Montaño Doesn’t Need a Wal-Mart
The city’s Environmental Planning Commission will decide on Jan. 19 if Albuquerque gets a new Wal-Mart. It should not grant the requested building permit. For guidance, it only needs to look at its Comprehensive City Zoning Code and earlier studies related to traffic congestion on Montaño Road.
In 2006, the City Council passed the Large Retail Facility Ordinance, aka the zoning rules for “big box” stores. The written zoning code is clear and does not require any interpretation. Per the code, large retail facilities containing 90,001 to 124,999 square feet are “required to be located adjacent to and have primary and full access to a street designated as at least a collector in the Mid-Region Council of Governments’ Metropolitan Transportation Plan and having at least four through traffic lanes.”
The New Mexico Department of Transportation owns and manages Coors Boulevard, and it granted a permit for a site driveway on the thoroughfare. But it is a limited access driveway. Other roads adjacent to the proposed Wal-Mart are not collector roads.
It is clear the site does not have primary and full access to a collector street.
Another driveway on Montaño Road is requested, but should be denied. MRCOG’s Congestion Management Process Committee says Montaño has a corridor score (ranking No. 8 in 2010, up from No. 10 in 2008) that makes it one of the most congested arterials in the region. The EPC should decide to nix the requested changes, and reserve the right to make decisions related to roadway congestion management in the future that are effective and well-reasoned.
In 2005, the city commissioned a study of the Montaño Road corridor (Wilson & Company, 2005) when it considered options to mitigate traffic congestion crossing the river. That study provides relevant guidance for this decision now. It seemed clear to the city at that time, the solution is to reduce obstacles to the flow of traffic. All the study’s recommendations point in that direction, and it never occurred to anyone then to consider adding new impediments to the free flow of traffic.