ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) –In 2019, the City of Albuquerque launched an ambitious program called Vision Zero to put an end to pedestrian deaths but two years later, crash statistics show pedestrian fatalities are holding steady in the city with dozens killed each year. It was a bleak year for pedestrians in Albuquerque that was punctuated by the tragic hit and run death of seven-year-old, Pronoy Bhattacharya, struck outside the River of Lights.
“We immediately went out after the accident. We wanted to make sure that that intersection met all of the conditions,” said Patrick Montoya, director for the Department of Municipal Development. He says from a traffic standpoint, nothing was wrong with the Central Ave. and Tingley Dr. intersection. “It’s an unfortunate, unfortunate situation, but the city did all they can to protect that intersection,” said Montoya.
Montoya acknowledges other intersections do need work. “Well, I think there’s always room for improvement and that’s one of the reasons that Mayor Keller took the pledge to implement Vision Zero in the City of Albuquerque,” he said.
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Mayor Tim Keller introduced the Vision Zero initiative in 2019 with a goal of getting the number of pedestrian deaths and injuries to zero by the year 2040. Looking back at the last three years, pedestrian deaths are mainly holding steady under Vision Zero, showing 38 people were killed in 2021; 17 of the 38 were killed in hit and runs. Montoya says work is underway to get that number down. “One of the things we’re really focusing on is incorporating Vision Zero in how we design our roadways going forward,” he said.
Montoya says they’re both reevaluating current hotspot intersections and looking ahead to major projects in the works right now along Paseo Del Norte, Unser, San Pedro, McMahon, and Wyoming, saying they could add more flashing crosswalk signals and elevated crosswalks. “Which really isn’t an elevated crosswalk itself… it’s reflective material that’s installed into the asphalt, that alerts the pedestrian and really makes them think before they cross because they think they’re on an elevated surface,” Montoya said.
He believes this work happening now can help protect pedestrians but says both pedestrians and drivers share that responsibility. “We can have the safest roads in the world, but if you’ve got a driver that’s impaired or someone on a phone, they have to take some responsibility,” Montoya said.
Starting Tuesday, a new director takes over the Vision Zero initiative. The city says she’ll have a $4 million budget to help design safer roads and crossings. Statewide, pedestrian fatalities are the highest they’ve been in at least a decade. Data from the New Mexico Department of Transportation shows 99 pedestrians were killed on New Mexico roadways in 2021; that’s up significantly from 81 in 2020 and 83 in 2019.