Groundbreaking begins on Paseo/I-25 project

Posted at: 09/05/2013 7:20 PM
Updated at: 09/05/2013 8:02 PM
By: Caleb James, KOB Eyewitness News 4

The Paseo del Norte and I-25 interchange reconstruction project may have begun to seem like a thing of fantasy in the back of Burqueno minds.

But on Thursday, ground has been turned, and a total facelift for the typically congested mousetrap is at least shifting into gear.

Governor Susana Martinez and Albuquerque mayor Richard Berry were on hand at a reception on Paseo and Jefferson with ceremonial golden shovels to turn dirt on the highly anticipated project.

The ground may be turned but it won't be till October that heavy equipment will start tearing up construction zones ground. It's the promise of rapid change in landscape that has some commuters' tense.

"It's a good day when good government comes together to get something done," said Barry.

The planning stage may be done, and the funding squared away -- without raising taxes a hair, said Gov. Martinez who called it, "The People's Project."

But some of the people who live at work along the Paseo construction route are nervous about the uncertainty that comes with all the construction on the horizon.

"You get stuck way back cause there's one lane to get to I-25 South," said real estate office manager Mary Ann Ryan Keller.

Keller is among an estimated 56 million commuters who drive through this interchange each year -- thrilled for the project to be over -- but not for the idea of construction.

"Right now I can make it in 15 minutes," said Keller, of her commute from Albuquerque's westside, to her office on Paseo and Jefferson.

"My biggest fear is that it'll take considerably longer than that," she said.

Construction for the project's first phase will begin in October along Paseo and areas surrounding the I-25 interchange itself. That phase should impact traffic minimally, and is expected to wrap in December.

Phase two begins in January with heavier construction until March 2014.

Phase three kicks in from April to July.

Phase four rounds out the project from August to September -- a projected end date before 2014's Balloon Fiesta.

KOB Eyewitness News 4 asked Gov. Martinez if there are any worries about not finishing in time for the annual event that brings thousands of tourists to Albuquerque.

"If we set a goal, hopefully reach it and be aggressive about it and provide incentives to the companies, then I think we can accomplish it," said Martinez.