Neighbors see little relief, different problems with new traffic island

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – It’s a concrete traffic change the city hopes will slow speeding cars and cut-through traffic near a downtown neighborhood.

So far, some neighbors are unimpressed with the results.

The change is in the form of a new traffic island. It comes after years of complaints about north/south traffic on 12th Street cutting through the Sawmill neighborhood to avoid the intersection of 12th and Mountain Road NW.

“This is a road (Sawmill Road) with a 15 mile per hour speed limit, almost nobody does that,” said Lynda Griego, a Sawmill neighborhood resident.

“Something needs to be done… it’s gone on too long; decades it’s gone on.”

However, the “something” that the city recently chose doesn’t sit right with Griego.

The city recently added a large concrete traffic island at the intersection of 12th Street and Bellamah Avenue NW, one block north of Sawmill Road.

The $75,000 project, which was pushed by Councilor Isaac Benton, reduces the number of lanes on 12th Street, forcing southbound cars into one lane as they approach Sawmill Road.

According to project documents, the project was aimed primarily at reducing the number of southbound vehicles that turn right (westbound) on to Sawmill Road.

While she says “the intent was good,” Griego says she hasn’t much of a benefit from the project thus far, saying she still sees traffic “fly through” her neighborhood each day.

“The original intention was to make people have to turn intentionally to really come close to stopping to turn right on to Sawmill, and there’s just another curved median a little further out than where the original one was,” said Griego. “People can still just easily end up on my street.”

Other nearby employees at some of the local businesses agree. Moises Tena helps run a granite shop on 12th Street, between Sawmill and Bellamah.

“It hasn’t helped at all … it’s just like I’m saying, they just moved the problem from one corner (Sawmill) to the other corner (Bellamah), that’s all what they did,” said Tena.

Speeding remains an obvious problem to other nearby employees on 12th Street.There is a posted 30 miles per hour speed limit on 12th Street, but Norman Greene says it’s rare to see anyone following it.

“Once they get right there (Bellamah), they just start speeding, coming back up through this way (south on 12th Street),” said Greene.

Already, the city’s new traffic island has been hit by at least one car. That car took out a signpost, chipped concrete and left a large trail of oil stretching about 20 yards past the median. In the days after crews repaired the damage, another car crash happened at 12th and Sawmill. Broken glass still litters the street.

“Like I said, it’s just weird, I don’t think they really need that there,” said Greene.

For neighbors like Griego, it’s a sign that something more needs to be done.

“I don’t think it was well executed,” said Griego. “I’d like them close the access from westbound traffic turning on to Sawmill from 12th Street, and make it so that people who actually live in the neighborhood can still go east, but stem that flow traffic (from 12th Street).”

In the future, the city is hoping to change the traffic and lane set up even further up 12th Street toward I-40. It’s unclear exactly what those changes could be.

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