Proposal seeks to prioritize road work in areas with low income, elderly, disabled

A new proposal from a city councilor could bring a major shift in planning out where the city invests its road funds for future construction projects. 

The new proposal up for debate calls for the city to prioritize projects in lower income and other disadvantaged parts of Albuquerque.

VIEW: Proposed Ordinance O-19-64 >>

For years, that process has mainly been guided by internal planning from road engineers and discussions with city councilors. 

As part of a larger bill to revamp the city’s “Complete Streets” ordinance, Councilor Isaac Benton is proposing a formal, collaborative annual process to prioritize road work. 

Overseeing some of the oldest neighborhoods in the city, Benton says for years he’s heard feedback from constituents who at times have felt that the city has left their neighborhood behind in the greater discussion over road work. 

“I do hear that on a regular basis, ‘everything looks so good up in ‘X-neighborhood,’ but ours is just the same as it looked in 1960 or 50,’” said Benton. 

Benton is hoping he can change that feeling with his new proposal. 

“Whether one drives or not should not be a factor of your ability to use the roadways,” said Benton. 

Benton’s proposal calls for a yearly city effort to prioritize road projects in areas with low to moderate income, high populations of elderly, and high populations of people with disabilities. 

Benton says the intent is for the city to be strategic and transparent about what projects happen first. 

“There’s no reason that we’re going to just stop rehabbing roadways in other parts of town, we will still do that,” said Benton. 

Mayor Tim Keller already signaled his support for the proposal last week during a news conference where Keller signed Albuquerque into the national “Vision Zero” pledge to work toward ending deaths on Albuquerque’s roadways. 

“It is almost impossible in some parts of the city to cross the street,” said Keller at the Vision Zero news conference last week. 

A spokesman for the city’s Department of Municipal Development, which oversees city road projects, Johnny Chandler told KRQE News 13 on Monday that part of Vision Zero concerns focusing on traditionally underserved neighborhoods. 

“This doesn’t mean that the westside isn’t going to get new roads, this doesn’t mean that the far northeast heights isn’t going to get new curbing or a bicycle lane, this means that every year we’re going to sit there and take a look, and make sure that these communities that have been marginalized for decades no longer are,” said Chandler. 

The road project priority proposal is part of a larger bill from Councilor Benton that aims to revamp the city’s “Complete Streets” ordinance. 

That ordinance initially passed city council in 2014 and was signed by Mayor Berry. It forces the city to consider adding pedestrian and bike improvements when revamping a road. 

Benton’s latest proposal could go up for a vote in June. 

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