ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – It’s a site of some serious backup, but while the city might want to turn a busy stretch of Central Avenue back into two lanes each way, a city councilor is pushing to keep a portion of the road to one lane in each direction.
Central changed to one lane each direction from downtown to Old Town in 2011. While some drivers said it slowed their commute too much, Councilor Isaac Benton says it’s helped the neighborhood drastically and he wants it to stay.
The stretch of Central between 8th Street and Lomas isn’t a quick route anymore.
“People were upset because it was delaying them getting to work on time,” said Albuquerque City Councilor Ken Sanchez, who serves many West Side residents that flow through the corridor.
However, the traffic modification that reduced the number of lanes on Central west of the downtown core could be ending this year. That is, unless the neighborhood gets what it would like to see.
“I think we have enough time and experience under our belts now to have people weigh in and say let’s make it permanent,” said Benton.
The Central stretch runs through Benson’s district. He says he’s pushing to keep it one lane in each direction now between downtown and Old Town like it is now, despite the obvious traffic crunch many say it adds during rush hour.
“I think we’ve achieved a pretty good balance,” said Benton.
The balance Benton is speaking of made the street more pedestrian friendly, also adding bike lanes and more street parking.
“It has slowed down a little bit, but that can be a good thing. That’s not always a bad thing,” said Benton.
Lots of residents agree as well, welcoming the traffic change with open arms.
“It’s a really wonderful project and it’s made central beautiful,” said Reba Eagle, president of the Downtown Neighborhoods Association.
Eagles says the traffic change has sparked new economic life in the area.
“It has allowed some additional development that has been really nice to make that walkable commercial corridor which is essential in an urban neighborhood,” said Eagles.
While it may not be the fastest, neighboring Councilor Sanchez says there were a lot of complaints at first, but he believes most drivers have adapted to the change.
“They like it the way it is and I think we’ve got to respect that because it has improved that area,” said Sanchez.
If the stretch of Central Avenue between 8th and Lomas stays one lane in each direction, Councilor Benton says the city will likely widen the sidewalks, add landscaping, and better traffic signals to make traffic move faster.
The city is also hoping to redo Central from 98th Street all the way to Tramway in the next few years to run a bus rapid transit system. If that happens, it could mean Central would get four lanes.