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Transportation, U. S. Statehood, 1945-now
Transportation and Communication, 1945-now

In 1956 the government launched the Federal Interstate Highway system. By 1966 I-25 and 1-40 were completed through Albuquerque. The interchange, dubbed the Big-I, was originally designed for 60,000 vehicles. By the new millennium and after years of vigorous growth, Albuquerque had outgrown its interchange.

In 2002 the city completed a two-year, $291 million reconstruction of the Big I ahead of schedule and on budget. It was the biggest public works project in New Mexico history and one of the nation’s 10 biggest highway projects that year. And it made another record as the world’s fastest construction of a major interchange still supporting traffic.

The Big-I now has a designed capacity of 400,000 vehicles a day. The system has 111 lane miles of pavement, including a new system of frontage roads, up from 17 lane miles originally. Work continues on additional improvements to I-25 and I-40.

Also in 2002 the $8 million Alvarado Transportation Center opened downtown to serve Amtrak and Greyhound Bus passengers. The center is built in the Spanish mission style of the city’s former landmark, the Alvarado Hotel.

Route 66, El Camino and the Santa Fe Trail are hardly forgotten. Even though Route 66 was decommissioned in 1985 after the last segment of I-40 had bypassed it, Route 66, and El Camino became U.S. 85, today both roads are part of the National Scenic and Historic Byway system. The state boasts six long, paved segments of Route 66 that are accessible from Interstates 40 and 25. Two of the segments are through Albuquerque. I-25 parallels El Camino, which is still the oldest European road in North America. In 2005 the El Camino Real International Heritage Center, a state monument, opened south of Socorro.

Traces of the Santa Fe Trail can still be seen in northeastern New Mexico and near Fort Union. History buffs spend their vacations visiting sites along the trail and even have their own organization, the Santa Fe Trail Association. Congress declared the trail a National Historic Trail in 1987. Traces of El Camino are also visible.


Air Transportation
Albuquerque International Sunport, built in 1965 and expanded several times, is one of the best-loved airports among travelers, both for its handsome regional architecture and its unique, permanent art collection. Even the car-rental facility, opened in 2001, has its own art collection. Pilots consider Albuquerque a safe and easy place to land because the Sunport has four runways, more than most cities, and enjoys a good relationship with Kirtland Air Force Base, which handles all fire and rescue.

The Sunport has a U.S. Port of Entry with its own customs facility, so that exporters can ship freight directly and pay duties locally.

In 2005 the city will complete a third concourse and a federal inspections station, which will allow visitors from foreign countries to land, pass through customs, agricultural inspections and immigration – all in the same area. And the city is preparing a foreign trade zone on 60 acres near the air cargo center.

On Albuquerque’s West Side is Double Eagle II Airport, named for the balloon piloted by Albuquerque balloonists Maxie Anderson, Ben Abruzzo and Larry Newman in their historic flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 1978. The Double Eagle is a general aviation facility that’s slated to become the epicenter of the city’s budding aerospace manufacturing cluster.

Rail Service
In the 1950s, the railroad began using diesel fuel instead of coal. The last steam engine pulled into Albuquerque on Sept. 27, 1953 from El Paso. Passengers began to do more driving. Air travel gained popularity. The railroad closed its shops in the 1970s and, sadly, tore down the Alvarado Hotel. The depot burned in 1993. However, 17 original buildings remain, and there are plans for the Wheels Museum on the site and possibly a digital production studio.

After several mergers in the 1990s, the Santa Fe Railway became the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp., which operates more than 1,000 trains across a 33,500-mile rail system in 28 states. Albuquerque is a stop on Amtrak’s Chicago-to-Los Angeles route.

The state plans a commuter rail system from Belen to Santa Fe, with the first link from Belen to Bernalillo to begin in 2005.


Albuquerque got television in 1948, when KOB-TV began broadcasting.

Fiber-optic cable now reaches from border to border. Multiple providers offer a variety of telecommunications services from dial-up, DSL and cable to telecom hotels and Wi-Fi. Qwest Communications International Inc. serves Albuquerque.

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