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Public meeting to discuss Santa Fe trail extension

SANTA FE – Santa Fe city government is holding a public “design charrette” for a long-discussed underpass crossing for walkers and bicyclists beneath St. Francis Drive just north of the Cerrillos Road intersection, extending the Acequia Trail that runs behind the New Mexico School for the Deaf.

The meeting will take place from 4-8 p.m. Feb. 27 at El Museo Cultural de Santa Fe, located at 555 Camino de la Familia in the Railyard.

The crossing will link the downtown Railyard to the Acequia Trail and to neighborhoods on the west side of St. Francis.

A charrette, for those not in the know, “is an intense period of design or planning activity,” according to a website definition.

Leroy Pacheco of the city’s public works department said Tuesday that last May, after years of discussing crossing ideas, the City Council approved moving forward with a pedestrian and bike underpass beneath St. Francis at the high-profile location near one of Santa Fe’s busiest traffic intersections. That option was chosen instead of an overpass connecting to the Acequia Trail.

Now preliminary design work is underway.

“It’s important to show the public where we’re at and get their involvement at this point,” Pacheco said. “This will be geared more toward aesthetics, what it (the underpass) will look and feel like.”

He said the question of overpass versus underpass has been settled, with the council vote last year, so that issue shouldn’t be part of next week’s meeting.

During the four-hour charrette, residents can come by and talk to the engineers, landscapers and two local artists under contract for the project — – Chrissie Orr and Laurie Lundquist – about the design plans.

The designs at this point show a wide or “open” underpass intended to “not feel like a tunnel,” Pacheco said.

The project already has the required environmental clearances from the federal government, required because St. Francis is part of a federal highway, U.S. 84/285.

A city news release said the project team “will display initial ideas and encourage the community to participate in an intensive, creative, collaborative workshop planned towards establishing a community shared vision for the project.

“Comments will be accepted on bicycle, pedestrian and equestrian issues as well as natural resources and cultural resources.”