“Partial Paving:” BCNM’s effort to stop the systematic destruction of bicycle facilities on New Mexico’s state highways

Written by Administrator
Thursday, 21 April 2011 20:30

Prepared for National Bike Summit, Washington DC, March 8-11, 2011

ISSUE: In the past decade, the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) has institutionalized the practice of applying partial overlays on New Mexico’s state highways.  Today it is difficult to find a highway shoulder in New Mexico that does not have one or more seams posing a significant hazard and inconvenience to bicyclists and other highway users.  These seams, along with the failure to maintain shoulders and the frequent use of “rumble strips” that fail to leave sufficient space for use by bicyclists, are a violation of NMDOT’s requirement to provide for multi-modal transportation along highways under state and federal law.

ACTION:  BCNM brought this matter to the Governor’s attention in a June 2009 letter (see www.bikenm.org/images/BCNM_letter_govrich_2009.pdf)(attached), co-signed by the New Mexico Touring Society, the New Mexico Motorcycle Rights Association, and the NM chapter of the Sierra Club.  The letter provides a detailed account of the problem, nationally-accepted engineering guidance pointing out the hazards created by these practices, and the federal and state laws and policies that are being violated.  Copies of the letter were provided to the NM Division of the Federal Highways Administration (FHWA) and to the offices of each of New Mexico’s representatives in Washington, D.C.

RESULT:  Initial assurances by the Governor and NMDOT Secretary that the practice would end failed to pan out.  BCNM continued to communicate with NMDOT upper management and districts on the need for edge-to-edge pavement overlays, leading to a few small victories on individual projects in 2010 but no significant changes in the agency’s standard practices: NMDOT continues to routinely create obstacles and hazards to bicyclists on paved shoulders throughout the state.

NEXT STEPS:  BCNM is prepared to take its case to the federal funders of NMDOT’s highway projects.  As outlined in the 2009 letter, federal law prohibits the use of federal funding to create conditions that are unsafe for bicyclists, pedestrians, and light motorcycles.   It is FHWA’s responsibility to enforce this law.  BCNM will request that FHWA withhold reimbursements for any project whose final overlay fails to include the paved shoulder.  BCNM will also request that FHWA pursue maintenance agreements requiring NMDOT to include the shoulder in future maintenance overlays.  BCNM needs the support of New Mexico’s delegation in Washington to make this happen.


partialpave                The Turquoise Trail Scenic Byway near Madrid, NM: NMDOT rebuilt and added paved shoulders to this popular cycling route only to render them useless to bicyclists on the final pavement overlay.  After sacrificing the bicycle facility for meager cost savings, the agency was fully reimbursed by FHWA for this work.  This violation of federal law has become standard practice throughout the state

 
 
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