Playing Catch-Up: Fixing the roughest roads in Albuquerque

On Special Assignment

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – It’s a really colorful map of Albuquerque, but that may be bad news for drivers. The shades of red highlight roads that are in bad shape, and there’s quite a bit of that on the map.

Courtesy: Dept. of Municipal Development, May 2019
Click image above for full-size map.

“It’s bumpy the entire trip through the neighborhood,” Bob Oberer said, pointing out the roughest roads in his Albuquerque neighborhood.

Oberer knows them well.

“You’re gonna get your teeth jarred loose,” he said. “It’s kinda like a washboard.”

Oberer drives around for the Santa Fe Village Neighborhood Patrol, and he’s lived here in the Taylor Ranch area for more than 30 years.

Bob Oberer took KRQE on a bumpy tour of his neighborhood streets.

“I’ve gotta say, the city’s got one heck of a job,” Oberer said.

A web of cracks where the streets are splintering make it a bumpy ride for drivers. The city knows the pavement there is in bad shape.

“We do have areas on the west side where the soil conditions and the materials that we used as a test many, many years ago have, in fact, not proven to hold up,” said Patrick Montoya, Director of Albuquerque’s Department of Municipal Development.

His Department maintains more than 4,600 miles of Albuquerque roads. They use maps to help crews managing road improvement projects as they keep track of the areas that need it most.

“It’s a tool that they just cannot live without,” Montoya said.

Green means the pavement is in good condition, yellow is fair and shades of red mean poor or very poor condition. The map shows that a lot of people in Albuquerque live in neighborhoods with streets in poor or very poor condition.

That means cracks and uneven surfaces that cause wear and tear on cars, and an uncomfortably bumpy commute to and from work.

“And then, we have an image to portray,” Montoya said. “This is Albuquerque, and we want to make sure that we’re conveying to the general public and, especially to those that visit us, that we maintain our infrastructure.”

Montoya said his department spends roughly $40 million a year on road improvements. To fix everything up all at once, he said, it would cost close to a billion dollars.

“You can see that our needs are far greater than the amount of money that we generate on a yearly basis, so we’re always playing catch-up just trying to make things work as best we can,” Montoya said.

He said about $19 million of the money the city uses comes from a quarter-cent gross receipts tax. It amounts to a quarter for every hundred dollars shoppers spend.

However, that tax is set to disappear next year unless voters renew it on election day in two weeks.

Read the ballot question here >>

“I would just stress how important the tax is. It is one that has a minimal impact on the dollars that we spend here in the city, and it’s distributed evenly. So, not only do the residents of Albuquerque contribute to that tax, but people that visit our city, people that are on the interstate, that are buying goods and services and gas,” Montoya said.

The transportation infrastructure tax has been in place since fiscal year 2000, according to city council.

If voters on Tues., Nov. 5 support keeping the tax, at least 57% of the money must be used for road infrastructure, 5% for trails and bikeways and 38% for transit.

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