This past Tuesday night, a middle-aged man was struck and killed as he crossed Coors Boulevard between Gun Club and Las Estancias in the South Valley. According to news reports and Bernalillo County Sheriff Office spokesperson Felicia Romero, “…a Ford F250 pickup truck was traveling southbound on Coors as three people wearing dark clothing crossed the street near the Countryside mobile home park around 10 p.m. The truck struck one of them.”
I live about a mile from the scene. We could see the many flashing lights Tuesday night associated with the street closure needed for the incident investigation. This proximity, and my many trips driving along this portion of Coors, piqued my interest. The street is dangerous for all its users, motorists, as well as pedestrians and the very occasional cyclist. What makes it so and is that danger level increasing?
For those who haven’t lived down here for years, a comparison of Street View photos might be helpful. Basically taken from the single entrance/exit from the Countryside Mobile Home Park mentioned in the news account, here’s what one would see back in 2007:
and here’s what it looked like in June, 2015, along with descriptors for the new buildings shown:
It’s a radically different environment today. To get a better sense of how things have further changed since the June 2015 shot, I visited Countryside Mobile Home Park this morning. I took this poor photo of roughly the same vista:
Apologies for the photo quality, but it does show the bright colors of the completed movie theater, and, more importantly, what it looks like as one tries to cross or turn onto Coors. The driveway from the 151-unit mobile home park abruptly “merges” into 55 mph traffic with zero acceleration or deceleration.
The photo also gives some impression of something else. The place is surrounded by electrical poles, and even has a little electric “substation” across the street. But there are no streetlights here. Not a one.
Speaking of lights, as noted in the 2015 photo, there’s a traffic signal at Coors and Las Estancias, but this light has not been what is called “warranted” by the City of Albuquerque. So, it hasn’t been “turned on.” This has become more and more of an issue in recent months, with the opening of the 12-plex movie theater, IMAX included.
In other words, the view has changed dramatically, as has the traffic speeding to and from all these new businesses, but the road engineering is still stuck in 2007. In fact, the speed limit is still 55 mph in this stretch, and one would probably be right in assuming the actual average mph today is just as high as reported in the last “Congestion Atlas” report from the Council of Governments.
Having noted all this, we do not know why the three folks in dark clothing were crossing Coors, or many other details, only that one struck and killed. Maybe they were coming back from Walmart, using the brand-new sidewalk/multi-use path shown in the photos above. Interestingly, this sidewalk/path ends right across from the mobile home park, as it can’t go further south because of the electrical sub-station. A few more photos, poorly taken, show the other pedestrian options along this section of Coors:
Staying on the mobile home park side of Coors, there’s nothing but highly sloped gravel for about a hundred yards until one gets to shoulder pavement around the Las Estancias light (note also the sign pretty much blocking passage):
Other businesses, many of them also built/started in the last few years, are further south on Coors. Here’s the well-worn dirt path along a guardrail on the mobile home park side of the highway:
As mentioned, the sidewalk/path on the other side of Coors doesn’t extend any further south. Worth keeping in mind, too, is that a quite popular northbound bus stop is located about where the big white truck is in the shot above. The mobile home park used to have a second entrance right about where that white truck is along Coors, but it was locked years ago, due to security concerns. The only way to get in and out of the 151-unit Countryside Mobile Home Park is this:
Again, we don’t know what led the deceased to cross when he and his co-travelers did, where they were coming from and what condition they may have been in. All we know is that a middle-aged man is dead and that somebody driving a Ford F250 pickup truck is dealing with the trauma of having hit and killed somebody.
We can pin this all down to stupid people crossing at night wearing dark clothes. We can even “go there” and say folks living in a trailer park dumb enough to walk across busy Coors deserve what they get. Part of my childhood was spent living in a trailer, go ahead and think that. We’re used to it.
But excuses and class-based slurs aside, the inability and unwillingness of city, county and state Department of Transportation to modernize and safeguard this stretch of Coors needs to change. Now. That these governmental entities have left Coors Boulevard back in 2007 while the surrounding area has gone from farmland to Walmart, IMAX, etc. is just plain wrong.
I had the chance to talk to the nice woman who runs Countryside Mobile Home Park. She told me how scary it was to drive in and out of the place. Even if you think pedestrians are always breaking the law and deserve what they get for doing so, put yourself behind the wheel of the dark gray car in the photo above. Happy motoring…