FARMINGTON — Farmington plans to reduce traffic congestion on the city's busiest thoroughfare by upgrading stop light controllers and adding a turn lane on Main Street.
The new stop light controllers will reduce the time drivers wait at intersections, City Manager Rob Mayes said. The controllers, made by Rhythm Engineering, identify breaks in traffic, opening pockets for drivers waiting at side-street intersections.
Mayes said the upgrade is "potentially the most significant improvement to intersection functionality that we've seen for a decade."
The city's Public Works department will install the adaptive signal control technology in 11 stop lights for 2.3 miles of Main Street from Hutton Avenue to English Drive, according to department documents.
Crews will complete the project in June, according to the documents.
The Federal Highway Administration gave the city a $400,000 grant for the project, and the city contributed about $100,000, according to the documents.
At its Tuesday morning work session, Farmington City Council also told the Public Works department to build a double left turn lane at the intersection of Main Street and Beckland Drive and study the feasibility of another double left turn lane at Main Street and English Drive. Mayes said the additional lanes will reduce drivers waiting in traffic to turn off the street.
Public Works Director David Sypher said the Beckland Drive double turn lane will cost $65,000 to design and build. Traffic Engineering Administrator Stephen Krest said the department will hire an engineering firm to determine if the other double turn lane -- at English Drive -- would fit and how much it would cost. Department documents estimate that turn lane will cost $70,000.
Council also told the Public Works department to study the feasibility of two possible alternative routes behind the Animas Valley Mall, which would reduce traffic on Main Street.
One route -- a connection from the intersection of Herrera Road and Main Street to Cliffside Drive -- department documents estimate would cost $800,000. The other -- the Herrera Road and Main Street intersection to English Drive -- would cost $2.2 million, documents estimate.
Councilor Dan Darnell requested the department consider Gila Street, a dirt road, as a possible alternative route around the mall.
"I would hope that we take a look at that," he said.
Public Works staff also updated council on an East Piñon Hills Boulevard project.
Phase one, an estimated $3 million project, will connect Hubbard Road to the intersection of Main Street and Piñon Hills Boulevard, according to project documents. The project is funded and 90 percent designed, and construction is planned for 2015, according to the documents.
Phase two would cost an estimated $19 million and bridge the Animas River, joining the Hubbard Road connection to County Road 3000, according to the documents. The project is 90 percent designed.
Sypher said the city received more than $2.2 million in services contracted from the Federal Highway Administration and New Mexico Department of Transportation for the project, and nearly $860,000 remains. In the past 10 years, the city has spent more than $2.7 million on the project.
Public Works staff also told council it will continue seeking project funding.
The project is the city's top goal on its 2015-2019 Infrastructure Capital Improvement Plan, or ICIP, which prioritizes legislative funding requests. The city is requesting $19 million. San Juan County is requesting nearly $8.4 million for the project on its ICIP.
In 2005, URS Corporation completed a study of the Main Street section between Hutton Avenue and Piñon Hills Boulevard, a majority of East Main Street. The study outlined recommendations for improving traffic flow at East Main's intersections.
"Throughout the years, the city has implemented a variety of the recommendations that came out of the study," Mayes said.
And since then, he said, East Main wrecks have decreased. According to Public Works department data, crashes on East Main have dropped from 307 in 2008 to 224 in 2012.
The average delay between Hutton Avenue and English Street ranges from 2 minutes and 67 seconds to 55 seconds, depending on the time of day, according to department data. The average drive without interruptions takes 3 minutes and 53 seconds, according to the data.
Councilor Jason Sandel said the Public Works department gave him the impression that the traffic on East Main is "really not that bad." But he said his constituents have complained traffic is too slow.
City Engineer Nica Westerling said car wrecks and crews patching potholes give the public the impression that there is a lot of traffic.
"I appreciate that perspective," Sandel said, "but those aren't the complaints that I get."
He said residents told him traffic often backs up where Main Street intersects with Foothills Drive, Piñon Hills Boulevard, 30th Avenue, 20th Avenue and the turnoff for Best Buy and Home Depot.
"It's not around pot holes and accidents. It's around daily traffic," he said. "I don't know how to characterize it, other than it causes frustration."