Construction work on city intersections that need new safety features before Rail Runner commuter trains arrive won't begin as soon as the state Department of Transportation had planned.
While work had been aimed at starting next week, city councilors haven't reached agreement on a timeline. On Monday, City Councilor Matthew Ortiz expressed concern about traffic delays and nighttime construction noise and asked the state to provide an alternative schedule.
But officials from the city Public Works Department and the state say revising the schedule to include only daytime work will take longer and put more people in danger.
Ortiz, who has criticized state train plans before at several steps along the way, said Monday that he thought the idea to have nighttime closures on Zia, Rodeo and Siringo roads overlapped too much and would be a hardship for his constituents.
"Those are the only three streets that any of us who live on the south side of town use to get into the city," said Ortiz. "I'm concerned that this is going to be a traffic nightmare."
City Public Works Director Robert Romero said his department consented to a schedule that offered nighttime closures because it seemed to strike the best balance.
"We just felt that it made sense for them to get in and get out as quickly as possible while at the same time keeping driving lanes open during the peak hours," he said, noting later that the city typically does its repaving and other work on main arteries during the night because that method is safest.
The department is willing to create an alternative schedule that cuts out night construction, said planner Chris Blewett, but such a change will mean construction that stretches into the fall and that disrupts daytime traffic during peak commute times.
"Focusing on daytime is a possibility, but it only works if we're allowed to do pretty significant closures during the day," said Blewett, who works for the Mid-Region Council of Governments on contract with the state. "We'll go back and talk this out."
Blewett also reiterated to the committee that the state's construction contractor will not close the three south-side roads simultaneously. "We can't have Rodeo and Zia closed at the same time because one is the detour for the other," he said.
Ortiz also said he wanted the construction to be planned so it has as little an effect on school traffic as possible when the school year resumes in the fall.
In addition to replacing track and slightly altering its course in some locations, the state will be installing quad gates, lighted signals and protective medians at all the places where trains cross roadways. The plans are required for the state to keep promises that trains won't blow horns as they pass through intersections.
Fellow councilors on the Finance Committee appeared more pleased than Ortiz with the state's construction plan, which was presented to the City Council last week as part of several train approvals sought by the state. The council wound up postponing its vote.
Councilor Chris Calvert on Monday called the plan "a reasonable compromise," and Councilor Miguel Chavez said he didn't want to jeopardize safety or quality and the construction project would still be likely to have adverse impacts for the duration of the contract with daytime-only work.
Along with Councilor Carmichael Dominguez, those committee members voted to make no formal recommendation on the traffic plan, which now moves to the city Public Works Committee for further discussion Monday.
The Finance Committee did, however, approve a separate plan that allows the state to build a station platform on private property near Zia Road and St. Francis Drive. That station won't serve passengers until the developer of that property and the city agree to a traffic-access and parking plan that will likely include a new traffic signal and turn-lane extensions.
Merritt Brown, a partner in SF Brown development company, told councilors that his plans for development associated with the station should be submitted to the city by the end of June. Brown said while his company won't absorb the cost of all the road improvements that are needed in the area, it plans to pay a fair share of improvements that the development will call for. Brown said he also plans to pay for some station parking at the site.
The city continues negotiations with the department about who will bear costs for additional bus and shuttle services to connect train passengers with other parts of the city.
Rail Runner Express commuter trains are already running in the Albuquerque area and are slated to start delivering passengers to the Santa Fe Railyard, the Transportation Department headquarters and the intersection of N.M. 599 and Interstate 25 by the end of the year.
Contact Julie Ann Grimm at 986-3017 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Proposed construction delays for the Rail Runner include:
* Work at Cerrillos Road at St. Francis Drive will continue until June 2, including replacement of curbs and medians, and the addition of safety gates. At least one lane in each direction on each road will be open at all times. Some closures are expected for turn lanes. Use Cordova Road as a detour.
* Alarid Street will be closed all day from June 30 to July 19.
* Cordova Road will be closed at night from June 2 to June 16.
* Alta Vista Street will be closed between St. Francis Drive and Cerrillos Road from Monday to June 9.
* San Mateo/Second Street will be fully closed 24 hours a day near the railroad tracks, from Calle Lorca to Hopewell Street, from June 16 to July 8.
* St. Michael's Drive will have lane closures during the day and perhaps full closure across the tracks at night, from June 30 to Aug. 15.
* Siringo Road will be closed between Fifth Street and Calle Lorca at night from June 16 to July 8.
* Zia Road will be closed at night between Galisteo Road and St. Francis Drive from Monday to June 18.
* Rodeo Road will be closed at night between Galisteo Road and Sawmill Road from June 2 to June 24.
Schedules for closures and detours are subject to change but should fall within the estimated ranges. For more information, log on to www.nmrailrunner.com or call 866-795-RAIL. The state Department of Transportation issues weekly updates each Friday.