Let’s Build a Walk/Cycle Bridge Over I-25 at Silver Avenue

Here’s something great I’ve learned about retirement; something nobody ever told me prior to me hanging up the chalk, so to speak. You know all those dreams/nightmares you have about work? All the time, if you’re a school teacher? Well, you don’t have them anymore.

I used to spend a good 50% of my sleeping time basically AT WORK during the school year processing all that went and would go on during the work day. Now this 50% is freed up for other, non work-related dreaming. It’s great.

Last night, perhaps reflecting my general lack of imagination, I vividly dreamt that the City of Albuquerque was boring a tunnel underneath Interstate 25 at Silver Boulevard.

Yeah, I’m freed up from nightmares about inexplicably teaching in my underwear, only to be replaced by tunnel boring. Dr. Freud, Dr. Jung, White Courtesy Phone… By the way, the tunnel was, for some reason, lined with stainless steel and spiraled upward/downward. It was hard to walk through in my socks. – 30 –

All of this is a far too long introduction to this morning’s BB topic:  How Should the Silver Bike Boulevard cross I-25?

As many readers know from attending last week’s public meeting on the topic of Silver BB (Bike Boulevard, not Better Burque), we are now in the “information gathering” phase, one in which ideas are to be bandied about (one of my favorite cliches, as you never see “bandy” without “about,”) on issues such as obstacles to crafting a safe route. Those ideas need to be bandied back (see what I did there?) to the City by September 17th:

Please note the date, as it doesn’t appear anywhere on the CABQ webpage about the project. Taking one of the two biggest obstacles to safe cycling passage from UNM/Nob Hill to Downtown and on to the Bosque, let’s repeat the question: How Should the Bike Boulevard Cross I-25? To save you several minutes of reading and looking at screenshots below, I’ll bandy to the chase: Build a walk/cycling bridge over I-25 at Silver from Locust to Highland Park. 

This idea was, finally, expressed by an attendee at last week’s public meeting, and was immediately followed by two quite different, yet simultaneous reactions from pretty much everybody there: A. That is THE answer to the problem: B. It’s insane to even consider it due to expense.

Instead, looking at the latest presentation PowerPoint from those designing the Project…

silver bb and I-25 Proposed

…the currently promoted plan involves a somewhat convoluted use of the sidewalk space on Oak, a crossing of that on-ramp frontage road underneath I-25 on a new two-way cycle track, a crossing of the off-ramp frontage road on the west side of I-25, and some simple changes to make it easier to get back on Silver from Locust, a street technically cut off by the Interstate as seen here:

silver and I-25

You’ll note that I’ve also used Google Maps distance calculator above for sinister reasons that might already be apparent. While the cycle track under I-25 idea has been around for quite some time, and is actually included in the bike/ped anathema that is the NMDOT-commissioned South I-25 Corridor Study, the idea of swinging north from Lead back to Silver is newer, although it’s been a popular method of avoiding the speeding drivers on Lead for years.

Then there’s the idea of bridging or tunneling over/under I-25. Over the years, much pondering of the concept has taken place, with non-motorized transportation advocates and/or City staff staring at sights like this:

silver and oak
Looking westbound Silver, note the on-ramp which starts up just south of Silver

and this:

silver and locust
This is always the part where the pondering advocate/staffer sighs and goes “gulp.” 

As you can see, the monstrosity of on-ramps, overpasses, sound walls (not to mention the actual Interstate highway) all make bridging/tunneling a truly daunting, expensive proposition.

But unthinkable?

Looking back at the distance calculation above from the ends of Silver Avenue we get 373 feet of on-ramps, overpasses, sound walls, and Interstate. That is quite a bit of roadway to hurdle or tunnel under. But let’s look at another walk/cycle crossing of an Interstate in our fair city, just a few miles away from Silver/I-25:

penn and I-25 bridge

Yeah, this is that good ‘ol friend, the walk/cycle bridge over I-25 at Jerry Cline Park/Winrock Mall. As seen above, the bridge crosses approximately 250 feet of Interstate roadway. Yes, that’s less than the approximate 375 feet required at Silver. But let’s also look at the approaching structures for the Cline/Winrock bridge (to give it a name):

penn and I-25 bridge complete length

All told, that thing is over 1,100 feet of raised structure. And have we mentioned the nearby area includes a dreamy tunnel under Louisiana Boulevard, one that then goes through a great park not too dissimilar to Highland Park at Silver/I-25? Why the Hell does this part of town get fantastic walk/cycle infrastructure like this, while the area around Silver/I-25 gets laughed at for bringing up the idea of a bridge?

I’ll repeat that: Why the Hell is a bridge at Silver/I-25 a laughable proposition?

Yes, the height and other aspects of the Interstate monstrosity at Silver do make engineering a bridge more difficult. How difficult; I don’t know, I’m not an engineer. Still, doing so would not seem insurmountable. What does seem insurmountable is the mindset that we can’t spend money like this on walk/cycle structures. Not anymore, evidently.

That this mindset would seem unshakable in terms of making it far safer for folks to walk and cycle from UNM/CNM/Nob Hill/etc., to/from Martineztown/South Broadway/San Jose/Downtown certainly seems to unfortunately reflect a bit of lingering disregard for the residents of neighborhoods already split apart by the routing of I-25 decades ago.

It’s also interesting that whereas folks in the Heights get a walk/cycle bridge to go to a tennis center and shopping mall, folks in “EDO” (an unfortunate white-washing name for the historic neighborhoods west of I-25) don’t get a bridge to walk/cycle to/from Presbyterian Hospital and the University.

Interesting.

There’s also the meta-argument against building a walk/cycle bridge at Silver based on the aforementioned South I-25 Corridor Study. The point of that study was to plan toward reconstruction of the entire Corridor, a plan now put into practice through reconstruction at the Rio Bravo/I-25 interchange to the south. The thinking goes something like “well, we’re reconstructing the entire Corridor, so why add a walk/cycle bridge now.”

First, moving south to north, as Corridor construction is planned and at the current pace, in approximately what year do you think the Lead/Coal will actually be reconstructed? 2040? 2050? Second, what’s wrong with making sure that eventual reconstruction includes a walk/cycle bridge (something the Corridor Study does not include) by building one now?

In sum, there’s something unsettling and disquieting about the knee-jerk laughter in response to the idea of a walk/cycle bridge at Silver and I-25.  The combination of thinking small and disregarding our history by repeating it has me troubled.

We can do better. We can build this bridge. Just like we’ve done in several other parts of town, but not, for some reason, this part of town.

We can do better.

 

 

One thought on “Let’s Build a Walk/Cycle Bridge Over I-25 at Silver Avenue

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s