After Traffic Count Drops Off a Cliff, Albuquerque Rushes to Widen Road

Traffic has taken a nose dive on Albuquerque's Osuna Road. So why is the city so anxious to widen it? Image: Urban ABQ
Traffic has taken a nose dive on Albuquerque’s Osuna Road. So why is the city so anxious to widen it? Image: Urban ABQ

Given limited budget resources and competing demands, what makes some transportation projects rise to the top of a city’s wish list? Dan Majewski at Urban ABQ says that in his hometown of Albuquerque, there doesn’t seem to be much sense to it.

For example, one of the projects in line for funding locally is the $7 million widening of Osuna Road — where, as shown in the above graph, traffic has declined precipitously. Writes Majewski:

Osuna is an interesting road. It starts as a major arterial with an interstate highway off-ramp and eventually dwindles down to a minor neighborhood street. During the early 2000s, traffic counts were increasing dramatically, but recently, they have dropped to early 1990s levels.

According to the regional TIP (transportation improvement program), Osuna is listed as an approved project. The TIP goes through a hypothetically public process, though mid day meetings, which are not heavily advertised, hardly count as such.

[Above] is a chart of traffic counts on Osuna Road between I-25 and 2nd Street, the segment which the City of Albuquerque is trying to expand.

AND HERE LIES THE PROBLEM: Osuna is currently high on the list of proposed road widening projects in the City of Albuquerque. According to vehicle count data from the MRCOG website, Osuna currently experiences little to no congestion. For example, Central Avenue currently handles 30,000 vehicles per day with two lanes in each direction so there is hardly a need for 3 lanes on Osuna, which currently averages 22,000 vehicles/day.

The question I pose to you, the reader:

Why is this $7 million road widening project a high city priority?

Aren’t there more pressing projects to which this funding should be allocated, projects which would lead to much higher return on investment (ROI)?

The answer is YES, there are.

Majewski points out that transit ridership has nearly doubled in Albuquerque in recent years. He’ll be looking at what projects really should be in line for funding in subsequent posts.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Wash Cycle discusses a study that attempted to examine the effectiveness of Maryland’s three-foot passing law. Car Free Dallas offers a list of recommendations to make the city’s downtown circulator bus service more useful. And Urban Review STL has a simple proposal for keeping drivers from parking at local bus stops.

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