Measurement error leads to costly Albuquerque road striping mistake

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – You could call it an engineering “oops.” A big stretch of a road restriping project that the city of Albuquerque just finished will now have to be redone, and it likely could have been avoided.

One of the new bike lanes added to Girard Boulevard is far narrower than it should be. The city says it’s a mistake, and one they’ll have to pay to fix, saying it’s too dangerous to leave in place.

Whether you’re a bicyclist, pedestrian, or a driver, the problem is relatively easy to spot on the revamped stretch of Girard.

“I definitely noticed it,” said one cyclist to KRQE News 13 on Tuesday. “I know that I have a couple of buddies who are a little bummed about the size of the lane.”

The city spent $140,000 over the summer to repave and restripe Girard between Lomas Boulevard and Indian School Road. Just north of Jefferson Middle School, the city added bike lanes on both sides of Girard, and parking on the west side of the street.

However, near the middle school is also where the road narrows. While the city comfortably fit a parking lane, a south-bound bike lane and two traffic lanes, the northbound bike lane got squeezed.

The problem was recently spotted by a local cyclist, who wrote about it on an Albuquerque blog. That post was even showcased on Bicycling Magazine’s website, originally titled “Here’s the Worst Bike Lane You’ll See All Day.”

A nearly one-mile long stretch of the northbound bike lane on Girard from Frontier Avenue to Hannett Avenue is so narrow that crews cut out space so the bicycling symbol would fit on the roadway.

Melissa Lozoya with the city of Albuquerque’s Municipal Development Department (DMD) says it’s a mistake, and one the city will need to fix.

“What is out there right now is not a good situation,” said Lozoya, DMD’s acting director. “The bike lanes are narrower than they should be.”

Lozoya told KRQE News 13 that the bike and parking lanes were added to Girard over the summer as part of the city’s effort to adhere to the “Complete Streets Ordinance.”

“We want to be able to incorporate all modes of transportation,” said Lozoya.

While the northbound bike lane should be around four feet wide, striping crews made a lane that is just two to three feet wide in some places. The typical two foot concrete “gutter pan” (drainage area) on the side of the road should not be counted as part of the bike lane, according to DMD.

So what happened? The city says its engineering staff and a private consultant group, T.Y. Lin International, mistakenly thought the street was a few feet wider than it actually is. A 39-foot “curb to curb” street width is evident in the city’s Girard Action Plan report. Lozoya told KRQE News 13 that the team responsible for the project didn’t measure the road out in the field.

Instead, Lozoya says the engineers trusted rough road measurements based on aerial photos.

“A lot of times the photos aren’t (accurate), I mean they’re hard to see exactly where the curb line in where the gutter pan is,” said Lozoya.

The city says it will have to pay to restripe the road. The city says it’s unclear how much that could cost because it’s still trying to figure out how to proceed with restriping. The city says one option would be to get rid of the narrow northbound bike like entirely.

Meanwhile, the city says it’s working to make sure a striping issue like the one on Girard doesn’t happen again.

“Especially our younger engineers, (we’re working with them) to make sure that we use this as a lesson learned, and moving forward, we are checking the work as it progresses in the field,” said Lozoya.

Municipal Development says it’s taking public comment on how to restripe the problematic area of Girard. Lozoya says the goal is to complete the project in the next few months.

“We realize the bike lanes are narrow and that it is not to our standard, and we’re going be to looking at alternatives to fix that,” said Lozoya

While it may be a narrow lane, the few cyclists that KRQE News 13 heard from on Tuesday said they appreciated finally having a dedicated space on Girard, which was previously without bike lanes between Lomas and Indian School.

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