4 Investigates: Coors Boulevard has proven deadly for pedestrians
March 27, 2019 10:31 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, NM.- Roadside crosses can be seen all over south Coors Boulevard, serving as a tragic reminder of the lives lost over the years.
Nobody understands the problems along Coors quite like Barbara Kirk. In June 2017, her son Brendan McClure was hit and killed after a Bernalillo County Deputy struck him while walking along Coors.
“We were very close. It’s been very difficult not having him there,” said Kirk.
McClure had waited for his food stamps card to be active and shortly after midnight he walked from his home to the Walmart, located on Coors and Rio Bravo. He didn’t own a car and attempted to push his groceries back home in a grocery cart. However, the roadway lacked a completed sidewalk, so instead McClure braved the center lane of traffic on Coors. Surveillance video from the incident shows the deputy hit McClure from behind.
McClure is just one of many people killed in recent years along south Coors.
Recent reports show a driver hit and killed a man in September 2016 near Coors and Gun Club Road. In May 2017, another man was killed at Coors and Gun Club. In June 2018, a woman was killed at Coors and Central. In October 2018, a pedestrian fatality was reported at Coors and Rio Bravo. In February 2019, another fatality was reported at Coors and Rio Bravo.
The reason for those fatalities comes down to a basic lack of infrastructure.
One stop light that could slow traffic in that area isn’t turned on. There is no safe way to cross from one side to the other. Street lights to illuminate the road are rare and much of south Coors doesn’t even have a shoulder, leaving walkers and bicyclists no safe space.
With a new hospital and more development popping up in the area, many fear Coors will rack up more death tally marks.
“It’s very disheartening… just the whole infrastructure, not only on Coors but throughout the South Valley and Southwest Mesa – from lighting to sidewalks to proper crossings,” said Bernalillo County Commissioner Steven Michael Quezada who represents the South Valley.
Commissioner Quezada compares Coors to Tramway Boulevard because both are major corridors in the metro area. Quezada said the difference lies in the fact that Tramway is in the city, in the upscale foothills.
“You look at Tramway and you see beautiful bridges and bike paths and these great community driven infrastructure needs,” said Quezada. “I support proper infrastructure on the northeast side of town, I just want it equitably done on the South Valley and Southwest Mesa. That’s what I’m asking for.”
Commissioner Quezada adds that because Coors is a state highway, the state must sign off on any improvements and ideally pay for them.
“I’ll be honest with you, it hasn’t been easy my first couple of years having conversations with the state,” said Quezada. “Dennis Chavez and Coors Boulevard are my two priorities in that area when it comes to safety and when it comes to really trying to put in proper infrastructure needs.”
“I truly feel now with this new governor, I feel like I’ll be able to have meetings now. I think they’ll make meetings with me and we’ll be able to discuss these needs,” said Quezada.
Despite optimism for the future, Bernalillo County does not currently have any plans in the works to improve public safety on Coors.
“There are so many needs. There is such a long list of what we need to do, we’ll go back to playing catch-up. It’s easier for me to focus on the County’s end anyway at things I can get done tomorrow,” said Quezada.
In the past, the state has installed traffic-calming measures, cleaned the weeds and paid for street lighting. However, for Barbara Kirk it’s simply not enough. She filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Bernalillo County, part of which demands that the county increase safety for pedestrians in the troubled area on South Coors.
“It’s not just about me. It’s not just about Brendan. It’s about who we are and we can do better,” said Kirk.
A spokesperson for the New Mexico Department of Transportation said their agency does have a plan in place to revamp and improve the troubled part of South Coors. However, she says this year the state legislature refused to fund it.
Updated: March 27, 2019 10:31 PM
Created: March 27, 2019 07:19 PM
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