Expensive downtown ABQ signs need major overhaul

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – There could be some confused tourists in Albuquerque all because of a very expensive project that’s now in need of a total revamp. The city of Albuquerque installed dozens of large yellow signs in 1999 meant to help people find their way around downtown. Each of the signs was coated with text and arrows that directed people to points of interest like city hall, the police department, Civic Plaza and more.

While those signs might be especially helpful now with people visiting Albuquerque for Balloon Fiesta, turns out, they’re more of an eyesore. The paint is peeling on some of the signs, others have been tagged with graffiti and many are almost completely blank because they’ve been sun bleached.

The signs don’t get much praise these days, even from Albuquerque residents.

“Just looks trashy and run down, like people don’t care about the city,” said Carolyn Romero of Albuquerque.

Thirty three of the way-finding signs hang above downtown Albuquerque’s streets. The signs went up in 1999 after the city’s Planning Department won a $522,000 Transportation and Community Preservation grant through the Federal Highway Administration. The city says that money paid for the design, planning, manufacture and installation of the signs.

“They’ve really served their purpose,” said Mark Motsko, a spokesman for the city of Albuquerque’s Department of Municipal Development.

But through the years, there’s been a problem. The Department of Municipal Development never tended to the signs.

“Because it was a one-time federal grant back in the 90’s, we don’t have money to maintain them,” said Motsko.

Today, most of the signs are sun bleached, missing words and letters making them all almost entirely illegible.

Some think the signs are an eye-sore, especially during Balloon Fiesta when hundreds of thousands of people from out of town are exploring Albuquerque.

“Kind of makes the city look bad,” said Romero.

Now the city says, it’s going to do something about it.

“We’re going to go remove those with a contractor is going to come down and take those out because they are not serving their purpose, they’re actually serving a disservice to people by not giving the correct information,” said Motsko.

Nearly all of the yellow signs will now be pulled down. 13 won’t come back. 18 others will have to be replaced entirely.

“We don’t have a cost for replacement yet, removing of the signs is pretty easy, they just take them down, it will be a couple thousand dollars,” said Motsko.

Some residents think it’s the right thing to do.

“I believe they should so they can make downtown you know, look like a nicer place, to hang out and you know give a better impression of Albuquerque,” said Romero.

The city did a similar downtown map and sign project back in the mid 2000’s. Back then, they spent about $16,000 on eight different signs and frames for the signs.

Municipal Development says it doesn’t anticipate that this project will be nearly as expensive.

The replacement this time around will be paid for by voter approved bond money. Municipal Development says they may start work in the next year to year and a half.

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