Nob Hill is Albuquerque’s premiere shopping district; that is, if shopping malls incite your sense of moral outrage.
The only problem with Nob Hill, familiar to many area patrons, is the logistical nightmare that arises when attempting to cross the street. One minute you're helping keep the local economy well-greased and the next you're playing Frogger, the real-life version.
But all that is about to change. Five intersections along Central between Girard and San Mateo will soon be retrofitted with pedestrian-friendly bulb-outs. Bulb-outs are rounded street corners that jut out into the road a few feet. They cost about $200,000 a piece.
City Councilor Martin Heinrich, who represents Nob Hill and allocated the funds to make the bulb-outs a reality, says the bulb-outs will also be graded, which will make crossing the street easier on people with wheelchairs and baby-strollers.
“They are the same level as Central,” he says. “Walking or running across two lanes of Central [as it is right now] makes it easy to trip and fall.”
Javier Benavidez, policy analyst for the City Council Office, says the project has been long-awaited and many factors have delayed it, including but not limited to the fact that, oftentimes, Southeast Heights streets are flood plains. The bulb-outs had to be designed in such a manner that they will not obstruct street drains.
Benavidez says bulb-outs will shave some distance off a pedestrian’s journey across Central. He describes them as “soft corners.”
Benavidez says the bulb-outs will be connected in the middle of the street, elongating the currently existing islands to make it safer for pedestrians to wait to cross. They also cause what he refers to as a “visually slowing effect.”
“The theory is drivers slow down when passing through a smaller area,” he says.
John Castillo, director of the Department of Municipal Development, says the bulb-outs will make drivers more likely to observe posted speed limits and that, right now, Nob Hill is a pretty exciting place for pedestrians who like to go explore. He says the improvements will give better access to the area.
Amy Henne, former president of the Nob Hill Business Association and owner of the local business Lavande Bleu, is thrilled the bulb-outs are finally being installed.
“It’s going to slow drivers down and make them aware that this is a pedestrian zone,” she says.
Henne says money has been allocated in “budget after budget” for projects such as this one, but nothing has ever happened. She hopes this construction is carried through from start to finish because, presently, the north and south sides of Central are like “two different worlds,” because crossing the street can be such a challenge.
The money for the bulb-outs came from the cancellation of another road improvement. Gibson Boulevard was scheduled to be realigned through Kirtland Air Force Base but Homeland Security concerns caused the project to be scrapped and the funds divided between all nine City Council districts, with Heinrich’s district receiving about $1.6 million. Heinrich used his district’s portion for this purpose. He says the five bulb-outs should be completed within a year. Castillo estimates six months.
The first bulb-out is currently being installed at the intersection of Wellesley and Central with the additional four coming in at Amherst, Solano, Morningside and Jefferson. Castillo says each one should take between six weeks and two months to complete. Benavidez says more improvements are to come but did not specify what they might be.