City, state, utility pass buck on Big I lighting problem

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – More than a decade after the city of Albuquerque and New Mexico Department of Transportation shelled out around $10-million to landscaping and light up the Big I, some drivers may notice the interchange has gotten a lot darker.

Recently, several lights throughout the interchange have stopped shining, begging the question: who is supposed to fix them?

As News 13 found, it’s a job no one wants to take responsibility for.

For most drivers in the daytime, it’s easy to forget just how many lights cover every corner of the Big I. The lights fall in two distinct categories of accent lighting and road safety lighting.

Some of the accent lights highlight the bridge beams but also the public art installations. Meanwhile, the road safety lights tower over the road, shinning down on drivers.

While much of the interchange is still lit up, a good chunk of the Big I is shrouded in darkness these days. Some lights are burned out along Frontage Road underpasses. Some of the 80-foot towers are also totally dark, either because they burned out or were turned off.

So who’s in charge of the lights?

Albuquerque’s Parks and Recreation Department has taken care of the lights and landscaping around the Big I for the last decade. The first two years of the landscape and lighting maintenance were under warranty.

Director of the Parks and Recreation Department, Barbara Baca told News 13 on Friday that the department is aware there is a problem.

Baca says the city has dealt with a lot of copper wire theft in the area. Baca says they’re now working on a fix for the ground lighting.

But as for those big umbrella lamps, the city says it’s not their problem. Officials in both the Parks and Rec Department and the Mayor’s Office told News 13 on Friday that the umbrella lamps maintenance belongs to PNM and NMDOT.

But according to NMDOT, it’s not their problem either.

“We have an agreement where they maintain the lights after we install them,” said Melissa Dosher, a spokeswoman for the New Mexico Department of Transportation.

NMDOT says it doesn’t maintain any highway interchange lights in New Mexico.

“Those big lights, we initially build those, provide those lights, we put them up and then once those are installed then the city takes over,” said Dosher.

PNM is also saying the lights aren’t their problem either.

The electric utility declined to do an interview with News 13 on Friday, but sent this statement:

“PNM’s streetlight maintenance agreement with the city does not include the lights at the I-25/I-40 interchange. The city is responsible for maintaining and fixing those lights.” – Britny Fudge, PNM spokeswoman.

News 13 tried to do a phone interview Friday evening with Parks & Rec director Barbara Baca about all of the confusion, however, she ended up backing out of the interview.

For now, it’s unclear who will fix the Big I’s tall lights and no one seems to want the responsibility.

The Mayor’s Office told News 13 on Friday that if they were going to fix the lights, they’d likely have to hire someone else to do it because the city doesn’t have the equipment to reach the tall lighting towers.

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