ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – As the massive I-25 and Rio Bravo project is entering its final weeks, it has become apparent the landscaping is missing. The city and the state are both hoping the other will come up with the millions it takes to dress up the interchange.
Every mayor for the past 20 years has said that landscaping the interstates is important for the city’s image. They are what millions of drivers and tourists see as they pass through Albuquerque.
“It’s not the most critical function of an interstate, but it is important,” said Johnny Chandler from Municipal Development. “It’s sometimes the only thing that people that are driving through the state of New Mexico see. It’s certainly the first thing they see in the City of Albuquerque.”
When the New Mexico Department of Transportation broke ground on the $55 million project almost two years ago, there were no plans included to landscape it or money set aside for it.
The I-25 and Rio Bravo interchange is expected to be done in July. However, the land surrounding it could look pretty bleak for a while once it opens.
The state says the landscaping is up to the city. The city hopes the state will consider helping foot the bill for a job that would likely run into the millions.
“The City of Albuquerque just feels that there is a responsibility of the Department of Transportation to help landscape their right of way,” said Chandler.
The city says the state used to pitch into landscape interchanges, but a couple of years ago they ended up paying the $2.4 million tab to landscape the Paseo del Norte interchange. However, at that time the state was in a budget crunch.
The city says it has no money set aside to landscape the I-25 and Rio Bravo interchange and has no plan or timeline yet.
The expensive landscaping topic is not over yet. The NMDOT wants to start work on a new I-25 and Montgomery interchange in the next couple of years.
The recurring issue of landscaping the interstates within New Mexico has been going on for years. A 126-page plan created under Mayor Jim Baca in the 1990s includes renderings of different designs that line interstates throughout the city.