Downtown underpass issues persist following temporary fixes

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Neighbors in Albuquerque’s east downtown neighborhood wouldn’t want to use the underpass at Central and First, sometimes called the “Gateway to Downtown,” to welcome anyone to the city.

“It’s filthy,” said Jo Sloan, the owner of Thirsty Eye Brewery on Broadway. “It’s been dirty, you have to deal with homeless people you have to deal with people on drugs, there’s been stories of people that have been attacked through the tunnels.”

Jennifer Esquivel, a neighbor to the brewery in the Huning Highland neighborhood, has her own stories about the tunnels. She and her four-year-old daughter witnessed open drug use and a woman urinating on the sidewalk this past December.

“We’ll pass the tunnel and she’ll say things like ‘mama remember when that lady was using the bathroom here?’ And it’s like ‘yeah I do, and I’m sorry that you know that,'” explained Esquivel. 

That experience motivated her to write to Mayor Tim Keller’s office, urging them to do something before someone gets hurt. 

“This is a problem that affects everybody,” said Esquivel. “Even if you’re a tourist and you don’t live here that underpass affects you if you stay downtown. And the city needs to do something about it.”

Last month, Esquivel saw the city’s latest temporary fixes: loud music, new lighting, and more regular cleaning. 

“Depending on the day depending on the hour the fixes are either working or not,” she said.

She and other neighbors still find unknown puddles, human feces, burnt trash, and days as recently as Easter without music. 

“In summary I would say they’re actively falling short, and we expect that,” Esquivel said. 

She and other neighbors are drafting another letter to Mayor Keller’s office, asking that a long-term solution be implemented by the end of the Mayor’s second term.

“It’s beyond time. 20 years, 20 plus years, is beyond time for them to make a permanent change to that problem,” she said. 

Scott Cilke, public information office for Albuquerque’s Municipal Development Department, said in a statement:  

The City continues to work with the community to resolve issues as they arise and adapt the program to help provide a safe, clean experience for everyone. We have received much positive feedback in regards to the improvements made to the 1st and Central underpass. At this time, all lighting and speakers are operational. If neighbors observe anything different, we encourage them to report the issue to 311 so we can make fixes as quickly as possible.

Cilke also said an at-grade crossing is tentatively planned as part of the city’s future Rail Trail.