Saturday, April 15, 2006

Montaño Rd. Bridge: 40 Years to Four Lanes.

What’s wrong with this picture?

The photo to the left is of the old cottonwood tree, at the site of an August 21, 1995, protest at Montaño Rd. and Rio Grande Blvd. after the City Council approved construction of the Montaño Bridge.

This entry is not so much about what's wrong with this picture, as it is what's wrong with the process.

Why did it take over 40 years from the original proposal for a river crossing at Montaño Rd?

With the recent widening of Montaño from a two-lane roadway to four-lanes, there are now 30 lanes spanning the Rio Grande within the city limits.

With the explosive growth of Albuquerque's West side and even faster growth of Rio Rancho, the need for more bridges looms in the future.

Mayor Martin Chávez in his first term from December 1993 to November 1997, forcefully moved the project along against severe opposition from conversationalists, environmentalists, neighborhoods and the adjoining Village of Los Rancho de Albuquerque.

At a press conference, Chávez was asked a question about an issue in the future, which he deflected by saying, "we'll cross that bridge when we build it."

The City of Albuquerque joined in agreements with several groups before opening two lanes of the bridge, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineering, and the Village of Los Ranchos de Albuquerque.

During former Mayor Jim Baca's term from December 1997 to November 2001, the state of the bridge remained status quo.

When Chávez started his second term, he reestablished his aggressiveness towards getting the bridge expanded.

His efforts continued to meet resistance and he simply ignored required steps on several occasions and resorted to name calling of those who required the City to comply with agreements and federal mandates.

Eventually, enough roadblocks were lowered that the bridge was striped for four lanes.

There are still some issues that must be finalized; building sound buffering walls on the West side of the bridge and an air quality monitoring station which the city has agreed to build within the next year.

As the sun sets on this issue, the Montaño bridge project finally closes with four lanes and Mayor Chávez proves the axiom about him held around City Hall to be true, that it is, "My way or the highway."

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