ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – It’s called a “road diet” and it’s become a popular way to tackle the problem of speeding drivers in Albuquerque, but some neighbors near one of the city’s most recent efforts feel like it isn’t helping.
Often referred to as a “road diet,” at least five traffic lane reduction projects have popped up in the last six years in Albuquerque’s North Valley, Old Town, Mile Hi and West Central neighborhoods.
A newly released study of a recent traffic lane reduction project on Rio Grande Boulevard found a late 2016 lane reduction between Matthew Avenue and Griegos Road helped reduce speeds and the number of cars driving through the Rio Grande neighborhoods.
The study compared traffic counts at several Rio Grande intersections from before and after the restriping project. In December 2016, crews transformed Rio Grande from two lanes in each direction to one lane in each direction with a center turn lane and bolder bike lanes.
However, some people don’t think it’s helped.
“It’s very dangerous to cross the street,” said Marilyn McIntyre, who lives in the area and doesn’t drive.
A driver who lives near Rio Grande, Roseanne Aceves, pulled over to give KRQE News 13 her opinion on Monday.
“It wasn’t broken, so why did they fix it?” asked Roseanne Aceves.
According to the Rio Grande study, traffic dropped slightly on the boulevard after the “road diet,” with about 800 to 1,550 fewer cars using the road daily.
As a pedestrian, McIntyre says she doesn’t feel any safer though.
“Doesn’t work well to have one lane going each direction, because when it’s going each direction, it funnels down to just a line of cars,” said McIntyre.
As a driver, Aceves says she notices a difference in drive behavior on Rio Grande.
“Some will go slower than the speed limit which is 35 (mph). Sometimes they’ll just tailgate you like, ‘Go faster, go faster,'” said Aceves.
Lane reduction projects are popular with city councilors though. Under their direction in the last six years, big re-striping projects have taken shape, including Atrisco north of Central; San Pedro between I-40 and the area of Lomas; Central from Eighth to Rio Grande; and Zuni from Carlisle to Wyoming.
Councilor Pat Davis oversaw the Zuni project, which he said was planned before he took a seat on Albuquerque City Council. Under Davis’ tenure though, the project was executed to re-stripe Zuni from two lanes to one lane in each direction with a center turn lane and with bike lanes.
Davis says he received complaints about the Zuni project after it hit the road.
“We’ll always have a few people who would love to drive a little faster,” said Davis.
While it may feel slower, Davis says he stands behind the Zuni project because of what it did for the area’s safety.
“We reduced traffic deaths to three the six months before, and zero the six months after being able to take that back to neighborhoods and say, this is why we do this is because it makes all of us safer, whether you’re driving a car, riding a bike or walking down the street is a big piece of closing the loop on these really controversial projects,” said Davis.
While the latest study of Rio Grande looked at traffic counts and speed, it didn’t look at crash data. KRQE News 13 tried to speak with Councilor Isaac Benton about the Rio Grande project on Monday, but were told he wasn’t available.
The city says there aren’t any other “road diet” projects they’re working on for the immediate future.