Santa Fe’s Public Works Department on Wednesday won its appeal of a decision by the Historic Districts Review Board that the Defouri Street Bridge is a “contributing structure” to the neighborhood’s historic character and that a new 33-foot wide bridge be built in its place.
The City Council did, however, deviate from the department’s proposed plan that the sidewalks on both sides of the bridge be 5-feet in width, instead deciding that 4-feet was sufficient and in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The bridge, which crosses the Santa Fe River north of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, is currently 30-feet wide and was designated for replacement by the state Department of Transportation 20 years ago.
The new bridge will have two 14-foot wide lanes for traffic and, with the widened sidewalks and an additional 3-feet added for railings, will be 39-feet wide.
In December, the Historic Districts Review Board determined that the bridge did contribute to the historic character of the neighborhood and the structure that would replace it should be kept at a narrow width.
The Public Works Department argued that the board erred in designating it as such because of changes that had been made to the bridge since it was originally built in the late 1930s. Since then, newer material and more modern spanning technology has been utilized when the current superstructure was replaced in 1959.
The department also argued that a narrow bridge would present a safety hazard for vehicles and pedestrians crossing the bridge.
The council voted 7-1, with Councilor Patti Bushee casting the lone “no” vote, to overrule the board’s decision that the bridge was a contributing structure.
After a vote to support the board’s recommendation for a 33-foot wide bridge failed 6-2, with Bushee and Councilor Signe Lindell voting in favor, the council passed a motion to go with the department’s plan, with the modification to the sidewalks’ width.
Bushee and Lindell voted against that motion, Bushee adding that though she knew she was in the minority she would push for a ban on trucks crossing the bridge.
Prior to the vote, more than a dozen spoke during a public hearing on the matter. A slight majority were in favor of a narrower bridge, several of them were a part of the Guadalupe Neighborhood Association. The presidents of the Santa Fe Neighborhood Network and the Old Santa Fe Association also supported the design for a narrower bridge.
Those supporting a wider bridge included Rev. Tien-Tri Nguyen of the nearby Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, who said he was concerned about the safety of his parishioners.
Prior to the public hearing, David Rasch and Eric Martinez of the Public Works Department presented their reasoning for wanting a wider bridge. Martinez emphasized safety concerns and added that a funding agreement with DOT that would allow it to contribute $67,500 to the project would expire in June. Martinez said the total cost of the project would be approximately $500,000, with $150,000 in funding coming from a state grant.
Joseph Maestas, who made the motion for a 39-foot wide bridge, said the prospect of losing the DOT funding would not factor in his decision and that safety was his primary concern.
Other council members also said public safety was the most important issue.
Wednesday was the first City Council meeting for new Mayor Javier Gonzales and two newly elected city councilors, Lindell and Maestas.
Gonzales recommended the appointments of Councilor Peter Ives as mayor pro tem and the members of various committees, all of which were unanimously approved by the council.
Ives will continue to chair the Water Conservation Committee; Bushee will chair the Bicycle and Trails Advisory Board and the Regional Transit District Committee; Bill Dimas will head the Public Safety Committee and Regional Juvenile Justice Board; Carmichael Dominguez will chair the Finance Committee; Lindell will be in charge of the City Business and Quality of Life Committee and Solid Waste Management Joint Powers Board; Maestas was chosen to head the Buckman Direct Diversion Board; Chris Rivera will chair the Public Utilities Committee; and Trujillo will head the Public Works, Economic Development and Youth Advisory committees.
Gonzales also announced his plans to create an energy task force to develop an energy plan for the city, an education task force charged with seeking to align resources to benefit the city’s schools and colleges, and a jobs and economic development committee.
The mayor said the objective of forming the groups was to bring more citizens into the process.
“The idea is to elevate discussion in each of these critical areas,” he said.