Comments on Sunport/Woodward Extension Project

by Scot

Today, July 31st, is the deadline to get your thoughts on the proposed Sunport/Woodward extension project passed along to those responsible for collecting such thoughts. As a South Valley resident and lover of history, I’ve spent quite a bit of time pondering the project and the rather shameful history of how the neighborhoods nearby have been treated over the years. Those ponderings have shown up here at BB from time to time.

Never one to avoid procrastination, I’ve waited until the last minute to get my own thoughts on the project passed along. Part of my waiting was simple procrastination, but there was also some real mental churning on the history of East Barelas, San Jose, South Broadway, I-25, Superfund sites, and all that goes into the socio-political goulash that is debate on the extension project. With the deadline here, I pushed out a thought or two that I passed along as public comment. I publish those thoughts here as well, in part because I’m too lazy to repackage the comments into a blogpost, and in larger part due to a desire to keep the conversation going on this important project and projects like it to be proposed and, perhaps, implemented in coming years.

I apologize in advance for the loquaciousness of the author quoted below. Brevity has never been my strong suit.

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Mr. Hinckley, Mr. Taschek, and To Whom It May Concern:

I write you today in strong support of the Sunport/Woodward Extension project. I have closely read arguments against the project and studied the rather shameful history that has led neighbors to still now, years removed from unfortunate decisions made without sufficient community input, suffer from a lack of trust toward any attempt to raise the quality of life in the affected neighborhoods. I understand and respect those concerns, but strongly feel that extending Sunport/Woodward does not deserve the “sins of our community infrastructure fathers” brush it has been painted with by those in opposition.

To clarify my relation to the directly affected area, I live south of Rio Bravo Blvd. between Isleta Blvd. and Coors Blvd., and have done so for only 18 years. Both facts seem worth pointing out in talking Sunport/Woodward extension. No, I do not live on, for example, William Street, just north of Woodward, and, also, have not lived in the area for generations. In the scope of the project directly, I’m a “newbie outsider.” That said, I write as someone who rides a bicycle as transportation through Albuquerque/Bernalillo County about 2,500 miles a year, including at least a weekly ride through Woodward to William Street, as it is currently the best way for me to get to Nob Hill and other locations east of I-25. I have also conducted quite a bit of research on the environmental injustices perpetrated by countless businesses with the unthinking support of City/County/State officials in previous decades.

So even as a “newbie outsider,” I have had the continued wonderful opportunity to ride through East Barelas, San Jose, South Broadway and the other beautiful, historic neighborhoods that make up the directly affected area. Those rides between the train tracks and I-25, and study of newspapers and other sources going back all the way to the mid-1950s, illustrate a huge injustice done to these neighborhoods years ago, yet one that is seemingly never mentioned in today’s debate over extending Sunport.

I refer to the construction and route of what was first called NM-422 and is now known as I-25.

The route of the Interstate chosen in the mid-1950s tore through the beautiful, historic neighborhoods from Martineztown to what is now Gibson Blvd. and has in decades since also prevented west/east access to the Airport and east side of town between Gibson and Rio Bravo. It is strikingly interesting that in all the debate over Sunport/Woodward extension, little to no discussion is centered on the project’s great benefit in offering another east/west crossing between these affected areas and, for example, the Airport. It is my humble opinion that years of injustice and what constitutes a “wall” between these neighborhoods and the East Side have not only deeply suppressed economic opportunity and feelings of neighborhood connection for those living west of I-25, but have also led to a feeling of inevitability regarding I-25’s existence as a “wall.”

I-25 between what is now I-40 and Rio Bravo Blvd. should not have been routed as decided, very much outside of local neighborhood control and input, back in the mid-1950s. Extending Sunport/Woodward is a very needed “gap” in the current east/west “wall” between Gibson Blvd. and Rio Bravo Blvd. Having read the April 2018 Environmental Assessment, I agree with its findings regarding the positive impact on traffic flows throughout the area, the positive impact on economic development possible, and that the chosen routing from I-25 to 2nd Street using Woodward is the best possible option.

