Editor's Note: This is part one of a two-part series of articles on a public meeting held March 7 to give presentations and receive public input on proposals to improve Pinos Altos Road from U.S. 180 to 32nd Street. The presentations and options are covered in this article. The second article will address questions and comments by residents.

A meeting on proposals to improve Pinos Altos Road from U.S. 180 to 32nd Street was held Thursday evening, March 7.

George Herrera, consulting engineer with Gannett Fleming West Inc., an Albuquerque consulting firm, served as moderator for the event.

"This is the first meeting, in which we will present the proposals, and gather comments and input from you," Herrera told those gathered to find out how it would affect their daily commutes, as well as their businesses or homes located along the corridor. "We will hold another one later to keep you updated."

He pointed out the maps, which stood around the room. They included options for the main intersections that would be affected—32nd Street and Pinos Altos Road, and Pine Street and Pinos Altos Road. Other maps showed alternatives for roadway improvements.

The New Mexico Department of Transportation is the lead agency, with other participating agencies, including the Federal Highway Administration for funding and review.

Gannett Fleming West personnel are the study-phase consulting engineers; Engineers Inc. of Silver City members are the sub-consultants; and Marron and Associates personnel are handling the environmental documentation and public input.

The project is 1.1 miles long on Pinos Altos Road within Silver City limits. It is classified as a minor arterial and is currently a two-lane rural road, but it handles 5,900 vehicles a day.

"The pavement is in bad condition; the road has no paved shoulders and no drainage to speak of," Herrera said. "We will confirm the purpose and need for the project; reflect stakeholders' needs in evaluating the framework, develop and evaluate the alternatives, select the preferred alternative and obtain environmental documentation.

The project will require the National Environmental Policy Act process.

The NMDOT is taking a three-phase approach. Phase A is the initial evaluation of alternatives and the elimination of alternatives that are not feasible. Phase B will involve a detailed evaluation of the alternatives and the identification of the preferred alternative. Phase C will be the environmental documentation, with agency and public review.

The average daily traffic has increased substantially over the past few years. In 2008, the ADT was 1,401; by 2010, it had increased to 4,100 ADT, and in 2012 to 5,900. ADT is projected to increase, by 2034 to 7,300 a day.

The Pine Street intersection is currently at level service C, on an A-F scale, with A being best. It is projected by 2034 to be a D or F, without improvements. The 32nd Street intersection is currently a B, and by 2034, without improvements would be a C.

From 2008 through 2010, 29 vehicle crashes occurred in the corridor, with four injuries. Most happened at the Pine Street intersection.

During a right-of-way assessment, issues were found, especially between U.S. 180 and Pine, where a 40- to 50-foot right of way is mostly undocumented.  Herrera said the existing rights-of-way may not accommodate some of the improvements, and at Pine Street, it may require right-of-way acquisition. Pine to 32nd has wide rights-of-way.

Duane Gray of Engineers Inc. addressed drainage issues. "Drainage is easy," he said. "Water runs downhill. The crest of the road is to the south of 32nd Street, and the water runs north into existing drainages."

The drainage at Pine is a problem and water runs down beside Pinos Altos Road, and goes down Pine to the Valle Street area. Water south of Pine splits at Kimberly, with some draining down to 19th Street.

"If we put in curb and gutter, we will tap into the existing storm drains," Gray said. "From Pine to Kimberly there is a storm drain system, with the outlet going down Kimberly to Valle Street. South of Kimberly, we would have to tap into the existing system on 19th Street. All would require going underground south of Pine Street. As we widen at the Magistrate Court office, we will have to take it underground."

Herrera said the poor pavement condition might require complete reconstruction. "Utilities will possibly have to be relocated."

He said Option 1 for U.S. 180 to Pine would involve pavement and minor drainage improvements, with minor widening and reconstruction of pavement. Bicyclists would still be on a shared road.

Option 2 for the same section would involve paved shoulders and sidewalks, each 5-feet wide, separated by curb and gutter. "I'm not sure we have the 50-foot right-of-way."

Option 3 would add a center left turn lane 12-feet wide, with the lanes becoming 11-feet wide. It would require a 58-foot right-of-way and would impact properties.

From Pine to 32nd Street, the lanes would be 12-feet wide, with an 8-foot paved shoulder, a 12- to 14-foot center lane for left turns or a raised median in the middle, with only certain turnout lanes. It would require 59 to 61 feet of right-of-way, and would have paved shoulders, but no sidewalks.

Option 2 would include sidewalks.

Matthew Nighbert of Gannett Fleming West said the intersection at Pine and Pinos Altos Road is a major concern, particularly because of sight distance and angle.

Option 1 would have curb and gutter at the intersection, with dedicated left-turn lanes in all directions, as well as straight-through and right-turn lanes. "We could keep the two-way stop or make it an all-way stop."

Option 2 would add a left-turn lane off Bosworth.

Option 3 removes Bosworth from the intersection and has an entrance to the street, south of Pine, and making Bosworth a cul-de-sac street. Raised medians would be on the four streets (Ranch Club, Pine, and PInos Altos both directions) at the intersection.

Also suggested for the intersection would be a large round-about, but it has issues, and would limit what could be done with Bosworth

The intersection at Pinos Altos Road and 32nd Street has an issue with a large electrical transmission line pole on the southwest corner. Also at issue are two double-barrel culverts.

One option would be to leave the pole in a median and put a right turn lane to the south of the pole. Every side of the intersection would have right turn lanes, straight-through lanes and left-turn lanes.

Another option would place a roundabout at the intersection, accommodating large vehicles. "That option does not take too much right-of-way, but we have to consider the drainages on the west side of the road," Nighbert said.

Herrera also introduced a no-build alternative, which would leave everything as is, with no major improvements, except for ongoing maintenance.

"We plan to have a draft by June, with a final report by August with the preferred alternative," Herrera said. "The next meeting will be in June, and design work will begin early next year. Our intent is to have the project in the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program for 2014."

Eric Johnson of Marron & Associates said the environmental process would involve NEPA and a NMDOT location study, providing environmental field study, environmental documentation, NMDOT and FHA decisions on historic buildings older than 45-years, birds and endangered species.  The study would include water and wetlands, wildlife, cultural resources, hazardous materials, land use, socioeconomics, pedestrians and bicyclists, visual resources and other resources.

Comments and public input can be made in a letter to Eric Johnson, Marron and Associates, 7511 4th Street NW, Albuquerque, NM 87107 or by email to eric@marroninc.com .

The rest of the article will involve the questions and comments made by meeting participants.

Live from Silver City

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