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Long-awaited upgrades to Twelfth take on a new twist: Diverting trucks away from residential areas

This shaded stretch of Twelfth is in line for some changes meant to slow down traffic in the area. The red line represents a possible diversion of truck traffic away from the more residential sections of Bellamah (east of Eighth) and Twelfth (south of Bellamah).

July 17, 2023

Even among the numerous Greater Downtown thoroughfares designed to invite vehicle speeds far above the actual posted limit, Twelfth south of I-40 stands out. To begin with, it’s a pretty straight road. Neither the sparse landscaping on the sides nor the collection of industrial buildings does much to cue drivers – who are often just off I-40 or looking forward to being there soon – to slow down the way they would on more constrained streets like Gold in the Downtown core. Congestion certainly isn’t working to slow things down either: On an average weekday, slightly fewer cars use the four lanes on Twelfth than the two lanes on Central between Broadway and I-25.

City Councilor Isaac Benton once compared the section of road to an open sewer, and it is an especially dangerous one at that. The intersection with Bellamah, south of which is decidedly more residential, has seen a series of crashes that sometimes involve wrecked cars getting pushed into residential yards. Some years ago, the mother of the late artist Adán Carriaga, who lived a few blocks to the east, died in a pedestrian-vehicle crash at the crossing. Wells Park resident Robert Blanquera Nelson reports that a couple of dogs have been run over as well.

In response to that grim state of affairs, the city has for years been working on a plan to cut down the number of lanes (from four to two, with a center turn lane), add buffered bike lanes, fill in gaps in the sidewalks, install lights, and generally spruce things up to a point where (they hope) drivers take it a little easier. That part of the project is reasonably straightforward, non-controversial, and has about reached its fundraising goals, Benton told DAN, but it gets complicated from there.

What to do with the actual intersection of Twelfth and Bellamah looks to be especially key because it represents perhaps the last best opportunity to stop or slow down traffic before it gets to all the houses. Benton has floated a four-way stop as one idea. In 2020, the city also looked at putting a roundabout there, but concluded that making it big enough for trucks and city buses to get through would require seizing too much land from adjacent property owners.

That point is itself controversial. Wells Park Neighborhood Association President Doreen McKnight – a fan of the roundabout concept – has pointed to smaller traffic circles elsewhere (such as here and here and here) she thinks could do the trick.

But apart from that debate, there is the question of whether longer vehicles could be diverted away from Twelfth south of Bellamah altogether. The ABQ Ride route that serves Twelfth is one of the least frequent in the system and since the pandemic has often been served by smaller vans rather than large buses anyway. Benton is holding out the possibility that such an arrangement could be made permanent, though it may be a moot point depending on how the broader redesign of the route network turns out (see article below).

Whether trucks could also be shunted elsewhere, and in particular whether they could be diverted away from the more residential parts of Bellamah east of Eighth, is another question entirely. It all began with Wells Park neighborhood board member Mike Prando, who sketched out a possible alternate route on some scratch paper, but this summer the city is actually studying the possibilities. It has hired an engineering firm called Parametrix to take a look at local streets and meet with businesses to figure out where trucks are going and whether they might be persuaded to use streets like Eighth and Haines instead – through mere persuasion or by new physical features in the street that make maneuvering a truck just a bit more uncomfortable.

In other words, “How do I make Eighth and Haines more attractive,” Parametrix Vice President Terry Doyle told a community meeting on the subject held recently at the Sawmill Lofts.

Large trucks are already prohibited on Twelfth south of Mountain.

The truck route study should wrap up in the coming weeks. Whatever the results, it will likely inform the next steps for the larger project, Benton said.

Another community meeting on the matter is planned, though not yet scheduled.