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Auditors give F grades for safety risks on Lead and Coal

car crashed onto the sidewalk on the Lead/Coal corridor in Albuquerque
Courtesy Joseph Aguirre, Lead Coal Safety Brigade
car crashed onto the sidewalk on the Lead/Coal corridor in Albuquerque

In response to years of concerns raised by residents along the Lead and Coal corridor in Albuquerque, the city ordered an independent audit of its safety. The auditors identified a number of high-priority problems along the one-way streets, and made recommendations to the city.

A 2019 study showed Lead and Coal Avenues have more crashes than comparable roads. Data presented by the auditors showed there were 1,657 reported crashes from 2016 to 2020 on the stretch of road they studied, including three fatalities. At least two more people died from wrecks on Lead and Coal in 2021, according to the audit team’s presentation.

Liz Rosales has lived off of Lead Avenue for less than three years and says she’s seen over five crashes and numerous near misses with pedestrians and bicyclists.

“This is a huge, huge problem that needs a workable, sustainable resolution,” she said during public comment at the audit team’s kickoff meeting last week.

The team includes representatives fromthe Federal Highway Administration, Mid-Region Council of Governments (MRCOG) and Albuquerque Police Department. The two-day independent road safety audit was conducted on Wednesday and Thursday last week and included collecting crash data and input from the public, along with site visits.

From Washington Streeet SE west to Broadway Boulevard SE, the audit gave F grades for risk of severe and frequent crashes on Lead and Coal due to speeding vehicles threatening homes and pedestrians, the difficulty of crossing the streets, and a lack of enforcement of the 30 mph speed limit.

Other high-risk safety concerns flagged by the audit team include cars driving the wrong way on the one-way streets and running red lights and stop signs, obstructed sidewalks and bike lanes, faded pavement markings, and landscaping obstructing the view of oncoming traffic.

The auditors recommendations included reducing the roadways from two to one lane and dropping the speed limit to 25 mph, a suggestion previously called for by the Nob Hill Neighborhood Association. The city has installed two speed enforcement cameras that auditors say have yet to be activated. The team suggested the cameras be implemented and that the City Council consider increasing penalties for speeding.

Other audit recommendations include installing “speed cushions” that slow drivers while allowing emergency vehicles to maneuver around them, adding more streetlights and signage, and trimming trees.

The audit also highlighted existing elements of the roads that improve safety, including timing the lights for the 30 mph speed limit, radar signs that inform drivers of their speed, signaled crossings and bike lane buffers on some sections of the corridor.

A representative from MRCOG says a final written report will be issued by the end of August and the city, which owns the roads, will then be asked to respond.

Tim Brown, manager of the city’s traffic engineering division, said at the audit’s kickoff meeting that the city plans to review the report and assess which recommendations it has the funding to address. He said he believes the city has access to state capital outlay funds that could be used to make safety improvements on the corridor.

Nash Jones (they/them) is a general assignment reporter in the KUNM newsroom and the local host of NPR's All Things Considered (weekdays on KUNM, 5-7 p.m. MT). You can reach them at nashjones@kunm.org or on Twitter @nashjonesradio.
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