Final report released for Rio Grande Blvd improvement plans

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – It has been a problem area for years, with some of the worst backups in the city.

Now, the final report is out on how to fix up Rio Grande near Old Town, while getting traffic moving a little smoother.

The morning and evening commute is pretty rough, especially at the I-40 interchange. Now, there are more specific plans to improve the traffic flow.

Rio Grande Boulevard is a gateway into Downtown for Westside residents.

Rush hour, though, means stop and go traffic as drivers try to get on and off I-40. In fact, a study found the collision rate there is higher than the statewide average, with many crashes involving bicyclists and pedestrians.

“It’s very problematic, it was a lot of traffic going out to the west side and coming back from the Westside,” said Albuquerque City Councilor Isaac Benton.

A recently released review of the area turned out new proposed changes.

One of the preffered options: a design called a diverging diamond interchange.

“It’s a little bit counter-intuitive the way it works, but it really reduces the number of traffic signals to two from four, essentially, if you think about how it works now, and should make the traffic flow a lot smoother,” Councilor Benton said.

But would people catch on?

“It looks pretty efficient as far as keeping traffic under control and flowing both on and off the freeway,” said Lea Graham.

“Oh yeah… I mean it’s basically you just stay in your lane but you’re kind of directed differently than you are now,” Councilor Benton said.

However, not everyone agrees.

“We’re going to have people not understanding, going against the flow of traffic, they’re going to be confused, I think there’s going to be a lot of traffic issues,” Albuquerque resident, Jeremy Wolfe said.

Another option for Rio Grande includes a traffic circle at Mountain by the entrance to Old Town.

“Of course, roundabouts are controversial because we’re not very used to them in New Mexico,” Councilor Benton explained, adding it’s what the consultant recommended.

And what about Central and Rio Grande?

“It intentionally does not try to tackle that because that’s already being designed under the ART, there could be some adjustments made to that as well in the long term,” Councilor Benton said.

The price tag for the diverging diamond interchange at I-40 and Rio Grande — about $4.4 million. For the roundabout at Mountain? Add another $2.5 million.

The city still needs to figure out where the money will come from for the Rio Grande makeover and settle on a final plan. There will be public meetings starting next month.

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