ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Downtown Albuquerque residents and businesses are fed up with a dangerous underpass connecting East Downtown to West Downtown. The city has been trying different ways to address the problems, but neighbors still don’t feel safe walking with their families in the area.
“It’s become pretty much like an open latrine, a dumpster, a campground, a drug den, and there’s many times I’ve found needles on the ground, and it always smells horrible,” said a nearby resident, Howard Dovin.
Residents in the area described the underpass at First Street and Central Avenue as a “hellish landscape.”
“Having seen the solutions in the past, it’s time to get past these temporary solutions and have a solution that holds a permanent solution,” said downtown resident, Moises Gonzalez.
Back in March after the neighbors said they sent a letter to the city, officials announced a plan to solve some of the issues. They painted the walls, power wash the area twice a week, and added 24/7 lighting to the underpass. The city also added music to deter people from wanting to live inside the crossing. Neighbors and nearby businesses don’t think it has been enough.
“We know that they did the fixes in March, but what we know is that they are falling short, and they are not staying on top of it. Unless they are pinged by a 311 call, or they happen to come by then something happens, but it’s not being regularly maintained as they say,” said Jennifer Esquivel, a nearby resident.
Neighborhood associations, businesses, and residents wrote another letter which they plan to send to city leaders this week. They want more police patrols and an overpass type of crosswalk instead of a covered area.
“It wouldn’t be so comfortable to sleep in, to stay in. It wouldn’t be a hidden spot for people to take drugs in. I think that would solve a lot of the issues,” said Dovin.
In a statement from the city, they mention they are moving toward a new crossing as part of the rail trail project. They added, in the meantime, they will continue with the temporary solutions.
The city said it agrees with neighbors that a permanent solution is needed, and they have funding for a new crossing that’s currently in the design phase.
“We agree with neighbors that a permanent solution is needed, and that’s why we’re urgently moving toward a groundbreaking this year for an at-grade crossing as part of the Rail Trail project. We have adequate funding for the crossing, and it is currently in the design and engineering phase. In the meantime, the City has tried to improve the situation by installing temporary equipment to make the underpass safer until a long-term fix is complete.”City of Albuquerque