ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – It’s a dangerous game some drivers play: speeders who race down Lead and Coal avenues trying to beat traffic lights, some going double the 30 mph speed limit — just feet from homes and apartments.
“(It’s) played later at night,” said Tymn Waters of the Nob Hill Neighborhood Association. “They want to start over at Girard and go to Carlisle at double the speed trying to make the lights.”
Speeding through the Lead/Coal corridor that connects Nob Hill to Downtown has been a persistent problem over the years. Some neighbors fought to convert the one-ways to two-way roads to slow down traffic. In 2010, a $26 million renovation project kept the direction down the east and west routes the same, but construction narrowed roads, widened sidewalks for pedestrians and designated bike lanes.
But some residents said speeding is still a problem.
“I’ll hear ‘zoom!'” said Nob Hill resident Tom Sicmic. “One of these days, a car is going to come right through and go right through my house. That’s my fear.”
Sicmic lives right along Coal Avenue.
“The street is in better condition (after construction), so people are going faster,” Sicmic said.
Other residents said the timed traffic lights down the stretch add to the speeding problem. Waters said he’s asked city officials to mis-time the lights, especially at night, to slow drivers down.
“If they weren’t exactly timed at 30 (miles an hour) or even if they went to four-way stops at some places, you’d have to come to a complete stop, look and then go, I think it would just slow things down a bit,” Waters said.
City Municipal Development Director Michael Riordan said engineering isn’t the issue.
“Fifteen percent of the people are going to do whatever they were going to do, no matter what,” Riordan said. “That’s where you need education and enforcement to come in.”
Riordan said he hasn’t heard complaints about speeding through the Lead/Coal corridor.
Albuquerque Police officers, however, have.
“Lead/Coal has a high degree of speeders that are out there,” said APD officer A.C. Rodriguez, a seven-year veteran of the department’s Traffic Unit. “I’ve seen people as high up as 60 in a 30 miles per hour zone.”
Rodriguez said a recent APD operation along Lead Avenue near Presbyterian Hospital ended with 64 traffic tickets in about an hour and a half.
He added that many of those drivers were likely speeding through the Nob Hill neighborhood minutes before they were nabbed.
“Major concerns for this area are definitely pedestrians … because bike lanes are on either side of the road. We have a concern for bicyclists being hit, as well as pedestrians,” Rodriguez said.
However, manpower at APD continues to be an issue. As the size of the Police Department has shrunk dramatically, the APD Traffic Unit has been cut by nearly half. In 2007, there were 20 officers assigned to the unit. Today, there are 11. That means fewer officers are on the streets, including Lead and Coal.
Citywide, APD is writing a lot fewer traffic tickets in years past.
Residents hope that the city adds more signs along the corridor warning people of nearby homes and that drivers wise up.
“People live within 15 feet of Lead or Coal. That’s where their bedrooms are, that’s where their living rooms are. This high rate of speed is dangerous and we’re worried about it,” Waters said.