Thanks for your excellent article on the Lead/Coal mess [News, “All Torn Up About Lead and Coal,” Dec. 23-29]. I think the small business owners threatened by the Lead/Coal gentrification project were left out of the planning loop to avoid a howl of protest from them. I don't see how small businesses, not just on Lead but on now jam-packed Yale SE, will survive this disruption.
I think the neighborhood associations’ real aim is to turn a string of residential areas south of Central into a pedestrian precinct at the expense of commuters and residents who now drive through to get around the east-west obstacle of UNM's campus. The idea that "calming" what has been an easy 30 mph east-west traffic flow to a cramped, bike-speed creep somehow creates pedestrians and helps local businesses is refuted by looking at what such "calming" did to Downtown: It helped murder it. Drivers avoid Downtown Central if they can, while a handful of homeless folks trudge from one scrap of shade to another in 90-plus heat a good half of the year (because they have to). In terms of geographic distances and climate, we don't live in a pedestrian-friendly environment.
The neighborhood associations are trying to retrofit a “not in my backyard”—a drowsy bedroom suburb, hostile to car traffic—over a major arterial passageway that's there for good reason: City drivers need it. Proposed alternatives are poor: Lomas is well out of the way for south-side routes, and Central, choked with buses, delivery vehicles and jaywalkers, has been an exhaust-spewing, dangerous mess from Downtown to Girard even with both Lead and Coal at full function.
I'm glad to see the upgrading of an outdated drainage system; that's what I thought I was voting for when I checked "yes" to the bond issue mentioned in your story—not a redesign of Lead and Coal taking years and directed against anyone who has to drive east or west through that area to get where they need to go. The supposed jamming of two traffic lanes, plus two bike lanes, plus widened sidewalks onto Lead and on Coal, with a further lowered speed limit (it's already 18 mph on Silver SE because of bike lanes) will make driving there so frustrating that people seeking passage between Downtown and Nob Hill will indeed try to "find other routes"—all two of which will have been turned into angry, creeping traffic jams by all the extra flow thrown onto them.
I wish Councilor Benton had pressed for using the stimulus money for more necessary upgrades to the area—like up-to-code street lighting to cut crime, or a better parking system than inconvenient one-to-a-block meter boxes, or financial help for small businesses along Lead and Coal. The only really useful, needful parts of this project getting done: the replacement of the old drainage system.