SANTA FE —The Santa Fe City Council on Wednesday declined to spend $57,000 on a so-called “road diet” study to determine whether it was worth considering reducing about a mile stretch of Paseo de Peralta to one lane in each direction and adding bicycle lanes.
Mayor Javier Gonzales cast the deciding vote, saying he’d rather see the money go to adding bicycle paths or more green bike lanes. “My conflict is the issue of expenditures of money that don’t prioritize bike safety,” he said. “I don’t see bike safety leading this effort.”
Funding for the study would have come from bond money intended for bicycle trail improvements and was putting bike lanes on the southern loop of Paseo de Peralta downtown from South Guadalupe to East Alameda streets had been identified as a priority by the Bicycle Trails Advisory Committee.
Councilor Joe Maestas, who heads that committee, said the goal was to connect existing trails where there are gaps.
But several councilors said the idea of eliminating lanes for vehicle traffic on a busy street that runs right by the state Capitol in favor of bike lanes would not fly. “This is not something I would approve even if they said it was a good idea,” said Councilor Chris Rivera. “I can’t see traffic cut down to one lane.”
John Romero, the city’s Engineering Division director, said even if the council wasn’t willing to consider taking out traffic lanes, the study could still provide useful information about the number of vehicles traveling through intersections and timing traffic lights to assure the most efficient flow. He said the study could help determine whether a traffic light was needed at Paseo de Peralta and Acequia Madre.
“It seems like we’re sending mixed signals that this is more about car traffic than bike safety,” Gonzales responded, adding that money intended for bicycle trail improvement should be spent that way.
Councilors Carmichael Dominguez, Signe Lindell and Renee Villarreal joined the mayor and Rivera in voting no. Councilors Michael Harris, Peter Ives, Maestas, and Ron Trujillo voted for the study.
After the vote, City Manager Brian Snyder said a lot of staff time went into preparing the item for the council’s consideration and, while he wasn’t trying to prod the council into changing its vote, he had concerns about city staff’s capacity to handle its workload. “I’m concerned because we have a lot of projects where we’re doing the same thing,” he said. The mayor said staff should not take the outcome of the vote to mean that they wasted their time.