June, 2018

Here is a photo of the latest crash at the intersection at Rio Grande Blvd and Candelaria Road NW. Having worked on the 11-year-old roundabout project for six years now, I'm in the habit of being informed by constituents of every crash that occurs there. The original Federal Highway Safety Improvement Program grant was awarded to the City under previous Councilor Debbie O'Malley and Mayor Chavez's administration. Without question the progress towards construction of the project has been excruciatingly and unacceptably slow, but not for lack of effort by me and city staff. I've struggled to keep North Valley residents accurately informed of its status, as it is reported to me.

It should be noted that under Albuquerque's form of municipal government, as your city councilor I can't just "build it already", manage the project or compel the administrative actions needed to move more rapidly. Despite my constant prodding, those are the responsibilities of the city's administration (executive branch) not the council (legislative branch). Also, without timely actions by four key entities (not counting the Feds) a Federal grant project cannot proceed: City Council, the regional Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), the City Administration and the NM Department of Transportation (NMDOT).

Federally-funded projects must be placed on the regional Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) by votes of City Council and the regional MPO. After taking office in District 2 I've had to accomplish that twice after the project stalled under my predecessor Roxanna Meyers and deadlines passed. NMDOT is tasked by the Feds with administering the grant and must approve City's administrative milestones having to do with right-of-way acquisitions, utility relocations, final design, etc. NMDOT's process has been remarkably slow and difficult to work with, even for the City's capable project manager Debbie Bauman, who deserves a medal for her efforts.

By the conclusion of the term of Mayor Berry's administration, Ms. Bauman had accomplished all the necessary purchases of right-of-way. The final agreement for construction between City and NMDOT was left on Mayor Keller's desk for signature. It was signed in March of this year as another NMDOT deadline loomed - a major milestone. The NMDOT continues to move slowly with a few remaining approvals to allow us to put it out for bids.

Over the years, my office has several times reported the Administration's "estimated" schedules for bidding and construction, which as we know have not come to pass. Thus I am reluctant to suggest when construction will begin. However, we are now told that "this Fall the Water Authority will initiate a utility improvement project at the intersection, and following the completion of that project the roundabout will be put out to bid, with construction to projected begin in Spring of 2019." If you wish to complain about the slow pace of the project, I suggest you write Governor Martinez, State Transportation Secretary Tom Church, and your state legislators.

Isaac Benton
Albuquerque City Councilor, District 2