I only add that my support is also tied to the essential need to bridge these neighborhoods and the South Valley, including my own neighborhood south of Rio Bravo Blvd. to the east side of town. That bridging aspect gets me back to my other reason to write you in support today; namely, the positive impact the proposed project will have on non-motorized (those walking and cycling) transportation in the area. In addition to my roughly 2,500 miles each year riding in Albuquerque/Bernalillo County, I have had the great opportunity to serve on the Greater Albuquerque Bicycling Advisory Committee since 2014. That role has enabled me to more closely follow roadway infrastructure projects and to become a bit more schooled in best practices for making roads safer and more enticing to those who walk and cycle our streets.

A close look at the previously published plans compiled into the aforementioned April 2018 Environmental Assessment show great promise toward a far safer east/west route through I-25 than is true at Gibson Blvd. and even Rio Bravo Blvd. after its reconstruction. Moreover, the delays in Sunport/Woodward Extension approval actually give us the chance to implement up-to-date 2018 roadway configurations instead of the slightly dated best practices of a few years ago. In short, as seen attached in screenshots from the Environmental Assessment, we have the chance to construct Sunport/Woodward from I-25 to 2nd Street employing full protected separation between drivers and walkers/cyclists.

Moving east to west, making the following changes at “Sunport Boulevard Over I-25” would make a curb separated, raised walking/cycling shared-use path possible:

woodward over I-25

  • Reduce driving thru-lanes from 12 feet to 10.5 feet (creating 6 more feet for other uses)
  • Place curb-separation between right driving thru-lanes and raised 8-10 foot shared-use path in both directions
  • If possible, given the extra room, place landscaping between curb and shared-use path
  • As throughout, clearly sign and define separation for walkers and cyclists on the shared-use path, thus avoiding chances for conflict

“Sunport Boulevard Roadway Cross-Section on Embankment” already brilliantly shows the proposed shared-use path above extending through the high percentage grade area west of I-25. Further recommendations would be to continue this configuration all the way to Broadway Blvd., including the following:

woodward embankment

  • Reduce driving thru-lanes from 12 feet to 10.5 feet (again, saving 6 feet)
  • Expand shared-use path to 8-10 feet on both sides
  • Place curb separation between right driving thru-lanes and raised shared-use path
  • If room permits, place landscaping between right driving thru-lanes and shared-use path
  • More thoroughly consider the intersection of Sunport/Woodward and Broadway from the non-motorized users perspective. Not seeing plans for the intersection in the Environmental Assessment, it will be important to make this crossing as safe as possible, preferably employing Leading Pedestrian/Bicycle intervals, preventing free lefts, not including slip lanes, and signage/striping that will fully inform drivers that walkers/cyclists could be crossing Broadway via the Sunport/Woodward shared-use path.

The 80-foot Right of Way along “Woodward Road” allows us the chance to continue the full separation all the way to 2nd Street by doing the following:woodward

  • Reducing travel lanes from 12 feet to 10.5 feet (saving 3 feet)
  • Separating the bike lane from the driving lane and incorporating the same shared-use path configuration employed elsewhere from Sunport/I-25, with both curb and landscaping further separating the raised shared-use path.
  • Give significant consideration for the raised shared-use path at the train-crossing just west of William Street (I don’t see drawings of this crossing in the Assessment)
  • As with the crossing of Broadway Blvd. above, Woodward’s intersection at 2nd Street needs to keep the safety of walkers/cyclists in mind, with Leading Intervals, signage/striping, as well as incorporation of signage and other details alerting all users to the Bosque Path spur located on the west side of 2nd Street at/near the proposed improved intersection. This spur offers a vital point of access to the very popular Bosque Path (Riverside Trail) and safe crossing to/from this spur is essential in attracting all cyclists, including those casual riders who would otherwise feel comfortable in only staying on the Bosque Path.

Implementing the non-motorized design improvements above along with those already proposed by project engineers will have a strongly positive impact on the neighborhood directly along the route, as well as the entire South Valley, even for those of us living south of Rio Bravo Boulevard. Extending Sunport/Woodward from I-25 to 2nd Street offers improved mobility employing state-of-the-art 2018 roadway engineering practices. While the opposition to the project is understandable, and the historic underpinnings of that opposition very important to keep in mind, this project does not replicate the considerable injustices perpetrated in decades past. It’s a good and very needed project.

Thank you for taking time to consider the comments above, including the proposed improvements which would further increase the safety and attraction to those walking and cycling along the Extension. I very much look forward to seeing the project come to fruition.

 

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