Bicycle underpass on hold in Santa Fe

SANTA FE, N.M. — A planned bicycle-pedestrian underpass near one of the city’s busiest intersections is in jeopardy.

The city of Santa Fe’s Public Works Committee on Tuesday postponed a decision whether to reallocate $2 million designated for the construction of the River Trail Underpass in order for a public hearing to be held.

Last week, the Finance Committee voted 3-0 to deny the proposal amid concerns that the reallocated money, which comes from a General Obligation Bond passed by voters in 2012, wouldn’t be spent the way voters were told it would.

City Councilor Ron Trujillo, who chairs the Public Works Committee, on Monday exercised his discretion to remove the item from the agenda, partly because two of the five members of the committee were absent but also because he wanted to hear public input.

“What I want to do is postpone it until the next Public Works Committee so we can have a public hearing,” Trujillo said. “There were concerns when the Finance Committee voted on the issue, and I want to give the opportunity to the public to have their say.”

The matter was supposed to come before the City council on Wednesday. Instead, the public hearing will be held during the next Public Works Committee meeting on July 28.

Four of the eight city councilors have signed on as sponsors of a resolution that would allow the funds to be reallocated “to bike-pedestrian trails and related safety and infrastructure projects.”

Two bicyclists has been struck and killed by Rail Runner trains in Santa Fe while riding on bike trails in the past three months. The Santa Fe Metropolitan Planning Organization included added signage at some rail trail crossings on the priority list it developed for trail improvements.

Trujillo is not among the resolution’s sponsors, so could be a deciding vote if the proposal gets to the City Council. He said after Monday’s meeting that he had not made up his mind about it.

“I want to hear from people — and from our lawyers, as well,” he said.

In 2012, Santa Fe voters approved the issuance of  up to $14 million General Obligation Bonds, about $6 million of which was “to acquire land for, and to plan, design, build, equip, renovate and improve public parks, bike pedestrian trails and related infrastructure.”

Of that, $2 million was earmarked for the construction of an underpass at St. Francis Drive and West Alameda Street, while another $4 million was to go to projects identified in the Santa Fe Metropolitan Bicycle five-year master plan.

About $98,000 has already been spent on the Phase 1 location study for the underpass. Another nearly $300,000 was allocated for phases 2 and 3, the preliminary design and final design.

As for how the $2 million would be spent if it were reallocated, the resolution calls for the City Council to consider project recommendations from the Bicycle and Trails Advisory Committee, though the governing body would make the final determination.

The advisory committee approved the plan at its June 18 meeting.

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