ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A road that serves one of the fastest-growing parts of Albuquerque is becoming downright dangerous.
KRQE News 13 pulled the recent crash numbers for Rio Bravo, and a number of crashes may surprise drivers.
The sounds of speeding traffic, sirens, and crashes scenes are all too common for people who live near Rio Bravo Boulevard SW in Albuquerque’s South Valley.
“They’re flying through there and there have been multiple accidents because of it,” said Jose Lopez, who lives near Rio Bravo and La Junta east of Coors.
“If I’m going to go anywhere into town, you know, need to get to the freeway, you need to take Rio Bravo,” said Lopez, but he doesn’t always feel safe taking that route.
With no traffic lights out of his neighborhood and drivers going way over the speed limit on one of many wide-open stretches of Rio Bravo, Lopez sees what could happen.
“We have people doing 60, 65, 70 mph and doesn’t matter which time of the day or night,” said Lopez. “It’s dangerous.”
Dispatch calls show in just nine months, Bernalillo County Sheriff’s deputies have responded to 171 crashes including one fatality, on Rio Bravo from Coors to Second Street. That’s about 20 crashes per month in a 3.5 mile stretch.
When asked if the number of crashes surprises him, Sergeant Randall Herring of the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office Traffic Unit responded, “No it doesn’t, I mean – there’s a number of factors that I think go into that. Speeding is probably the big one, distracted driving is another one.”
“It’s one of very few routes that actually travel over the river in Albuquerque,” Herring added. He said because of how busy Rio Bravo is, a higher crash rate is expected.
Just last month a 57-year-old motorcyclist died after colliding with a truck on Rio Bravo near Second Street.
Several people were injured in a crash in the same area back in April.
In 2015, a deputy chasing a drunk driver on Rio Bravo ended in tragedy. Moments after the deputy stopped chasing him, BCSO says Steven Trujillo ran a red light plowing into a family’s SUV carrying nine passengers.
Mary Soto, 30, and Elijah Sandoval, 13, were killed. Trujillo is now serving 30 years. A jury found the deputy who chased Trujillo that night was not responsible.
“I hear ’em all the time, the police sirens going,” said Lopez.
Over the years Lopez said he does see deputies pulling people over for speeding. Still, there are other concerns; dangers that come to light as the sun sets.
“At night time it’s very poorly lit,” said Sgt. Herring. “Pretty much between Isleta and Coors there’s no actual street lights you know, so a number of crashes we’ve had at night people just don’t see and the speed limit’s 45 mph, so there’s not too much time to react to things.”
Since Rio Bravo is also a state-owned highway, KRQE News 13 reached out to the New Mexico Department of Transportation and told them about the number of crashes on Rio Bravo.
No one would go on camera, but the NMDOT sent the following statement:
“Our priority at NMDOT is keeping people safe on the road and highways. We always encourage drivers to be responsible when they get behind the wheel – that means don’t text and drive, don’t drink and drive, wear a seatbelt, pay attention, and obey all traffic laws. We have safety campaigns in place, such as ENDWI, DNTXT, and BKLUP, to warn drivers of how dangerous it is to be irresponsible behind the wheel.”
Any changes to Rio Bravo, NMDOT said will require more analysis.
The Department of Transportation is designing a project on Rio Bravo to rebuild the bridge over the Rio Grande, but the project isn’t expected to be scheduled until the year 2022-2023.
“As far as the roadway lighting on Rio Bravo east of Coors to Second street, the NMDOT can consider additional lighting if the local entities are willing to maintain the lights and pay for the utilities,” a NMDOT spokesperson said via email.
This week BCSO is on high alert. Thousands of tourists visiting for Balloon Fiesta means even busier, more congested roadways in Albuquerque.
Sgt. Herring said BCSO will likely respond to more crashes during Balloon Fiesta. “People pull over to the shoulder to try and get pictures just paying attention to balloons and not paying attention to the roads,” said Sgt. Herring.
“Just pay attention to the road and maintain your speed limit and we’ll be okay,” Sgt. Herring added.
Today, there are signs throughout Albuquerque warning drivers about being responsible and somber reminders about worst case scenarios.
Neighbors hope drivers will take note and consider the precious cargo on the road.