Santa Fe has achieved the dubious distinction of being one of four New Mexico cities where the amount of carbon monoxide emitted by cars and trucks has exceeded federally prescribed standards. 

If the gaseous emissions are not reduced through improved auto-pollution control technology—which is anticipated—the state could be forced to spend millions of dollars in all four cities to abate traffic congestion and the carbon monoxide that goes with it. 

Of the four cities, including Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Farmington, Santa Fe is ranked as the third-worst source of carbon monoxide pollution. Both Albuquerque and Las Cruces were found to have worse emissions, and Farmington’s air, while still unacceptable, was slightly cleaner than Santa Fe’s, according to Keneth Hargis, chief of the Air Quality Division of the New Mexico Environmental Improvement Agency. 

Still, Santa Fe could be faced with the prospect of  widening streets or building new ones if the auto industry doesn’t succeed in drastically reducing carbon monoxide emissions by 1982, the year set by the federal government for nationwide compliance with its air quality standards. 

Excessive carbon monoxide buildup usually is the product or slow-moving of idling traffic on heavily congested city streets. One remedy is to re-route some of the traffic onto secondary arteries. Another solution, one that is costly and objectionable to many people, is to build more streets. 

“Part of the city’s traffic buildup is a result of people who are driving through the city with destinations north and south of Santa Fe,” Hargis said.  “Obviously, one approach would be to build a bypass around the city to keep that traffic out of town.”

If the city does have to make room for wider roadways or new roads, Hargis said, the state will have to bear the cost. But he is hopeful that no construction work will be necessary. “Right now we are counting on the auto industry to solve the problem for us.”

Santa Fe officials have indicated their awareness of the problem and their willingness to assist in its solution in a resolution adopted by the city council late last month. The resolution states that the city will assist Hargis's office in the preparation of an air quality compliance plan.

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