West I-40 Median and Unser Bridge Lighting

Location: Albuquerque, NM

Completed: 2013

In 2004, MRWM developed the initial median prototype concept designs for interstate landscapes. Since that time, several of the prototype designs have been implemented, including landscape improvements at the Louisiana & I-40 Interchange; Interstate Medians east of San Mateo, at Eubank, and Juan Tabo exits; the San Mateo & I-40 Interchange; the Carlisle & I-40 Interchange; and the “Big I” landscape. While these landscapes have made a significant positive impact on the visual quality of  east I-40, little has been done to address the interstate landscapes on the west side of the City. In response to this need, the City of Albuquerque initiated the design of a landscaped median for I-40 between the Coors and 98th Street Interchanges. Working with the existing prototype designs, MRWM developed a concept appropriate to the surrounding environment of west I-40. Colored gravel mulch patterns reference the strong artistic theme of the nearby pedestrian bridge and sound barrier walls. The center of the median is treated as a dry streambed with check dams constructed of rock reminiscent of the nearby escarpment and harvesting available rainwater as a supplement to irrigation.  Trees and shrubs native or well-adapted to the west side of Albuquerque (including desert willow, honey locust, sand sage, yucca, and chamisa) are strategically placed to create undulating vertical and horizontal patterns within the ‘clear zone’ of the median, creating an attractive yet safe visual feature.  The overall landscape concept is less formal than the interstate landscapes on the more urban eastern side, but (especially with the addition of programmable LED lighting at the Unser Bridge) provides a welcoming and fluid gateway landscape for Albuquerque’s west entry. The bridge lighting was featured on the cover of  the March 2014 Issue of LD+A and received the 2013 Illumination Award of Merit from the Illuminating Engineering Society.