ABQ Rail Trail Gets its Bag o’ Cash

Here’s something you don’t see every day in non-motorized transportation advocacy:

As reported/photographed in the Downtown Albuquerque News (DAN) yesterday, above are NM Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, ABQ Mayor Tim Keller, ABQ City Councilor Klarissa Peña, and Fusion Theater Executive Director Dennis Gromelski holding up/standing behind a big-ass ceremonial check from the State o’ New Mexico for a big-ass $10 million toward the proposed Albuquerque Rail Trail.

The Trail has fairly finalized plans for its first phase from the Rail Yards north to Lomas, with far more vague and “there be dragons” (i.e., railroad right-of-way issues) wishful mapping extending through Wells Park and, maybe, ultimately, to Sawmill and Old Town. As further reported by the DAN, this big-ass $10 million only adds to another big-ass $10 million approved for the Trail by City Council recently, while the Feds are being asked to kick in another big-ass $11.5 million shortly.

That’s 31.5 million dollars of big-ass, a figure you just about never see when talking places designed solely to walk or roll your wheelchair/bicycle. Non-motorized transport is usually the quintessential afterthought, getting a few dollars here or there, begrudgingly. How the Hell did all this money fall into the ABQ Rail Trail lap? And why the Hell doesn’t it happen more often?

Perhaps the easiest, best illustration of why this project is getting such love is taking a look at its “Steering Committee.”

Rail Trail Steering Committee

Mayling Armijo, Bernalillo County Economic Development Director
Dale Armstrong, Property Owner
Lola Bird, Downtown Mainstreet
Dennis Gromelski, FUSION
Ed Garcia, Property Owner
Seth Gardenswartz, Property Owner
Johanna Gillian, Homewise
Maria Griego-Raby, Contract Associates
Frank Martinez, Citizens Information Committee of Martineztown
Tim Nisly, Barelas Community Coalition
Jay Rembe, Property Owner
Sgt. Matthew Tinney, Downtown Public Safety District
Laura Trujillo, Valley Area Command Crime Prevention
Kelly Ward, Innovate ABQ
Richard Yates, Property Owner

You’re heard the term “Transit-Oriented Development”? Well, how about “Development-Oriented Transit”? Looking at the Steering Committee names above, it includes folks who have already bought and somewhat developed properties along the proposed Rail Trail route, and those properties will further develop oh so much more nicely if the Rail Trail comes into being.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that. I’m just saying it’s the biggest reason why the Governor, Mayor, and others are standing behind that big-ass check.

There’s also the question of whether the Albuquerque Rail Trail is the best possible use of 31.5 million dollars toward non-motorized transportation downtown. Your humble blogger suggests that spending some/all of that amount on a bridge extending the Silver Bike Boulevard over I-25 and the train tracks would be a more profoundly transformative expenditure. Bike network connectivity and so forth. I could go on and on about why I feel this way, but will spare readers at this time (click the link, please, click it!).

That said, I’m not against the Albuquerque Rail Trail and only begrudge the 31.5 million dollars because I recall the reaction of City officials when the idea of spending millions on a Silver Bike Boulevard bridge was brought up back in 2018.

I think “laughed at” and “disregarded out of hand” pretty much capture those reactions.

And those reactions make sense for a bunch of reasons boiling down to that list of Steering Committee members above. Good ideas are a dime a dozen. Albuquerque Rail Trail Steering Committee members are worth many, many dimes. 3.15 million of them, it turns out.

More on the Rail Trail in coming weeks and years to come. Have a great weekend, everybody!

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