Mystery of the “Catwalk” Over I-25 to Lincoln Junior High

A long-time Albuquerque complaint made by myself and other non-motorized roadway users is that each and every quadrant in town has at least one bike/ped bridge over the Interstate, except the stretch of I-25 south of the Big-I.

But there was a time…

For years, I’ve had a personal fascination with Burque’s Lincoln Junior High, built in 1923 and closed in the early 1970s in a controversial swirl of race, busing, dilapidated conditions, pointed arguments over who let the conditions become so dilapidated, and de facto segregation. With an overwhelmingly black and brown student body from neighboring East Barelas, Martineztown/Santa Barbara, and east to Buena Vista SE north/south down to Kirtland Addition, Lincoln was a place of internal pride and external discrimination for decades.

lincoln borders
A quaintly hand-drawn map included in an Albuquerque Journal story written at the 1970 heart of the controversial proposed closing. Long story short, the 1970 proposal was successfully stopped, but the school closed in 1974 over less organized protest primarily on the argument of its declining enrollment. Today, the old Lincoln JH is home to a set of APS offices, still including, I think, the place where all the band/orchestra instruments get repaired/go to die.

Along with fascinating stories I’ve read, offline, over the years involving public protest by students and families at “White” Jefferson Junior High (now Jefferson Middle School) when former Lincoln students began matriculating there (protests which included lining up around Jefferson to threaten/block these students), I’ve also been interested in the story and outcome of Lincoln from a transportation angle.

Here’s an excerpt of a 1954 map of “West Albuquerque.”

lincoln feeders 1954

And here’s pretty much the same excerpt from the 1960 map:

lincoln feeders 1960

Notice any differences?

Yeah that “Under Constr.” thing is I-25. Most kids who attended East Barelas (aka South Broadway/East San Jose) schools (Eugene Field, John Marshall, and East San Jose) walked/rode bikes to Lincoln Jr. High up to 1960 because:

  1. The bus rules have always generally been that you had to walk/cycle or get your folks to take you to school if you lived less than 1.5 miles from the school; and,
  2. No Interstate Highway was in the way.

What was in the way was a pretty steep, sandy walk/ride route up part of the way from the Valley to “the Heights.” Here’s a description of that experience from a Albuquerque Tribune story of April, 1970:

twelve blocks


We’ve written a few BB pieces over the years about the “Border Wall” outcome of I-25 bifurcating neighborhoods and killing non-motorized connection for miles south from Lomas Blvd. Keeping Lincoln Junior High in mind, here is a 1959 aerial look just prior to construction:

before I-25 Lincoln
Lincoln JH far lower right. Note handwritten street names (Santa Fe and Cromwell) 


And here’s the same look two years later:

during I-25 Lincoln
You know what those two white “lines” are, or will be when construction is complete. Santa Fe Ave. is stopped by this point west of its 1959 terminus and several homes are bulldozed through eminent domain.

Which finally gets me to the mystery. In the course of newspaper research, I came across this singular reference in one of the many Journal/Tribune stories written during the 1970 closure brouhaha:

catwalk to Lincoln
We’ll leave other references here, including “Model Cities,” to the book-length version of this story.

“…kids can only reach it by crossing the catwalk over the freeway…”


Maybe you noticed a little something in that 1961 during I-25 construction aerial above. Let’s look at it again.

during I-25 Lincoln

And let’s blow that up a bit:

catwalk blowup
Unfortunately, the photo plates of the 1961 aerial have quite a bit of contrast here, but do you see it?

What’s that horn instrument looking thing just south of where the two white lines o’ I-25 end?

I think it’s a “catwalk,” perhaps temporary at this time, running from the sand at the end of Pacific Ave. (one block south of Santa Fe Ave.) up and across the leveled to-be-I-25 over to Lincoln. Let’s look at the wider photo one more time:

during I-25 Lincoln

I don’t know when this or any following semi-permanent “catwalk” was removed. And no, I’m not 100% sure that’s the catwalk. Long, long story, but maps and aerial photos have a strange gap between about 1960 and 1990, at least via my online sources (linked above). USGS maps during this gap use the 1960 map, putting anything new (roads, subdivisions, etc.) in reddish-purple through a series of updates extending to 1985. Available aerial maps through the handy-dandy CABQ Historical Aerial Viewer cut off in 1961 until 1996.

Hence the only map verification that such a catwalk existed is an extremely faint line segment with end flares (I’m sure that’s not the name for such things) crossing I-25 in  later updates of the 1960 USGS (here 1974):

catwalk 1974
There among the topo lines…do you see it? Is it just my imagination? Blue box to help.

That’s it. That’s the “proof” there was once a bike/ped bridge, of sorts, in the Interstate quadrant of I-25 south of the Big-I.

Integral to my “Catwalk Mystery” has been a lack of complete data. Which, to be honest, makes such mysteries more fun. It would also be GREAT fun to hear from anyone still around who walked that catwalk to/from Lincoln Junior High and/or remembers it hanging, precariously in my imagining, above and across the roaring Interstate. My guess is there are plenty of folks who remember.

If you’re one of them, drop me a line in some manner circa-2020. Much appreciated.

pacific ave se today
Today, Pacific SE ends at some Jersey barriers, sand, a short wall, and another semi tractor-trailer hurtling down I-25.



4 thoughts on “Mystery of the “Catwalk” Over I-25 to Lincoln Junior High

  1. Well done! Thanks. These details put flesh on the Skeleton story of Albuquerque. Reference to Model Cities should attract some attention.


  2. Yep! I attended Lincoln from 69 to 72 and walked that catwalk twice a day every school day. I remember it well! Some kids would drop pebbles onto the freeway below. I remember one day, I think it was a Monday, someone had written something in the concrete sidewalk of the catwalk that was derogatory to blacks. There was a big ‘ol stink over that! Lincoln was about 50% black, 40% hispanic, and 10% white.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I remember the catwalk well
    My brother went to that school and the rest of us kids went to Eugene elementary school
    My family lived at the of Santa Fe street
    We played on that catwalk all the time.


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