Council approves road facelift for White Rock

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By Kirsten Laskey

The design and rehabilitation of N.M. 4 received approval during a special county council meeting last week.

N.M. 4 is a highway that can take drivers to a lot of well-known destinations – Bandelier National Monument, Los Alamos National Laboratory and Valles Caldera National Preserve.

But as drivers head toward these locations, they zip through White Rock without a glance. The goal of the project is to make White Rock another known destination on the state highway.

The project will include an enhanced two-lane roadway with left, right turn lanes and one through travel lane in each direction, right-turn lanes at major cross street intersections and left turn lanes at intersections and other high-volume turn locations.

“The current road configuration, while it’s four lanes, it’s really two lanes with turns lanes,” said Kyle Zimmerman, public works director. “So by just putting in the lanes with the right turn bay and left turn bay, it moves the turning traffic out of the through lanes so we can meet the volume requirements but we won’t have a whole extra pavement to maintain.”

The improvements also include posting 35 mph signs and new stoplights at Pajarito Road, Sherwood and Rover boulevards, although the spotlight at Sherwood would not be installed until warranted.

An eight-foot concrete sidewalk will be built from Sherwood to Rover, a 10-foot multi-use pathway from Pajarito to Rover will be included along with a pedestrian crossing and street lighting from Sherwood to Rover and at the Pajarito intersection.

Landscape and streetscape improvements will also be done.

The work will include a portion of road 300 feet west of the La Vista intersection to 600 feet east of Rover Boulevards. Improvements will also be made from the Pajarito Road intersection to 300 feet west of the La Vista intersection, if it can be accomplished within the  $6 million “baseline budget.”  

“I definitely want to do something to help White Rock change its appearance and attract new businesses and attract tourists,” said Councilor Nona Bowman. “I think it’s time we do something to improve White Rock and I think the citizens have worked hard on that committee. I think we are moving in the right direction.”

It won’t completely be a smooth ride, however.

While the construction is occurring on N.M. 4, work will be taking place at the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s CMRR building.

Councilor Ralph Phelps wanted to know if the council was “trying to do something at an inopportune time?”

The CMRR project will impact the road improvement project, but “we have been provided the numbers of trucks and volume of traffic so we can contain a quality level of services on that road,” Zimmerman said.

Councilor Robert Gibson expressed concern with the potential impact from the number of heavy trucks as major construction projects develop at LANL.

“This road could see many heavy trucks starting and stopping at its proposed multiple traffic signals,” he said. “With only one through lane in each direction, frustrated drivers have no place to pass.”  

Gibson said he favors the four-lane option that had been presented to the council.

“Two complete lanes each way provide more flexibility and options for drivers. Such boulevard-style roads are often seen in urban areas and can be very attractive and pedestrian-friendly,” he said.