The City of Albuquerque and I, as your Councilor, broke ground on Westside Blvd.’s expansion on March 17, 2021. Many of you requested information on Westside’ Blvd’s expansion effects on existing residential properties in the area.
Phase I—Construction, includes widening Westside Blvd. from two to four lanes between Golf Course Rd. and NM 528 and will also improve traffic flows at several major intersections. The project includes a multi-use trail on Westside Blvd.’s north side, a sidewalk on its south side and bike lanes in each direction (east and west).
Specific to Grande, it’s now going to be a ¾ access intersection. Drivers will be able to make a right in and right out maneuver as well as a left in from eastbound Westside. The only maneuver they will not be able to make is the left out of Grande onto eastbound Westside Blvd.
This limitation is for safety reasons, given the intersection’s proximity to NM 528. Construction will begin this Spring of 2021 and is estimated to be completed by the Summer of 2022.
Phase II–Westside Blvd. Quality of Life Improvements, consists of several components, median landscaping being one, and includes the evaluation and identification of post-construction noise levels, and feasible and appropriate management options to address possible noise issues, if they are confirmed. Both Phase I and Phase II were announced at Westside Blvd.’s groundbreaking in mid-March.
During Phase II the City will conduct field analyses of existing traffic (after construction) to establish conditions after Phase I improvements are installed. The focus of this study will be the project area located within the boundaries of the City of Albuquerque. The homes on the north side of the roadway are located within the City of Rio Rancho. Rio Rancho will need to decide whether future improvements may or may not be needed on the Rio Rancho north roadway side. I reserved $300,000 in District 5 GO Bond set-aside and will continue to seek additional funding for sound mitigation on the south side of Westside Blvd. within City boundaries, should it be found necessary.
During the course of design (2016 through 2019) ,traffic counts were performed in May 2016 and in October 2019. Three independent noise studies using accepted methodologies were performed during the project development process and are dated September 2015, March 2017, and October 2018. All three independent analyses confirmed that noise levels do not exceed the noise abatement criteria established by the Federal Highway Administration. Final approval for the project to advance was issued by the NMDOT in 2020.
In Phase II, The City will work with the public to review median landscaping options appropriate for our local climate and sensitive to water needs. This public involvement process will be initiated towards the end of the roadway construction project. Climate and condition-appropriate landscaping in the median adds to the urban canopy, reduces heat island effects, and helps clean the air. Additionally, median cross section’s feature inverted swales (with ground sloping towards the center) for passive water harvesting to make beneficial use of rainfall. Landscaping in the median also has a positive impact on local businesses, property values, tourism, and provides a sense of community pride.
Currently, all the traffic in this section of Westside is concentrated towards the development on the south (where many of the homes are well below grade and behind and below a masonry wall). Once construction is completed, the two lanes existing today will become the eastbound lanes; the two new westbound lanes will be towards the north side of the roadway, away from the City’s south side area and also separated by a median.
The new lane configurations also provide turning bays so that westbound left turning traffic into the subdivision might not cause traffic (or it’s noise) to back up, idle, and then speed up, which could also be expected to result in a more smooth and consistent traffic flow. This also impacts sound.
Until we conduct this post construction analysis, we won’t know for sure what will happen, but this is a reasonable expectation. Housing value affect is another unknown in the scenario of any road’s construction. The City is not equipped to assess housing values. For questions on housing values, please contact Bernalillo County Accessor’s office at https://www.bernco.gov/assessor/
Cynthia D. Borrego, MPA, District 5
Albuquerque City Council President