Neighbors urge ‘permanent solution’ for problematic Central underpass

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Everyone has a story about the Central and First Street underpass in downtown Albuquerque.

“There were three men under there shooting up and I was watching them and they said ‘oh would you like to join us?’ And I said ‘no,'” explained Susan Herber, a downtown resident. “This underpass has been kind of the bane of our existence for the last, well I only know 20 years.”

Neighbors from east downtown, Huning Highlands, and ABQ Core have dealt with drug use, human feces, fires, and graffiti for years.

These neighbors say the city has made temporary fix after temporary fix over the years, and they continue to wait for a permanent one.

“This may be an issue right here but the community as a whole is not like this crazy dangerous place that everybody makes it out to,” said Joaquin Baca, president of the ABQ Core Neighborhood Association. “And so we want to fix these things, these small things so the overall general well-being of our community is better.”

Neighbors drafted a new letter to Mayor Tim Keller and Albuquerque city council, urging them to “make immediate plans to collaborate with Bernalillo County and NMDOT for more funding and easements to help address the ongoing nuisance.”

“20 years is a long time for it to be on and off the table, and I think people are at a state of fed up, and they want to see something done,” said Jennifer Esquivel, a Huning Highlands homeowner.

Multiple neighbors mentioned an at-grade crossing as a potential long-term solution. City reps say they’re already on it.

Ava Montoya, Media relations specialist in Mayor Tim Keller’s office, said in a statement:

“We agree with neighbors that a permanent solution is needed and that’s why we’re urgently moving toward a groundbreaking this year for an at-grade crossing as part of the Rail Trail project.  We have adequate funding for the crossing and it is currently in the design and engineering phase.  In the meantime, the City has tried to improve the situation by installing temporary equipment to make the underpass safer until a long term fix is complete.”