Albuquerque Mayor Plans Dec. Start for West Side Road Project

Sat November 12, 2005 - West Edition

ALBUQUERQUE (AP) After a state judge partially ruled in the city’s favor in a dispute over the proposed extension of Paseo del Norte, Mayor Martin Chavez vowed to begin construction in December.

“It’s a major victory for proponents,” Chavez said during a City Hall news conference.

However, state District Judge Linda Vanzi’s ruling said questions remain about whether the city has completed all of its requirements for the 1,200-ft. road across Petroglyph National Monument.

Chavez said the issues are “not show stoppers in terms of commencing construction.”

The project will take 11 to 12 months after work begins.

Opponents, including Indian tribes and several nonprofit organizations, sued in February to prevent the extension.

“We are disappointed with [the] ruling. It has been a long, hard fight,” Laurie Weahkee, executive director for Sacred Alliance for Grassroots Equality, told the Albuquerque Journal.

The judge said she was satisfied the city followed procedural requirements to determine there is no prudent and feasible alternative to the road extension on Albuquerque’s growing west side.

However, Vanzi questioned whether the city had met all conditions of the New Mexico Prehistoric and Historic Sites Preservation Act to minimize harm to the monument.

She also took issue with the city’s treatment of New Mexico pueblos, saying there was little effort to reach out, “resulting in the appearance of insensitivity to the people who hold the land most sacred.”

Vanzi said plaintiffs might still have a cause for court action if the city fails to comply with measures required by the Preservation Act to minimize harm to the area and ancient rock art.

The right of way, bisecting the monument on land set aside by Congress for Paseo del Norte, includes 50 ancient pueblo Indian drawings. The city claims only five are within the road’s intended path.

“The law doesn’t require that they come to the right conclusion,” said Dave Phillips of the New Mexico Archaeological Council. “The law only requires that they go through the process to try to come to the right conclusion.”