Councillor: It’s time to widen Telshor
By Mike Cook
Las Cruces Bulletin
Because of heavy and ever-increasing traffic congestion, Las Cruces City Councillor Ceil Levatino wants the city to reconfigure about 2.5 miles of north Telshor Boulevard, between its intersections with Lohman Avenue and Commerce Street, from two to four lanes.
“If we remove the center turn lane and the bike lane, it’s already wide enough for four cars,” Levatino said. “It’s something that can be done easily, frankly, and for a relatively small amount of money.”
Levatino has discussed her proposal with City Manager Robert Garza, and has driven north Telshor with Assistant City Manager Daniel Avila. Council District Six, which TELSHOR
Levatino represents, includes all of north Telshor Boulevard.
Garza agreed that some kind of solution is needed.
“I believe we are going to reach a critical mass of traffic congestion along this corridor where something will need to be done to increase vehicular capacity,” he said. “In many urban areas, interstate highways are designed with frontage roads that carry local traffic off of the interstate to local roadways. In the case of I-25 through the city, there are no frontage roads, thus pushing all local traffic to this area. Adding frontage roads at this point in the evolution of the transportation system would be very challenging and costly.”
Levatino’s proposal “may be feasible as long as accommodations are made for an alternate bicycle facility and a complete traffic assessment and feasibility study supports it,” Garza said. “Expanding the capacity could take a lot of different forms, from simply restriping the road to moving curbs and acquiring additional rights of way,” he said.
“The cost will depend on the approach taken,” Garza said. “If it can be done with a restriping process, the cost would be minimal; if the recommendation is to add width to make the corridor safe, that could be quite expensive – up to $3 million.”
That determination may come relatively quickly, he said.
“The study will likely be done within a few months; work or transformation timeline will depend on the study results,” Garza said.
For Levatino, dealing with traffic congestion on north Telshor is primarily a public safety issue and secondarily an economic issue.
During peak hours, “traffic easily fills that turn lane onto Spruce and is backing up traffic on Telshor,” she said. “People are doing stupid things because they’re frustrated. Stupid actions lead to disasters. Our number one job is public safety.”
“I don’t want to see someone hurt or killed,” Levatino said. “That’s my big fear. Government and organizations tend to wait until there’s a disaster and then react. I prefer to be pro-active.”
With two lanes of traffic going each way, Levatino said, “people can get around” cars that are turning left even without a designated turn lane. “Is it a perfect solution? No. But it’s the best we can do without getting capital outlay to widen” that portion of Telshor, she said.
Levatino said a secondary concern about the traffic congestion is its impact on north Telshor businesses. “If a business is willing to invest money to build their business there … I don’t want potential customers to be discouraged from going there because the traffic is so bad,” she said.
Mike Cook may be reached at goodguymwc@ q.com.