Turquoise Trail (NM14) Citizens Advisory Committee, c/o P.O. Box 245, Cerrillos, NM 87010
January 26, 2004
Andres Aragon Viamonte, P.E.
Transportation Planning & Design
New Mexico Department of Transportation
1120 Cerrillos Road, Room 111
Santa Fe, NM 87504-1149
Thank you for meeting with us January 13 to discuss the Turquoise Trail, and our continued concerns regarding the extent of 12 ft. lanes between Cerrillos and Madrid, and other issues.
To give you a deeper understanding of our position regarding the Record of Agreement, ie. #12 ("No issue will be reopened unless there are compelling reasons to do so, supported by factual evidence"), we believe that new information is reason to invite further discussion.
1. The Richardson administration is more receptive to Context Sensitive Design (CSD), as demonstrated by the development of an Executive Order on the subject.
2. Truck restrictions would greatly reduce the need for widening the lanes at curves on the Byway and there is every indication that NM 14 will qualify for such restrictions.
In previous meetings with the DOT, the CAC agreed to widening of pavement at curves. We had been told that truck restrictions were impossible, and that the Department believed further compromise on the issue would be unsafe and could not be defended in lawsuits.
Because of our own experience driving this road, the CAC participants remain convinced that, statistically, the higher speeds for the vast majority of the traffic (cars) induced by wider lanes could result in more accidents and fatalities than the wider lanes will save by reducing off-tracking by a small minority of the traffic (trucks). We remain concerned that widening lanes to 12 feet over 50% of the length of the 1st phase of the reconstruction would be detrimental to safety as well as to the scenic values.
In the past, NMDOT officials have argued that the width of a byway itself doesn't much impact the scenic value of the byway. According to FHWA's "National Scenic Byways Program, Lessons from the Road--Series #2, p. 4", "The size and mass of the highway as it passes through the landscape has a powerful effect on the traveler's aesthetic experience. ...improvements [wider clear zones, lanes, and medians] can create a road that overwhelms the landscape." FHWA's official recognition of this point offers guidance that NMDOT can follow, and is especially important given NM14's role as an attraction for visitors.
We note that the new paved roadway with 11 ft. lanes and 4 ft. shoulders will be 50% wider than the existing road, and will feel even wider with the added visual impacts of tapers and ditches. We think that the lanes are presently more 10 ft., rather than 11 ft. as Larry [Velasquez] expressed at the meeting.
During the meeting the NMDOT proposed tabling the issue until a contractor had been selected, and then getting the contractor's input; and, presumably, the NMDOT would evaluate the contractor's abilities to be flexible. The CAC recommended minimum use of 12 ft. lanes and expects that the NMDOT will remain the "architect" and not leave such design decisions entirely to the contractor. Modification of lane width must have precedents. The CAC requests to be appraised of the progress on this issue.
The CAC also expressed concern about "borrow" areas, expressed our willingness to work with contractors on the issue, and advised "no use" of Waldo Canyon Road as a haul route through the Village of Los Cerrillos.
We again express the hope the Turquoise Trail will become a "best practices" model in Context Sensitive Design for New Mexico & the USA.
We appreciate the Department's willingness to respect our views and give these subjects additional consideration.
Cc: Larry Velasquez, Chris Baca, Houshang Tavanaiepour, Phil Gallegos
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