SANTA FE — A proposal to spend $41,000 of city funds to design a pedestrian/bicycle underpass for the Rail Trail beneath St. Michael’s Drive was approved without discussion by the City Council’s Public Works Committee on Monday.
In all, the study is expected to cost about $285,000. But the state Department of Transportation (DOT) would pay $243,000 of the costs, using funding from the federal Congestion Mitigation/Air Quality Program.
The study proposal is also scheduled to be heard by the Finance Committee on Jan. 21 before coming before the City Council for final approval on Jan. 29.
According to a memo from Public Works Director Regina Wheeler, New Mexico DOT conducted a Roadside Safety Audit at the location to determine if improvements were needed to enhance safety and decrease delays for pedestrians and bicyclists crossing St. Michael’s Drive, a busy state highway which has six lanes at the Rail Trail crossing.
“The preferred alternative from the study was an underpass or tunnel crossing,” the memo states.
If the underpass is built, it would be the second tunnel in Santa Fe built under a state road to accommodate pedestrian and bicycle traffic.
In 2017, an underpass was constructed beneath St. Francis Drive just north of the intersection with Cerrillos Road to avoid delays for those utilizing the Acequia Trail as it enters the Railyard from the south. The cost for that project totaled about $6 million.
Also on Monday, after about an hour of discussion, the committee approved the proposed sale of a 10,242 square foot city-owned building in the Railyard District that formerly housed Santa Fe Clay, but with amendments that will be considered by the Finance Committee on Jan. 21.
City Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler and others expressed concerns about the proposed sale to Luna Capital Advisors, which plans on making improvements to the building and then leasing it.
Vigil Coppler was skeptical about the appraised value of the building, which came in at $150,000, also the proposed sale price. She thought that the property was worth more than that and noted that the County Assessor valued the building at $338,000.
The city retains ownership of land used by businesses in the Railyard. The sale price for the old Santa Fe Clay building does not include the cost of the ground lease — roughly $65,000 per year — that is paid to the Santa Fe Railyard Community Corp., the non-profit that manages the Railyard under a city contract.
Kris Axtell of Luna Capital wasn’t willing to disclosed a prospective tenant but said that after purchasing the building, Luna Capital expected to invest about $2.5 million for improvements to the structure, which the city has authorized to be demolished.
The committee voted 5-0 to approve the sale but with an amendment offered by Vigil Coppler directing staff to get another appraisal or for Luna Capital to come back with its best offer to buy the building.