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Posted August 26, 2014

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Agencies Working Together to Tackle AHA Traffic Problem

Traffic at the state's largest school is causing serious problems.

Atrisco Heritage Academy on the city’s west side isn’t just Albuquerque Public Schools’ largest campus, it’s the biggest in the state with 2,480 students and 250 faculty members. Since the school opened seven years ago it has earned many accolades, but it’s also experienced some growing pains, like serious traffic problems.

Officials with APS, the City of Albuquerque, Bernalillo County and the State of New Mexico came together Tuesday for a community meeting to discuss what can be done quickly to ensure no one gets hurt being dropped off or picked up on the campus. 

Antonio Gonzales, AHA Principal, presented an overview of the problem to the group of government representatives on Tuesday. Gonzales explained that Dennis Chavez  Blvd. and 118th St. are too commonly used as drop off and pick up lanes, and that witnessing student activity on those roads raises his blood pressure. “I can honestly say I watch kids cross that road every day with great anxiety. The speed limit on Dennis Chavez Blvd. is 55 mph, but it’s not unusual to see people driving much, much faster on that road. It’s a very real concern for us.

About 70 percent of all AHA students take the bus to school, but many of those who don’t have adopted 118th and Dennis Chavez Blvd. as an unofficial drop-off and pick-up lane as a way to avoid the long lines to get on campus. And there are other challenges such as a lack of signage and one single entrance and exit to the campus.

School staff has tried to alleviate the problem by opening an additional student parking lot to handle overflow traffic. The Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office has also stepped in at times with patrol officers, but a permanent solution hasn’t been identified.

One recommendation discussed today is to add a new exit road, but that’s expensive and will require further study.

"We need to work together to find immediate solutions because we know this is impacting the academic success of our students," school board President Dr. Analee Maestas said, "We can’t  have  students deliberately report late to class because they don’t want to deal with traffic headaches.”

Interim Superintendent Brad Winter and Chief Operations Officer, Ruben Hendrickson agreed student safety is the first priority for the district. They promised to begin investigating possible solutions and the process necessary to fix things.

New Mexico Sen. Michael Padilla called today’s meeting. At least 25 people attended the session including Albuquerque City Councilor Klarissa Pena, Bernalillo County Commissioner Art DeLaCruz, parents, students and concerned citizens. A date for the next steps meeting will be set at a later time.

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