At a cost of more than a half-million dollars, the stretch of West Meadowlark Lane will be repaved —without its speed bumps. The Village Council voted February 22 to approve plans presented by Public Works Director Mike Chavez to resurface the lower portion of West Meadowlark using funds from the state highway department Municipal Arterial Program (MAP) funds.
Chavez explained the existing asphalt will be torn away and pulverized into new black top which will be re-applied there at a cost of about $518,000. He was asked whether that would include re-building the existing speed bumps between Loma Larga and Corrales Road; Chavez said no, but if villagers wanted them that could be done at a later time.
At the council meeting when the project was given the go-ahead, no one spoke in favor or against the idea that the speed bumps would disappear. In past decades that decision would have been a big deal. Typically residents who live near them want them to, to slow down traffic, while commuters and emergency responders don’t. In fact, the pros and cons became so divisive that a new lexicon was needed. If people didn’t want speed bumps, how about speed humps? No, then how about speed tables?
Over the years, villagers and their representatives generally found consensus with speed tables which are less rounded and more flat-topped so that passing vehicles would not jump up and then crash down precipitously. To understand the evolution of bump to hump to table, revisit the bump by driving along the access driveway off Alameda Boulevard past the Satellite Coffee parking lot on the way past Pep Boys to get to North Coors. The sudden lift and crash is uncomfortable even if you expect it.
In 2005, Corrales was introduced to the speed table. Those can be experienced along upper Meadowlark, between Loma Larga and Rio Rancho. Long before the current reconstruction of upper Meadowlark, Mayor Gary Kanin and the Village Council opted for 10 of those on upper Meadowlark.
Then-Village Administrator Marilyn Hill explained at the February 8, 2005 Village Council meeting that the existing speed humps along upper Meadowlark would be removed and 10 new, longer ones will be installed at 300-foot intervals.
Kanin predicted that villagers, including those who live along Meadowlark, would not like the new speed tables. But the decision to install them derived from at least two years of near-constant pressure from Meadowlark residents to do something to decrease traffic past their homes.
The pros and cons of adding more speed humps to Meadowlark between Loma Larga and the Rio Rancho boundary were debated at the October 26, 2004 council meeting.
Anderson had similarly advised the council not to proceed with its plans some 18 months earlier to install stop signs on upper Meadowlark at the Rio Rancho boundary. At that time, too, she cited federal transportation guidelines and traffic engineering principles which stated it would not be proper to install stop signs in such situations. Councillors went ahead anyway, but eventually pulled the stop signs down after the Village was sued for causing auto collisions there.
At the vote, councillors were unanimous in approving installation of speed humps every 300 feet so that drivers wouldn’t have much chance to speed up faster than 25 miles an hour.
Proponents insisted that if drivers maintain that 25 mph speed, they could go over those ten speed humps without banging their heads or dropping a drive shaft.
But councillors were told that the humps would definitely slow down emergency response vehicles, not only Corrales fire-rescue personnel, but those called in from Rio Rancho as well.
And then-Public Works Director Tony Tafoya reminded councillors that nearby homeowners may experience more roadway noise (cars and trucks accelerating and loose loads clanking around) and more auto exhaust pollution from start-stop driving.
“I agree that something has to be done, but I don’t think speed humps are the answer,” Tafoya advised.
Ralph Martinez warned that speed bumps near his home on Old Church Road had brought a reduction in quality of life. “All the people here are talking about quality of life [that has been hurt by increased traffic on Meadowlark]. I’ll tell you what happened to my quality of life when speed bumps were installed about 100 feet from my bedroom.
“Every time a big truck or trailer pulling horses, or a delivery truck goes by, I hear a bump, a lot of noise and then they speed up. The people who ignore the speed limit don’t care about the speed bump, and they’ll drive it at 30-35 miles an hour. So those people who want speed bumps near their homes better be prepared for a lot of noise pollution.”
Martinez, who had complained about speed bumps for years, also cautioned that it will delay emergency responders.
Fire Chief Anthony Martinez agreed with assessments that it will take longer for fire-rescue drivers to arrive at emergency scenes. But, he noted, “If the citizens on Meadowlark are willing to accept the fact that it could slow down police and fire and rescue responders, then I guess it’s okay.
“All I ask is that the humps, not just on Meadowlark, but throughout the village, be standard so our drivers know what to expect.”
Police Chief Ray Vigil offered similar advice. “It will cut some time off our response time.” The bumps will also increase wear-and-tear on police cars, he added.
But clearly a lot of people wanted the speed humps along upper Meadowlark. A petition with at least 24 signatures urged the council to install them, as they had earlier indicated they would do.
Subsequently, an anti-speed hump petition bearing the signatures of more than 60 villagers was submitted without much impact on the council’s decision.
Roger Finzel, a lower Meadowlark resident, insisted that the council had a duty to preserve “community values,” including restrictions on traffic to maintain rural lifestyles.
“People come here, and visit here, they shop here, not because there are bargains, but for the ambiance, the serenity. They come here for the beauty of our village,” Finzel said. “I have friends in Rio Rancho who don’t want to come here any more because this issue has not been addressed and they see conflict in our village.
“So businesses are being hurt because we won’t deal with implementing reasonable measures to implement our master plan. Our master plan talks about what we’re supposed to be doing: calming traffic, respecting residential neighborhood…”
That view has not been shared by many of Corrales’ business owners. Over the years that Village officials have talked about impediments to traffic on Meadowlark, business owners have pleaded for the council not to make it more difficult for Rio Rancho shoppers and quick-lunch Intel employees to reach their shops.
Speaking in opposition was soon-to-be Corrales Planning and Zoning Commissioner Michelle Anderson, who quoted from federal traffic management guidelines and recommendations from the Institute of Traffic Engineering. She said it would be a serious mistake to place speed humps on a collector road such as Meadowlark.
“Speed humps on collector roads is totally taboo,” Anderson warned.
She summarized the nationally recognized policy that “speed humps are not to be used on major roads.” She also referred to guidelines that emergency vehicles will be slowed down three to five seconds per hump for a fire truck, and “up to ten seconds for an ambulance with a patient per hump.”
Anderson cited policies for the City of Albuquerque and Rio Rancho which preclude speed humps on collector roads. One of the reasons, she said, is that municipalities face liability from lawsuits based on lack of adequate emergency response.
“You’re looking at a liability issue for the Village of Corrales if someone anywhere in Corrales perceives there has been a delay in emergency services —ambulance, police and fire protection— due to the speed humps.”