Road projects, 'sound wall' delayed as Bernalillo County stretches budget

BERNALILLO COUNTY, N.M. (KRQE) - A neighborhood has been waiting nearly a year for Bernalillo County to complete a project that will help reduce noisy roads. Now, they'll have to wait even longer.

Residents are still pushing for sound walls on Unser Boulevard, but the county is facing a much bigger hurdle -- numerous road projects, and a limited budget.

The steady noise of drivers whizzing by on Unser is distracting for William Houston, whose backyard faces the street.

"When I first moved up here, there wasn't any other houses on the other side of this little two-lane road," said Houston.

Decades later, Unser is a portal through Rio Rancho, averaging 9,000 vehicles a day. Neighbors voted for the sound walls last summer, but it could be more than two years until it's built because there's not enough money.

"We try to leverage the $4 million to $5 million in road funds every year against other funds that we get from the state," said Bernalillo County Director of Technical Services Elias Archuleta.

He says the county is prioritizing the most important community needs.

"It's a juggling act to get as big of a bang for our dollar as we can," said Archuleta.

Fixing Bridge Boulevard from Coors to Goff this fall will cost half of the yearly budget, which puts projects like the sound wall on the back burner.

Officials say it will cost at least $800,000 to tear down existing walls and put up a uniform concrete one - the best solution determined from a noise study.

"The residents are just concerned with impacts of construction, impacts of removing their walls, and what the impacts are to their properties," said project engineer Estevan Gonzales.

For neighbors like Houston, the current wall is needed to protect his pool.

"They can't be tearing down any of these walls, especially mine," said Houston.

Six to nine feet concrete walls will impact more than 30 property owners for half a mile. It's a tough compromise for some looking for peace and quiet.

"Traffic gets worse in the afternoon," said Houston. "I do most of my running around in the mornings because the roads on the west side are relatively free. Afternoon - forget it."

County officials say there are height requirements for the wall but they are still seeking the community's input on the design at a public meeting May 30. The meeting will be from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Paradise Hills Community Center located at 5901 Paradise Boulevard NW.


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