ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A long-discussed extension of Sunport Boulevard broke ground during a ceremony Wednesday morning. The 20.3 million dollar roadway extension that’s been in the works since 2010 is now expected to open to the public in May 2023.
The extension aims to connect the Sunport Boulevard-I25 interchange west to nearby Broadway Boulevard and the San Jose neighborhood about 2,400 feet away. There is currently no paved road between the two streets. For drivers exiting the airport, traffic is forced to turn on to University Boulevard or I-25.
“I travel a lot, and a lot of you know I’m an entertainer so I’m always in a different city every other weekend, and when I fly in and when we come into the airport and we drive down here and we look at Albuquerque, this is what you see,” Bernalillo County Commission Chair Steven Michael Quezada said, gesturing to the surrounding area. “We can do better.”
Representing the district covering the interchange, Quezada championed the project Wednesday as a way to begin beautifying an underdeveloped part of the city and help usher in a new era for the neighborhood. Quezada says he envisions the area developing like the Journal Center on the north-end of Albuquerque, near I-25 and Paseo del Norte.
“If you can imagine that type of infrastructure that came in, small business opportunities, large business opportunities, industrial types of opportunities,” Quezada said. “I want to be able to change what kind of industry comes into these neighborhoods, what kind of opportunities we can bring into these neighborhoods.”
In late 2020 ahead of the roadway extension, a Bernalillo County project added new traffic lights and street lights to the Sunport Boulevard interchange. Today, the freeway exit is still mostly used by people heading in to and out of the airport from I-25.
The county believes the project will also help relieve traffic in the area as NMDOT is looking to redesign and rebuild the nearby I-25 interchange at Gibson near Broadway. NMDOT has not set a timeline for that project.
In the past, some neighbors expressed opposition to the project, noting continued pollution reclamation at the nearby former Air Force Plant 83 site – a dedicated Superfund Redevelopment Initiative overseen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Speaking of the land the roadway extension will sit on, Quezada said Wednesday that reclamation work is nearly complete.
County leaders say the project will also feature a showcase piece of public art once its complete. Of the $20.3-million cost, 85% of it is being paid for by the Federal Highway Administration, while the remaining cost is being paid with general obligation bonds, according to Bernalillo County.