US 550, between NM 528 and NM 313, passes through the central business district of the Town of Bernalillo and the adjacent heavily commercialized area of Santa Ana Pueblo including a large casino and hotel. At the time of the study and design, US 550 served an average weekday traffic flow more than 42,000 vehicles in a typical section consisting of four travel lanes with a 16-foot wide continuous center turn lane. The combination of high traffic flows with unrestricted left-turn access into the roadside businesses resulted in extensive daily congestion and numerous crashes that made congestion worse.
Parametrix prepared the preliminary design, final design, and environmental documentation for 2.4 miles of US 550 and developed and implemented the public engagement plan for the project. The primary objectives were to increase capacity, improve safety, and provide improvements for pedestrians and bicyclists. Parametrix designed a 6-lane facility with raised medians to limit left-turn access, bicycle lanes, and continuous sidewalks. The safety and congestion problems caused by the continuous left-turn lane were resolved by a carefully crafted access management plan which strategically matched left-turn openings with consolidated driveway locations. To obtain buy-in from the business community, Parametrix held frequent small group and individual meetings with business owners and other stakeholders, as well as several community wide public meetings. Extensive effort was made to achieve the desired access of each business and to find opportunities to provide shared access.
In addition to the overall roadway design, Parametrix developed a continuous flow intersection design for the US 550 / NM 528 intersection. This configuration was the first of its kind in New Mexico. It is more cost-effective than grade separated designs. Because it is a new type of intersection type in the state, Parametrix also developed a driver education video and simulations to help promote driver awareness and understanding.