Paving Paseo

Downside - detours and delays. Upside - safer sidewalks, lights, turns

By Jesse Moya
jmoya@taosnews.com
Posted 11/20/19

After several years of planning and engineering, Taos will soon undergo one of the largest road construction projects in the history of the town.

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Paving Paseo

Downside - detours and delays. Upside - safer sidewalks, lights, turns

Posted

Correction appended

After several years of planning and engineering, Taos will soon undergo one of the largest road construction projects in the history of the town.

Paseo del Pueblo Sur will be repaved and reworked from La Posta Road to Camino de la Placita as contractors update curbs, gutters, sidewalks and drainage along the route. The project was sent out to bid for contractors on Oct. 25 and construction is slated to begin in early 2020.

"The contractors should be given a notice to proceed by the end of February," said New Mexico Department of Transportation spokeswoman Denise Peralta. "After that, [the contractor] is required to have a public meeting."

Once the estimated $22 million project is finished, Taos will have a new main road through town complete with updated sidewalks and safer turn lanes.

Intersection redos

Major reconstructions of several intersections are planned for Phase II of the Paseo paving project. Phase I included repaving and installing sidewalks from the intersection with State Road 518 in Ranchos de Taos to the intersection with Cruz Alta Road.

The second phase extends the work through town.

Siler Road and Paseo intersection by Smith's Food

Arguably the most challenging intersection in Taos, at Siler Road and Los Pandos, has been the site of several accidents and even more close calls, said Re-Threads owner Sam Oberholtzer.

"It's already a challenging intersection," Oberholtzer said. "We're really close to the corner."

Re-Threads sits on the corner of the intersection and has been witness to the traffic issues created there for seven years.

The intersection will undergo a major overhaul. Siler Road sits catty-corner from the connecting street across Paseo del Pueblo. Drivers wanting to continue east on Siler across Paseo must weave through the congested intersection and avoid other drivers either turning or continuing west on the road. The DOT has plans to completely renovate that intersection to alleviate the issues of the outdated street.

First, the DOT plans include the demolition of the orange building (formerly Scheid Motors) on the northeast corner of the intersection and a street reroute through that property. This will align the road at the intersection and provide for a more smooth traffic flow rather than forcing drivers to move diagonally across the intersection.

Then, plans are also set to build channelization medians - medians that direct cars into turn lanes - to aid traffic turning west, north and east at the intersection.

Finally, in order to alleviate some driving headaches in Taos, the DOT will also be adding a left-hand turning arrow for cars turning west from Paseo del Pueblo Sur, something that drivers currently do not have at that intersection.

Kit Carson and North Plaza Road

Kit Carson and North Plaza will also see improvements with the department adding channelization medians to assist drivers turning there as well. The plans call for a new right turn lane from Paseo onto Kit Carson Road with a new median to accommodate for eastbound turning traffic.

The department secured a portion of the former parking lot on the corner and will constrict the right turn lane there.

North Plaza will have a median added for traffic turning right onto Paseo del Pueblo.

Road to Taos Pueblo

Another major traffic change for the road will be at Taos' northside Allsup's convenience store, as the department plans to redo the intersection of the road entering Taos Pueblo.

The intersection the gas station sits on will be redesigned with a right-hand turn lane for northbound traffic to merge onto Camino del Paseo Pueblo Norte. The intersection will also be equipped with a traffic light just before the gas station.

Traffic access control

Part of the redesign for Paseo del Pueblo is to provide access control for drivers. Through the use of concrete medians in the current center lane, the department will limit the amount of left-hand turns that can be made onto Paseo del Pueblo.

Left-hand turns on Paseo del Pueblo can prove to be challenging during peak traffic times, and the department is seeking to better direct the flow of traffic by eliminating left turns in some areas using the medians.

Repaving the road will also address various cracks and potholes that currently plague drivers on Paseo del Pueblo.

Traffic lights

To improve traffic flow, traffic lights will be placed at two new locations along Paseo including at Albright Street and Camino del Paseo Pueblo Norte at the Veterans Highway turnoff to Taos Pueblo.

These intersections are key stops for tourists and Taoseños alike with the Taos County Complex at Albright Street and access to Taos Pueblo, respectively.

New sidewalks

Through the efforts of Strong at Heart - a monthlong grant-funded planning effort - community members determined many sidewalks in Taos to be out-of-date, damaged or not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

Several of these ADA issues involve broken sidewalks or outdated narrow sidewalks that make it hard for people in wheelchairs and walkers, and sidewalk ramps with no rumble strips.

The department is seeking to fix some of these issues with new sidewalks.

On the southern end of the project, sidewalks will hug the sides of Paseo del Pueblo just as the department had added in earlier construction on Paseo del Pueblo Sur. The sidewalks will also include new driveway entries to provide for ADA compliant sidewalk ramps.

In the downtown district of Taos, new sidewalks will replace the existing ones on the west side of Paseo where there are no overhanging portals. The plans do not call for any renovation of the steep concrete stairs between Quesnel Lane and Kit Carson Road.

Business impacts

Businesses at some intersections are looking at the Paseo project with high hopes.

Oberholtzer said he has seen at least two accidents in the Siler Road intersection and is optimistic about the upcoming changes. He also said he is more worried about the actual process of construction affecting his business than the end result.

"I don't see anything in the plans that makes [the intersection] worse," he said.

Pinder Gill, the owner of the Kachina Lodge, on Paseo del Pueblo Norte near the entrance to Taos Pueblo, said the plans are going to have an impact on his business, especially during construction.

The Kachina Lodge will be the business directly affected by the new streetlight and intersection realignment of Camino del Paseo Pueblo Norte near Taos Pueblo. According to Gill, the DOT will be taking out one of the entrances to the hotel, leaving him with only one way in and out.

Still, Gill said of the construction, "If it's good for the community and good for the town, you just have to accept it. I'm all positive about it."

Moving forward

According to DOT officials, this is the largest road construction project Taos has seen in several decades. The project will detour Taos traffic through much of the process.

"Let's just be patient," said project manager Annette Serna. "Construction takes a lot of time."

Plans were finalized in September and contractors had until the end of October to bid on the projects. Contractors will likely get the go-ahead to proceed sometime in February.

DOT officials have said that plans may change as the construction nears.

A previous version of this story incorrectly stated construction would start at Siler Road.

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