“All Roads Lead to Rio Rancho” was the title of Thursday morning’s Rio Rancho Roundtable NAIOP meeting at Premiere Cinemas and, orange barrels aside, there was some good news for area motorists — with much more to come, when funding is found.

Probably the biggest news is that the two-year US 550 project, which includes an innovative “continuous-flow” merge from NM 528, is nearing completion.

That project is expected to wrap up next month, according to project manager Patsy Najar of the New Mexico Department of Transportation.

“I know it’s been a long two years,” Najar said, asking humorously for those motorists with headaches from the lengthy project’s delays “to not kill the messenger.”

The Continuous Flow Interchange (CFI) is new to the state, although Utah has had success with three such CFIs, and It’ll be something new for motorists changing from NM 528 to US 550 and vice versa; Najar urged folks to check out a brief descriptive video at KeepMoving550.com.

In light of the continued growth in northern Rio Rancho and, with it, increased traffic, Najar said NMDOT projections have the project sufficient until 2035.

Najar also gave a brief update on the NM 528 widening — a “500-day project” estimated to cost $33.6 million — in Rio Rancho between Ridgecrest Road to just north of Northern Boulevard, as crews try to keep two lanes in each direction open during daytime hours but sometimes need to restrict that flow at times.

A sidewalk and a bike lane are being installed, along with a wall to keep pedestrians safe; a roundabout of sorts, which will be built once the old Casa Di Ferro building has been demolished, will ease traffic flowing from the industrial park area, east of NM 528, onto the highway — long a congested area.

Lastly, Najar said, drawing applause, the Metro area needs another river crossing, although none is anticipated in at least the next decade.

Other Rio Rancho roadway projects discussed by Metropolitan Regional Council of Governments Transportation Planning Manager Steven Montiel, who said that entity serves 40 entities in a 3,095-square-mile area:
• Widening Northern Boulevard from Acorn Loop to Broadmoor Boulevard ($2.6 million);
• Westside Boulevard’s new bike-pedestrian path ($1.2 million);
• Southern Boulevard repaving, Rainbow to Unser Boulevard ($800,000);
• Southern Boulevard reconstruction, Phase 2, Unser Road to Golf Course Road ($5 million);
• Loma Colorado Boulevard extension from Northern Boulevard to Paseo del Volcan ($1.3 million);
• Unser Boulevard widening, Cherry Road to PdV/right-of-way acquisition ($2.1 million);
• PdV right-of-way acquisition, Unser Blvd. to I-40 ($6 million, with about 200 parcels involved); and
• Idalia Road Corridor Study, Northern Boulevard to Iris Road ($1.9 million).

The connection for Paseo del Volcan, between Unser and I-40, is still years away, Montiel said, and the proposed interchange for PdV at I-40 is pegged at $20 million — and that’s probably a too-low figure, he said.

“We update our plans every five years,” he added.

City of Vision could be in two congressional districts

Also addressed Thursday was the redistricting of congressional districts, following the release of the 2020 Census data, and Rio Rancho Regional Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Jerry Schalow seeks input from Rio Ranchoans on the proposals.

Schalow warned that one of the proposed new maps would literally split Rio Rancho in half at Northern or High Resort boulevards, leaving half of the city in one congressional district and the other half in another. That’s not good for the city, he said, urging residents to opt for Option 1 and balance the state’s three congressional districts.

“We are under attack here. … It’s a big mess,” Schalow said. “Rio Rancho needs to stay together.”

He’s understandably concerned that breaking Rio Rancho in half would mean the city “gets drowned out by representation in Albuquerque.”

“We prefer singular representation,” said Dist. 60 State Rep. Josh Hernandez.

Schalow added that the State House Map A offers the city its best representation in Santa Fe, and the chamber’s proposed state senate map would assure the city two state senators, rather than the one (Crai Brandt) it has now.

See rrrcc.org to see the proposed redistricting maps and how to make comments.

“We need all the support we can get,” Schalow added.

The next Rio Rancho Roundtable session is set for Thursday, Nov. 4, also at Premiere Cinemas, headlined by Rio Rancho Mayor Gregg Hull’s annual “State of the City” report.

Gary Herron | Observer staff writer