City planner poses big changes for downtown ABQ

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Oklahoma City has done it, now Albuquerque is considering major changes so more people walk and bike downtown.

A well-known city planner has some big ideas including changing some one-way streets to two-ways, and possibly getting rid of that center lane on Central Avenue.

The ideas come from a man named Jeff Speck. He’s spent the last several years doing “walkability” studies in downtown areas across the U.S.

“Create an environment in which the sidewalks feel more comfortable for pedestrians but also bicyclists to feel more welcome,” said Speck.

So far, Speck has done about 20 walkability studies. He says downtown Albuquerque’s streets are “easy” to change.

“Not to give you a hard time but from a national standard, looking at best practices around the country, you (downtown Albuquerque) do have some of the most fixable streets that I’ve come across,” said Speck in an interview with News 13 on Thursday.

Overall, Speck is suggesting taking some space away from cars downtown and giving it to pedestrians and bicyclists.

Marquette and Tijeras are examples of two streets downtown that Speck thinks are too wide. He says the three lane roads are far larger than needed to carry the amount of traffic they get.

“If you look at the amount of traffic the streets are handling, there’s an oversupply of asphalt. The typical lane is about five feet wider than you find in most American cities,” said Speck. “And that extra five feet is really doing very little except inducing drivers to speed.”

“You have speed limits saying one thing and you have highway engineering saying another,” said Speck, comparing the width of downtown Albuquerque’s roads to the width of high speed highway lanes.

Speck is presenting his downtown Albuquerque walkability report Thursday night at the Convention Center.

One of the most notable areas Speck has consulted for is Oklahoma City. In the last five years, the city has added new medians, bike lanes, wider sidewalks and on-street parking by removing traffic lanes.

Speck says much of the work in Albuquerque can be done by just re-striping the road, calling it a cheap and quick way to get more people and downtown and draw businesses to the vacancies.

“Central is poised to be a much more connective bike corridor,” said Speck.

Another suggestion Speck is making is to make Marquette and Tijeras two-way streets and narrow the lanes to make bike lane room and a safer sidewalk for pedestrians.

“There’s almost no street in the downtown that I don’t have some recommendations for, most of them do involve putting in a more robust cycling network,” said Speck.

Councilor Isaac Benton hired Speck with $50,000 of his office’s discretionary money.

“Small investments in the streets, that’s something that the city can really, we can really do,” said Councilor Isaac Benton.

The recommendations have also drawn the attention of Mayor Richard Berry’s office, which says it’s looking forward to the report.

“It’s something that we look forward to looking, analyzing and perhaps implementing,” said Gilbert Montano, chief of staff for Mayor Richard Berry.

Councilor Isaac Benton says the city has also set aside money in the latest budget to implement some walkability related changes in downtown Albuquerque. He says that money could also be used for Speck’s suggested projects.

Speck’s presentation starts at 6:00 p.m. in Ballroom “B” of the Albuquerque Convention Center.

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