ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) — The voters have spoken, at least, in a new research poll that shows Albuquerque voters would more than likely sign off on the I-25/Paseo del Norte interchange overhaul if it winds up on a November ballot.
A group trying to get the project moving hoped the poll would be the fuel they needed to show three holdout city councilors they should vote to fund the project now rather than let voters make the decision.
Instead the councilors plan on still waiting for the November election, which would cost the city money and delay the project.
The ballot question, if approved, would divert $3 million a year from city revenue to pay for $50 million in bonds. The Legislature has chipped in about $40 million, and Bernalillo County has another $5 million its asking voters to approve.
That would be enough for the first phase of the project building a nonstop flyover from northbound I-25 to westbound Paseo plus other improvements to speed traffic through the often-congested interchange.
The state Department of Transportation has estimated a complete overhaul of the interchange will cost $350 million.
The new research poll did show a strong majority of Albuquerque voters want the project started and are willing to put tax dollars on the line for it.
“Seventy-three percent of voters are either very or somewhat likely to support a ballot measure for $50 million for the Paseo reconstruction on the interchange,” Research and Polling Inc. President Brian Sanderoff said Friday.
Sanderoff said they polled a random sample of about 405 city residents from across the city. He said neither address nor political party seemed to matter much.
“In other words whether you're a Democrat or Republican, a male or female, Anglo or Hispanic, support levels were pretty much the same,” Sanderoff said.
While the poll said voters want the project funded it may not be enough to sway the votes of three councilors.
Councilors Rey Gardu o, Debbie O'Malley and Isaac Benton all voted no when council tried to pass the measure on its own so it wouldn't have to go on the ballot in November. The trio said a project this expensive should go to the voters.
However, a poll is not what they had in mind.
“Its not good government to decide an issue this important based on research polling,” Benton said. He added a poll is no substitute for the public vote.
O’Malley agreed saying it would be like deciding a presidential election on a poll.
“That's not the way we do things,” O’Malley said. "We decided unanimously to take this to the voters as council. We haven't reversed it, and I don’t think we should
KRQE News 13 was unable to contact Gardu o for comment.
Whether there will be a public vote in November is still not known. The secretary of state asked the attorney general for an opinion on whether city issues could be put on the statewide Nov. 6 general election ballot, and the AG staff found state law prohibited it.
But on Friday Attorney General Gary King released an official opinion saying that while the city question couldn't be on the state ballot, the city could hold its own municipal election at the same time.
King said he'll meet next week with city officials and other interested parties on the best way to resolve the issue.
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