Los Lunas taking input for master transportation plan

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Los Lunas villagers were asked for their input at the first public meeting on the village master transportation plan earlier this month.

Information at the meeting, which as held at the Los Lunas Transportation Center, was collected for the development of the plan.

Sites Southwest, LLC, a community planning and landscape architecture firm in Albuquerque, was hired by the village to develop the transportation plan, which is a section of the larger comprehensive plan being developed by the village Community Development Department.

The comprehensive plan is the village's overall master plan, which hasn't been updated since 1999.

The transportation portion will guide future development of multi-modal transportation, land use to navigate travel, transportation facilities, infrastructure and services into the next 30 years, said James Aranda, a planner for Sites Southwest.

The Rail Runner Express and the beginnings of a public transportation system with Rio Metro bus routes are assets, villagers said, but they would like an expanded train schedule, more bus routes and alternative modes of transportation both in an east-west direction, as well as north and south through the village.

The challenge is Main Street traffic congestion, but villagers said it is also poorly maintained roads, transportation for the elderly and a lack of bicycle access, or lack of safety on the bike trails that do exist.

They also said that zoning is not being enforced, and there needs to be safe pedestrian crosswalks and a true downtown area.

They would also like to see Los Lunas become a bustling, self-sustained village with shopping, restaurants, entertainment and hotels that eliminate the need to drive to Albuquerque, with more small retail businesses that are easy to get to, more walking and biking trails and more large roads that cross the railroad tracks.

They want to keep the village personality, yet accommodate growth, better movement of traffic, more exits off Interstate 25 and have recreational opportunities along the river, as well as better access to Tomé Hill with a bicycle path to it, secured open spaces and transportation to the Albuquerque Sunport.

The limited east-west access is being addressed by plans for an additional I-25 exit and Morris Road corridor over the river extending to N.M. 47, but it is several years from construction.

The Mid-Region Council of Governments estimates that Los Lunas Main Street traffic will double by 2035 on both sides of the river bridge, said Kim Coleman, a Sites Southwest planner.

Nearly 20,000 vehicles travel Main Street, or N.M. 6, on a daily basis during the week, and about 12,000 on N.M. 314 and 15,000 on N.M. 47.

Main street is operating over-capacity between Los Cerritos Road and Luna Avenue with the heaviest automobile crash incidents along the Main Street intersections at Los Lentes Road, N.M. 314 and N.M. 47, she said.

The University of New Mexico crash database, derived from state calculations, counted more than 41,000 crashes in three years at those three intersections.

The river bridge is also over-capacity, and there is a lot of growth on Huning Ranch Drive, said Coleman.

But Huning Ranch resident James Rickey said traffic growth on Huning Ranch Road wouldn't increase unless a street to the proposed Morris Road corridor was built.

Community members took part in mapping exercises and discussions to document what they like about the county's transportation system, and offer what they think should be changed or created in the future.

Statistics gathered by Sites Southwest indicated that during the years 2000 to 2012, the village grew by 47 percent.

In a comparison with the state, Los Lunas has a younger population with a median age of 33 to the state's 36.

It also has a higher percentage of Hispanic and Latino residents, with a greater number of residents per household, a slightly lower education attainment, but a slightly higher per capita income.

Sites Southwest is working on drafts of the transportation plan and will bring proposed land use and transportation maps for villagers to review and comment on at a public meeting around mid-October, said Barbara Herrington, project manager.

The culmination of these efforts will be presented to the Los Lunas Village Council for adoption of a final transportation master plan by February 2013.


-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.