jefferson business corridor, and even Santa Fe via rail–all in a manner that could be as fast as, or faster than, taking a single-occupancy car.

For those who argue that such a vision for Montaño would be too costly, consider this: in contrast to the four general purpose lane “bucket of paint” proposal, transit options along 4th Street and throughout the Montaño corridor significantly increase the City’s ability to leverage state and federal funds, thereby shifting financial burden off the backs of local taxpayers. Moreover, the long-term societal, economic and environmental costs of building roads for single-occupancy vehicles far outweigh the construction costs associated with more transit-friendly options. Given the constraints at the Coors, 4th, and 2nd Street intersections, Hall’s suggestions will get more people across the bridge than two more lanes of parked cars. There simply is no way to build roads fast enough to keep up with demand. Just look at the pain experienced by residents of Los Angeles and Phoenix.

Advocating visionary solutions for Montaño and the 4th Street area certainly is not fashionable or politically expedient. Yet we are confident that citizens from both sides of the Rio Grande will assist Mr. Hall in developing imaginative, practical recommendations that will benefit us all.

Acting on these recommendations – and demonstrating true, visionary leadership for our city – will require more than a bucket of paint.
The next Montaño public meeting will be Tuesday, August 30th, 7 p.m., at the Taylor Ranch Community Center. We encourage all who are interested in working together for a better Albuquerque to attend this important meeting.