Twenty-seven years ago, traffic on Corrales Road was so jammed that a consulting engineer ominously predicted its intersection at Meadowlark Lane soon would “fail,” and that a stoplight would be imperative within five years. Granted, that was back when the new Corrales Post Office was proposed for the southwest corner of the intersection, where Village Mercantile is now. And that was before Loma Larga was constructed as a reliever for Corrales Road, which was —and still is— State Highway 448.
Intense discussion engulfed the community. Some villagers insisted it was time to face reality and abandon the notion that Corrales was a quaint rural village. It was now a suburb, and steps must be taken to facilitate metro traffic. Other villagers stubbornly insisted we needed to maintain the farming tradition, and that if commuters and grocery shoppers didn’t want to stack up behind a tractor and hay baler, well —too bad. Move to Rio Rancho or the Northeast Heights.
A compromise was advanced: a traffic circle, or roundabout. A consensus began to solidify around that option, so engineering plans were ordered and submitted. But enthusiasm faded when the designs showed it would take large chunks from the Frontier Mart land, the Mercantile and the then-daycare center. Besides, traditionalists within the Highway Department were skeptical. Roundabouts just weren’t done. Maybe in California or Massachusetts, but not here: what about horse trailers? What about hay balers? And what about horse riders? (See Corrales Comment Vol.XIV No.14 September 9, 1995 “Council Must Decide on Turn Lanes, Stoplights.” and Vol.XV No.24 February 8, 1997 “First Stoplight Urged For Meadowlark Intersection.”)
Despite the flurry of traffic solutions proposed in 1995, nothing was done except for construction of the reliever road, Loma Larga. Subsequent studies have shown that accomplishment alone has made a huge difference, especially after then-Councillor Jim Fahey (now mayor) finally convinced others on the council to take down all the stop signs at Loma Larga crossroads. But now, it seems like that dreaded Corrales Road gridlock looms again.
Pandemic-induced stay-at-home behavior is receding, Corraleños are out shopping, visitors are returning, fearless bike riders are pedalling. Over all, in recent months the pace is quickening and cars and trucks are nearly bumper-to-bumper on Corrales Road at some hours.
Corrales Comment requested the most recent traffic count data for Corrales Road from the Mid Region Council of Governments (MRCOG). The multi-municipal agency’s report indicates no traffic counts have been done for Corrales Road since June 1, 2020.
“We try to count every roadway in the region every three years, so the locations you’re looking for may not have very recent data,” Willy Simon, MRCOG transportation planner replied.
Traffic counts are done for the same month over time, so the next one for Corrales Road probably would come in June 2023.
On June 1, 2020, vehicles heading south on Corrales Road north of Meadowlark Lane tallied 5,753. A little more were headed north, 6,004.
On the same day, southbound drivers on Corrales Road south of Meadowlark were counted at 5,476, which is actually less that might be expected from an assumption that traffic from Rio Rancho was heading down to Corrales Road for the drive south into Albuquerque. More likely, though, is that Rio Rancho drivers would hang a right at Loma Larga.
Northbound drivers south of Meadowlark were counted at 5,914.
Southbound traffic on Loma Larga, south of West Ella. was 2,004 vehicles. Just 330 of those hit the tube count recorder on Loma Larga during morning rush hour (6 to 9 a.m.).
In December 2019, southbound drivers on Loma Larga south of Meadowlark were counted at 4,466.
Over the years, traffic density on Corrales Road has seemed to ebb and flow, sometimes due to external conditions, such as construction on Highway 528 in Rio Rancho, and clearly due to parents delivering students to and from Corrales Elementary School.
For villagers trying to pull onto Corrales Road from side roads and driveways during parental deliveries and retrievals, the wait can seem interminable.
One of the studies done in 1995 suggested the average wait time to pull onto Corrales Road was 20 seconds. It’s unknown what that might be now. But those school bus stops and starts probably have at least one desirable effect in lieu of a stoplight: creating traffic gaps ahead of the bus.
Corrales Comment has sometimes included in its page layouts little suggestions for how to create gaps in traffic that allow drivers to nudge their way onto Corrales Road. Insert as fillers on the newspaper pages are small advocacy notes saying “When Driving Corrales Road, Speed Up or Slow Down to Create Traffic Gaps.”
The problem is that too many villagers adopt higher speed driving behavior that leaves five to 10 car lengths between his or her vehicle and the one ahead. With traffic moving at 30 miles an hour, that’s just not enough time, for a cautious (possibly read “elderly”) driver to merge into traffic.
So speeding up slightly can increase space behind your car or truck. Conversely, slowing down a little can create a gap ahead of you that might allow someone waiting at a driveway or crossroad to pull in ahead of you.
Courtesy is a winning strategy.
The 1995 traffic study “NM 448 [Corrales Road] Scoping Study” produced for the Highway Department by consultant JHK & Associates includes a section titled “Create Gaps in Traffic.”
It reads as follows. “Objective: Create gaps in platoons of vehicles to provide access to NM448 from cross-streets and private driveways along the roadway.
“Alternative Option 1: Install traffic signals at the intersections of NM448/Meadowlark Lane and NM448/La Entrada. Construction cost: $150,000.
“Alternative Option 2: Install stop signs at two locations along NM448. Construction cost: $2,000.
“Discussion: Traffic signals installed on NM448 would improve the orderly movement of traffic and would interrupt NM448 traffic at intervals to allow pedestrian, equestrian, bicycle and side street traffic to cross or enter the NM448 traffic stream.
“Stop signs would increase delay for vehicles traveling through the intersection (less than 20 seconds on average per vehicle) and may increase rear-end accident occurrence on NM448 approaches.…
“Stop signs would result in higher delay to motorists by requiring all motorists to stop, whereas a traffic signal would allow the majority of NM448 traffic to travel uninterrupted.”