Let’s Dream a Little: Some Day Susana Martinez Won’t Be Governor

Eight years is a long damn time.

And it actually hasn’t quite been eight years yet. Funny that, seems infinitely longer.

For almost eight years, New Mexicans have experienced the economic stagnation, environmental body blows, educational mind-warping, and 1950s transportation mindset of the Susana Martinez Administration.

But if we can hold out for about eight more months, we have the chance to awaken from our combination of coma and bag of oranges repeatedly to the midsection. And this awakening, and damage to internal organs, can most certainly include moving from the present NMDOT car-centric 1950s transportation policy to something at least a bit closer to 2018.

Here’s an example: Rail Runner

One of the most truly amazing documents I’ve run across in my past few years of researching New Mexico transportation is the November 2009 “Bernalillo County / International Sunport Station Area Sector Development Plan” released mere months before our long statewide gubernatorial nightmare began.

You have got to check this Plan out.

With the Rail Runner “International Sunport” station opening in 2007, the Plan posits ideas for adjacent transit oriented development that would certainly knock the metaphorical socks off of anyone, particularly those of us living in the deep South Valley, such as myself.

To get an idea of degree of sock knocking for those not too familiar with the area, here’s a recent birds’ eye view of the Rail Runner station:

sunport rail runner stop
The main thought on all roadways users’ minds here is: “Can I stay alive?”

And here’s the only entrance to the station, the highly dangerous intersection of Rio Bravo Blvd. and Prince St.:

rio bravo at prince rail runner
Note the hilarious, as in not hilarious, faded bike lane stencil on Prince Street

And why is this the only way to get to the Rail Runner station? Well, for one thing here’s the view of the “entrance” from 2nd Street west of the Station:

sunport rail runner access from 2nd St
The Street pavement is 2nd Street. This is the view from the end of Rossmoor, a residential street that could provide safer access than the always dangerous Rio Bravo Blvd.

Yeah, that’s a cyclone fence and train tracks blocking access. Not surprising to see so few cars in the parking lot. If you really squint, you can make out a bicycle in the Station bicycle rack, but it takes a pretty brave rider to tackle that aforementioned sole entrance.

Basically, this Station has very deliberately been left to die, like so many other transportation ideas in the almost eight years of long statewide gubernatorial nightmare.

And it is this current largely moribund Station, and insanely poor access, that makes the 2009 BernCo Plan all the more sock knocking. You really should read all 103 pages in the Plan’s mind-blowing entirety, but let’s boil it down to one passage and three graphics:

The land use concept envisions a mixed-use environment, with residential flats or offices above ground-level retail in the center, and shared parking for commuters and shoppers to foster business and vitality in the station area around-the-clock. Many new streets, pedestrian connections, and trails better link residents to the station, surrounding retail, and new workplaces.

This concept plays out graphically in the following ways:

sunport rail runner plan mixed use
Note: “Retail on Ground Floor”
sunport rail runner plan streets
If I count correctly, the Plan would elevate Station access points from one to four

Let’s look again at the most recent birds’ eye to see just how much HAS NOT been done to improve access as recommended in the Plan:

sunport rail runner current birds eye broadway
Note the complete lack of access via Broadway Boulevard/NM-47
rail runner plan bike network
Yes, that is a proposed ped/bike overpass over 2nd Street and the train tracks. Yes. Really. As well as an underpass of Rio Bravo along the San Jose Drain. Honest.

It is perhaps worth mentioning that perhaps the biggest revenue generator anywhere near this site is the Annual “Mudd” Volleyball Tournament, benefiting Carrie Tingley Hospital, held around Memorial Day. You can make out the rectangular mud courts by taking one more look at the supremely forlorn site:

sunport rail runner stop
I wonder how many people take Rail Runner to go to the “Mudd” Volleyball event. I really wonder if it is number more than zero. Which isn’t a number, some say.

So what? So another, arguably far too ambitious, governmental planning study sits collecting dust? There are SO many such studies on the dusty shelves of SO many governmental entities.

Better Burque shakes the dust off this particular plan not because BB necessarily thinks  the grand transit oriented development outlined in the Plan is an unassailable idea that should be fully implemented the day Susana Martinez leaves office. It is a very ambitious plan overall, although “crazy” ideas like having safe access points to the Station should have been in place years ago.

No, BB brings up this Plan as an example of both how far we’ve regressed in transportation matters since Martinez took office, and how far we can go once again once she’s replaced by someone with a vision of transportation not straight out of the Interstate Highway System.

That is, if she is replaced by such a person.

Transportation isn’t a big issue in NM Election 2018. There are far too many areas of coma and bags of oranges for that. We’ll probably not hear a single question in any upcoming gubernatorial debate about roadway safety, non-motorized travel, or transit (although we can certainly hope).

Still, some day this long statewide gubernatorial nightmare will end, I know…I’m an optimist, and we can shake the dust off both our brains and those transportation ideas, studies, and plans that have been utterly dismissed and forgotten at the statewide level for almost eight years.

P.S.: It is readily acknowledged that ideas like those in the 2009 Sunport Station Plan suffered not only from a governor stuck in the transportation 1950s, but also from other factors, such as a little thing called “The Great Recession” (TGR). Looking back now at the combo of Martinez and TGR, it’s amazing we’ve come even close to making it through the past decade in New Mexico without completely losing our collective minds.

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