Bridging Burque’s Border Wall: Silver Avenue

i-25 study 2040 long range bikeway

Next in our series of solutions toward overcoming the “concertina wire,” as at least someone I know has called it, that are Albuquerque interstate highways, specifically the southern corridor of I-25, let’s look, again, at Silver Avenue.

Hallmark of Burque bicycle infrastructure, beacon of all that is good, decent and progressive, Silver as a “bike boulevard” has been denigrated in prose and lauded in poesy over the years by your humble blogger. As a showcase project, one with huge implications on local public perception of what it means to be a “bike boulevard,” such scrutiny only makes sense.

Now it’s time to scrutinize the little green + atop Silver on the graphic above. The illustration is from the oft-mentioned I-25 South Corridor Study which will supposedly be used to guide the pending long-term reconstruction of the Corridor all the way from the Big I to the NM47/Broadway exit. The graphic incorporates the also oft-mentioned 2040 Long Range Bikeway Map developed by local governmental entities.

One important observation regarding that + above at Silver, however. While the Corridor Study has this graphic, it has ZERO mentions, in prose, of any overpass/underpass at Silver throughout it’s 199 pages. Instead, it repeats the following about five times:

  • The Coal Avenue interchange is improved to accommodate the southbound C-D road and includes an eastbound on-street bicycle lane. Additional north-south lanes are provided on Oak Street and Locust Street. The sidewalks through the interchange are 10-feet wide and are buffered from the curb. A cul-de-sac is proposed on Oak Street south of Coal Avenue.

  • The Lead Avenue interchange will be improved to provide a westbound on-street bicycle lane, 10-foot sidewalks buffered on the south side by a landscape strip and by a cycle track on the north side (see the typical section in Appendix D). The cycle track provides connectivity of the Silver Avenue Bike Boulevard across I-25. An advance U-turn is provided for the south-to-north movement.

In other words, cyclists are supposed to use improved Lead/Coal routes through I-25. Pedestrians are supposed to do the same. I’m sure that “landscape strip” will make walking under the Interstate eminently enjoyable.

This move from overpass/underpass to using Lead/Coal is brought into finer contrast when one looks way back, 2007, to the resolution sponsored by ABQ City Councilor Michael Cadigan that created the Silver Bike Boulevard:

WHEREAS, The New Mexico Department of Transportation is conducting a study for the demolition and reconstruction of Interstate 25 from Central Avenue to New Mexico 47, the study could include an analysis of a bike boulevard crossing at Silver Avenue.

Yeah, that’s pretty wimpy legislative language. “The study could include” does make one cringe, no? For perhaps that, but probably other, reason(s) what was once the idea of a Silver crossing of I-25 has been reduced to a mysterious + on a bikeway plan/study illustration.

I propose that + be turned into a walking/cycling overpass of I-25 when the interstate is reconstructed at this juncture.

I suggest overpass on the advice of those far more knowledgeable than I who have investigated an underpass and found that impossible. Of course, it depends on just how “reconstructed” one is willing to go/spend money, but we’ll propose an overpass based on everything I’ve heard.

Why such an overpass?

  • It’s in the 2040 Long Range Bikeway Plan, and supposedly those things are supposed to supposedly happen, supposedly;
  • Traveling from the Silver Bike Boulevard to Lead now is a good illustration of how dramatically increased the danger is for cyclists. That reminds me of the little funny story from last year in which Presbyterian Hospital wanted to blow up three blocks of the Silver Bike Boulevard to expand its parking lots, then “compromised” with a solution involving cyclists riding through said parking lots. Fortunately, neither stupid idea was put into practice, and we still have the three blocks of bike boulevard from Sycamore to Cedar and then the Oak St. frontage road.
  • The problem is I-25. This is a statement that can be made regarding a great many things.
  • Placing a walking/cycling overpass at Silver and I-25 offers a safe, truly tranquil crossing for pedestrians and cyclists in place of the madness of Central or the heightened dangers of Lead/Coal.
  • An overpass at Silver/I-25 is a bike boulevard. Moving cyclists from a bike boulevard to Lead/Coal is..um…not a bike boulevard.
  • Without an overpass, the disjointed Silver Bike Boulevard will continue to be so. Currently, and without such an overpass in the future, there are really two Silver Bike Boulevards, one that makes sense, finally, east of I-25, and one that really, REALLY doesn’t.
  • Perhaps even more importantly, a huge swath of Eugene Field/EDO residents could reasonably walk from their homes to east of I-25 IF there’s an pedestrian overpass. No reconstruction of Central/Lead/Coal could possible come close to the level of safety and sanity such an overpass would provide, “landscape strip” or not.

So let’s make that largely forgotten green + at Silver a shining bridge across the so-called concertina wire. Two bridges over the River Kwai, so to speak, down. We’ll go further south with our next recommendation and talk about obscure things like those mystery train tracks running out to Kirtland AFB/Sandia National Labs.

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