Pic Quik owner threatens to sue state, city to halt Valley Drive project
Oscar Andrade, owner of the Pic Quik store at the corner of Avenida de Mesilla and Hickory Drive, has threatened to sue the city and state to halt the Valley Drive reconstruction project if they won’t alter their plans for Hickory, Wednesday August 22, 2018. (Photo: Josh Bachman/Sun-News) Buy Photo
LAS CRUCES – Merchant anger over the Valley Drive reconstruction project reached a higher level on Wednesday when the owner of Pic Quik convenience stores notified the state of New Mexico and city of Las Cruces that he intends to sue to halt the project if design changes are not made.
Oscar Andrade, owner and president of Pic Quik, objects to a plan to construct a concrete barrier in the middle of Hickory Drive, undermining access to his store at the corner of Avenida de Mesilla and Hickory.
He said that trucks, including fuel trucks and vehicles pulling trailers, will no longer be able to patronize his business if the cement barrier is built because they wouldn’t be able to use Hickory to exit his parking lot.
“It will destroy my business,” Andrade said. Pic Quik has 20 stores, including 16 in Las Cruces. It has owned the Avenida de Mesilla store since 1994.
Currently, trucks and trailers reach Pic Quik via Avenida de Mesilla, but must exit via Hickory to return to Interstate 10 because a median in the center of Avenida de Mesilla prevents them from turning left from his parking lot.
Andrade said Pic Quik submitted tort claim notices on Wednesday to the state Department of Transportation, which is in charge of the Valley Drive project, and the city of Las Cruces, because Hickory Drive is a city street. Pic Quik has given the state and city until Aug. 30 to respond.
“If they refuse to work with us on redesigning that intersection, a lawsuit will be filed,” Andrade said. “We’re giving them the opportunity to work with us, but we also notified them that we will sue and stop the project if they don’t work with us.”
The concrete barrier planned for Hickory Drive is part of phase 3 of the Valley Drive project, which will redo Avenida de Mesilla west to Hickory, a distance of 0.36 miles. But the Hickory Drive intersection may be done earlier than the rest of phase 3, as early as November of this year, since concrete paving is best done in cool weather.
Ryan Tafoya, project manager for the state Department of Transportation, said on Wednesday that the department must install the concrete barrier on Hickory Drive because of federal government requirements.
“Federal guidelines require that we put the curbing gutter in there,” he said. “It’s something we have to do.”
The $22.9 million Valley Drive construction project began in late June and is expected to be completed by November 2019.
Hadley, Brown closures
Business owners elsewhere in the project area continued to express their concern about the Valley Drive reconstruction and its impact on their businesses at a monthly meeting on Tuesday with state Department of Transportation officials and representatives of the construction company doing the work.
Project officials said at the meeting that Hadley Avenue will be closed again at Valley beginning next week and will likely be closed for one month. Construction crews encountered difficulties when they excavated that area to install storm drains. They found utility lines in unexpected places, so that section had to be sent back to engineers to be redesigned.
Hadley will be closed from Valley Drive west to Archuleta Road. Unlike when Hadley was closed in July, an opening will be created on Valley near the Save Mart supermarket to allow motorists access to businesses, including those in the shopping center where the popular La Fiesta Bakery is located.
La Fiesta Bakery, is one of five business in this Valley Drive shopping center. Businesses along the construction zone have reported a 20 to 80 percent dip in sales since construction began in June. Tuesday July 31, 2018. (Photo: Josh Bachman/Sun-News)
The first phase of the Valley Drive reconstruction, from Picacho Avenue to Amador Avenue, should be completed in three to four months, said John Hale, superintendent of Albuquerque-based AUI, which is doing the work. Paving the roadway should begin in three to four weeks.
“It will start to look like a road again,” he said.
Phase two, from Amador to Avenida de Mesilla, will begin once phase one has been completed. Business owners on Valley south of Amador, fearful that their businesses will suffer just like those farther north, expressed concern about project plans at Tuesday’s meeting.
Gabriel Mendoza, owner of The Shed restaurant, 810 S. Valley Drive, was the most outspoken. He asked repeatedly about how the project would impact Brown Road, which intersects Valley Drive. His restaurant is at the corner of Valley and Brown.
Brown Road will have to be closed at some point so that concrete drainage structures can be installed underground at that intersection. Brown Road dead-ends west of Valley and there is no other way to access the road for residents in the area. But Mendoza said the road is also important for businesses because it will be an alternative to Valley during construction.
Hale said he couldn’t predict how long Brown would be closed.
“We don’t know what we’re going to run into,” he said. “We may get in there and find another nightmare. I was anticipating Hadley being done by now. It’s not because of other nightmares.”
Tafoya told the 20 or so people who attended Tuesday’s meeting that planners are trying to figure out an alternative way for motorists to be able to access the section of Brown west of Valley. They asked the city if a temporary route could be established from Brown to Amador via Burn Lake Road, but city officials rejected that option because motorists would have to drive over flood control structures.
“It is something we still are working on,” he said. “We still are searching for avenues to get traffic through there. We can’t just shut off Brown Road and say, sorry, you can’t get to your houses. There will be a solution.”
Mendoza, who has owned The Shed since 1995, wasn’t placated, however.
“The reality is when there’s construction on a road, people try to avoid it and will go elsewhere,” he said on Wednesday. “I’m just concerned. I can see the dust storm coming our way. I don’t know what to do.”
Merchant anger over the Valley Drive reconstruction reached a higher level on Wednesday when a business threatened to sue to halt the project