T-Board hears project updates

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By Arin McKenna

The Los Alamos Transportation Board agenda was packed with updates on various projects during a regular meeting June 6.

Bandelier National Monument’s Chief of Resources Barbara Judy presented the transportation aspect of the proposed Tsankawi Management Plan.

The National Park Service proposes building a new visitor staging area with parking aligned with the N.M. 4/East Jemez Road intersection. This would create a four-way intersection with a signal light. Cameras would be trained on the staging area access to provide egress from the staging area only as needed.

“We recognize that the primary traffic movement needs to be along highway 4,” Judy said. “The idea would be that we would minimally add to the burden on that intersection.”

Bandelier staff has been working with the New Mexico Department of Transportation on a request for a Federal Highway Administration Federal Lands Access Grant.

T-board members asked Judy to make sure the plan includes an Atomic City Transit stop with a safe turnaround for buses.

The plan will be made available for public comment in August.

Airport Manager Peter Soderquist updated the board on air service use and the new flight schedules that were implemented June 10.

Flights increased from 104 to 150. The county is currently committed to pay up to $367.83 for unfilled flights, based on the number of passengers, so planes are not running for flights with no bookings.

Passengers jumped from 201 in April to 405 in May.

The 6:30 a.m. departure from Los Alamos is the top selling flight, averaging 24 passengers a week.
The 8 a.m. and 1:20 p.m. departures from Albuquerque are the worst performing and will change to 10:10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. To date, those flights have cost the county approximately $14,000 each due to low ridership.

Soderquist has concerns about a third change. The 7:30 p.m. departure from Albuquerque is the second best performer, averaging 22 passengers per week.

In response to customer feedback, that flight is being changed to 9:30 p.m. to accommodate nonstop flights from Dulles International Airport in Washington D.C. and Oakland, Calif., as well as flights from Atlanta, Chicago, Phoenix and Las Vegas.

Soderquist is concerned the service may lose passengers unwilling to wait for the later flight, so staff will be monitoring that change closely.

County Engineer/Traffic Engineer Kyle Zimmerman presented a plan for traffic calming on Range Road in response to public comment at the May 2 board meeting.

The transportation division has completed a traffic analysis and found that 85 percent of the vehicles travel 43.89 mph or under on the northbound lane and 42.52 mph or under on the southbound lane; vehicles were clocked at speeds up to 62 mph.

The speed limit for residential neighborhoods is 25 mph. The road is currently unsigned. A speed trailer the county put up before Memorial Day Weekend was vandalized.

Zimmerman’s preliminary proposal is to redesign the road for traffic calming. The current roadway is 40-foot wide to allow for emergency vehicle access. The reconfiguration would create two 11-foot lanes with two-foot shoulders and guardrails and a 12-foot pedestrian/bicycle lane separated from the street by a pedestrian fence. The pedestrian lane could provide emergency vehicle access if necessary.

The street is being surveyed now. Once that is complete, staff will draw up a detailed plan with a budget. Obtaining funds for the project with the county’s current budget restrictions may be the most difficult aspect of the project.

Residents who attended the meeting expressed satisfaction with the plan, but disappointment that it was unlikely to be completed before winter, when pedestrians have to walk along the road from the bus stop in the dark.

The board unanimously recommended a plan to increase fees for excavation and traffic impedance permits.
Currently there are no fees for traffic impedance permits for events. The county has to send personnel to make sure permit requirements are being observed. A new $50 administration and inspection fee is being proposed.
Excavation permits currently require a $25 inspection fee and a $250 deposit.

The county basically has no means of recovering costs if the excavation results in damage to county property such as roads or sidewalks.

The proposed change holds the applicant responsible for resurfacing (they can arrange for the county to resurface).

Each permit will have a $250 administration and inspection fee. Applicants will also pay the estimated cost of labor, materials and equipments plus 10 percent to restore the surface before the permit is issued.

The code change must now go to council for approval.

In other updates:
• Changes to the Atomic City Transit routes have been underway for two weeks. There could be slight adjustments to schedules, but Public Works Director Philo Shelton does not anticipate changes in routes or stops.
• The county is applying for a grant to install colored crosswalks as part of the Streetscapes initiative.
• An attempt to receive grant funding to upgrade county vehicles to compressed natural gas was unsuccessful. Staff will continue to search for other funding sources.
• 10 of 18 new trailhead signs have been installed.
• Crews are currently pressurizing and testing new gas and water lines in the Eastern Area Phase 2 project. Once that is completed connections to residential properties will get underway. The deadline to complete utilities work is June 28. Grading for sidewalks and curb and gutter has also begun.
• A slurry seal will be applied to the Eastern Area Phase 1 asphalt. That will be completed over two nights between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. (dates not available yet) since there will be no access to the road until the seal sets.
• The Federal Highway Administration issued a Finding of No Significant Impact for the Environmental Assessment of the N.M. 502/Trinity Drive improvements project.
• Mesa Public Library safety improvements will be completed before the end of the month.