History and Complications: The New Track Crossing at Marquette

The Better Burque Tactical Urbanism Team (BBTUT) recently biked along, close-to, and sorta close to the proposed route for the Albuquerque Rail Trail, still unimaginatively named “Albuquerque Rail Trail,” from the Rail Yards at 1st Avenue up to Lomas and 1st Avenue. Of most immediate importance, we got to see the current state of construction on the proposed Trail’s very first bit o’ work, the grade-level track crossing at Marquette.

Notably, this crossing is being done while the plan itself is still accepting public comments. While probably nobody is whining about this new crossing, one has to love the Robert Moses-esque “build the damn thing now and they can’t say no later” mentality.

Admittedly, two jersey barriers and some piles of dirt is not that impressive, but look upon ye eventual works and admire the glorious crossing as ambitiously rendered in the Plan proposal:

Yes, golden birds will flock along with non-motorized recreationists to/through the finished crossing.

As noted in the graphic above, the crossing is particularly important to the Plan, as Marquette is to be the point at which the Trail goes from the east side of the tracks to the west side. BB apologizes for its relative lack of rendering budget, and talent, but the route is planned to look something like this:

No golden birds and both crude and crooked, but the red line segments above give you the very general idea.

Worth noting is that the actual plan is WAY more complicated than the crude red line segments above, due to the fact the Convention Center (and parking) was plopped along the tracks and bifurcated 1st Avenue. It’s so complicated, in fact, that BB doesn’t have the Holiday energy to even get into it right now.

From the Plan’s Technical Analysis section, you get a sense of these obstacles/complexities. Lots of “recommend working with…” and “potential conflict with…” both in this segment and throughout.

Speaking of obstacles, it’s a funny little side-note that not too long ago the strange little street that is Marquette ended before the tracks at this little shack:

Looking west at 2014 terminus of Marquette east of the train tracks (visible in distance). Yes, Superfund sites get really, really good bollards. Lots of ’em.

The little shack above enclosing equipment to remediate the “Fruit Avenue Plume” was removed in 2018 after EPA decided such active measures weren’t needed anymore. There was opposition to this EPA move, in particular from the ABQ/BernCo Water Utility Authority, but it happened and that decision played something of a butterfly effect role in freeing up Marquette as a track-crossing street. You just never know when a dry cleaning business back in the early/mid-20th Century might somehow, some way lead to possible development of a rail trail almost a century later.

Google Streetview look at the Marquette Crossing (sans EPA Superfund shack) from the Marquette overpass. Yes, the overpass is Marquette and the grade-level street is also Marquette. Like I said, it’s complicated.

The Marquette Crossing is a good idea whether the Rail Trail happens or not. There’s currently no grade-level train track crossing between Lomas and, believe it or not, Woodward three miles south. The many over and underpasses downtown (e.g., Marquette, Central, Lead & Coal) are notoriously unfriendly to walkers/cyclists outside of the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday March, when MLK/Marquette is closed to drivers.

So that’s good, but what about the Rail Trail plan overall? We’ll look more closely at those aforementioned complexities and obstacles in future posts, but in a very short spoiler alert: I’m not sure anything “Rail Trail” beyond the Marquette Crossing ever gets built.

More on why I’d bet against it (acknowledging that I’m the world’s worst/best loser of wagers, ever) later on post-Holidays. Happy continued Holidays, everybody!

2 thoughts on “History and Complications: The New Track Crossing at Marquette

  1. How did the railroad ever allow an at grade crossing to happen anyway? BNSF has been closing rail crossings when they can and not allowing one where federal funds were used to build a trail that now officially stops (without a nearby detour) at the rail tracks. This is the Las Cruces Outfall Channel Trail.

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    1. Very interesting point you raise, Mr. Pearson. I’ve wondered the same, and before delving too far into it direct you and readers to the “Steering Committee” members of the Rail Trail https://www.cabq.gov/mra/documents/2021-11-22-part-i-rail-trail-exec-summary.pdf:

      Steering Committee
      Mayling Armijo, Bernalillo County
      Dale Armstrong, TLC Plumbing
      Lola Bird, Downtown Mainstreet
      Ed Garcia, Garcia Automotive Group
      Seth Gardenschwartz, JS Brown Building
      Johanna Gilligan, Homewise
      Maria Griego-Raby, Contract Associates
      Dennis Gromelski, Fusion Theatre
      Frank Martinez, Citizens Information Committee of
      Martineztown
      Tim Nisly, Barelas Community Coalition
      Jay Rembe, REMBE Design and Development
      Matt Tinney, Albuquerque Police Department
      Laura Trujillo, Valley Area Crime Prevention
      Kelly Ward, Innovate ABQ
      Richard Yates, Zydeco & Springer Square

      Interesting names, no?

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