ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – When Rory Veronda opened the doors of Empire Board Game Library last year at the corner of Central and Amherst, his shop sat right next to something that looked an awful lot like a way to get across Central Avenue.
“There are cutouts in the sidewalk curb and there’s indicators to look both directions before you cross,” said Veronda. “It’s the primary area for people to cross to get on the north or south side of Nob Hill.”
Or at least it was until construction on the Albuquerque Rapid Transit bus line got into full swing. While the cutouts are still on the sidewalks, the median and its cutout no longer exists, replaced currently with a big patch of dirt and cones attempting to block people from crossing there. It hasn’t stopped many because the next closest place for a crosswalk is at Carlisle to the east and Wellesley to the west.
“Even with this construction project I can still see people constantly crossing the street here,” Veronda said. “Regardless of where you’re supposed to cross…. this is where people cross and it’s where they’ve always crossed in Nob Hill.”
“We would rather them use this location than somewhere in the corridor,” said Melissa Lozoya in a March 2015 interview, referring to the crossings.
The Municipal Development Department says the pair of crossings that were there were added to Nob Hill within 9-10 years by the city. There are seven total on Central between Bryn Mawr and Jefferson. Per ART plans, there are no crossings set to replace them when the project is complete except at Bryn Mawr where an ART station is planned.
However, in an interview with KRQE News 13 on Tuesday, the mayor’s office insisted that all “legal” crossings are being preserved.
“Everywhere where a pedestrian could cross before, they should be able to legally now,” said Michael Riordan, Albuquerque’s chief operations officer. “The only places we’re moving medians are mid blocks where they shouldn’t have been crossing before.”
What Riordan is saying is that those crossings that the city both built and recommended using are not legal to use.
Because they’re not technically “crosswalks” but “pedestrian refuge areas,” a mayor’s office spokesperson pointed to the city’s jaywalking ordinance. That ordinance says that pedestrians are only allowed to use crosswalks, meaning, technically speaking, using those city-built crossings could get someone a ticket.
“Well that was jaywalking before and it remains to be jaywalking now,” Riordan said.
“It’s kind of comical…. it doesn’t make sense,” said Veronda. “They put the cutouts in the sidewalk on both sides of the street.”
Given the number of people who continue to cross at Amherst, Veronda hopes the city reconsiders its decision to have no pedestrian crossing there.
“I think instead of bucking the system and having people walk a quarter of a mile to cross,” Veronda said. “Just make it convenient for people to cross the street where they need to cross.”
The city says ART will provide plenty of benefits for pedestrians when it’s complete, including better lighting, wider sidewalks and more signalized crosswalks across the whole span of the project.