ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The city is taking a serious look at building some new routes to get across, even walk alongside the railroad tracks with a downtown “rail trail.”
The rail trail idea has been floating around for decades, but recently was the subject of a feasibility study by the city’s Planning Department. Preliminary designs show the city is looking into the idea of building a possible foot and bike path along the railroad tracks been Central and Lomas, along with a possible new railroad crossing over old-Marquette Street, on the northside of downtown.
If it becomes reality, some think the trail could help kick-start even more downtown redevelopment.
“What can we do as a city to again incentivize or encourage folks to walk and to ride and to be active in these areas,” said Williams of the project’s purpose.
The city’s conceptual plans were unveiled in a community meeting with neighbors, business owners and other stakeholders last week.
The prime piece of the conceptual rail trail calls for a separated bike and footpath to run parallel with the railroad between Central Avenue and Lomas Boulevard, which is a little less than a half-mile.
According to the city’s study, the trail could be built with a limited buffer and landscape on the westside of the tracks between Marquette and Lomas. On the eastside of the tracks, the city could potentially build the trail between Central and Lomas, with a mixed of trail-only and landscaped trail segments.
The possible Marquette crossing is just one of the areas where the city is looking at increasing connectivity downtown.
“You can tell that this is not conducive to travel across the tracks,” said Acting Director of the Albuquerque Planning Department Brennon Williams, speaking of the old dead-end Marquette Street on the eastside of the railroad tracks.
Most people are familiar with the Marquette Street overpass, which serves as a bridge over the railroad tracks and access to the Convention Center.
However, underneath the bridge on the ground level, there is redevelopment taking place. The Garcia Family’s eight-acre Glorieta Station project is currently under construction on the eastside of the tracks. Meanwhile, the Fusion Theatre company on the westside of the tracks is working on plans for an outdoor stage to hold concerts.
A potential Marquette crossing could allow for cars, pedestrians and bicyclists to cross the rail road tracks, behind the Glorieta Station development.
The crossing used to exist, but was closed decades ago and today is mainly used for city fleet vehicle parking.
“There’s some great work has taken place on the eastside of the tracks there, and we want to see a connection that takes place to kind of capitalize and bounce off what they’re already started over there and create some connectivity between the westside of the tracks and the eastside of the tracks,” said Williams.
A longtime downtown advocate and executive director of the Fusion Theatre Company, Dennis Gromelski supports the rail trail idea. “It’s almost a no brainer with all of this positive energy that’s gone on between Central and Lomas,” said Gromelski.
He thinks the trail could help spark another wave of downtown redevelopment “This is an area and a pathway that already exists and is not only being underutilized, it’s not being utilized at all,” said Gromelski. “It’s a treasure waiting to be uncovered.”
The city’s proposal would require a barrier between the walking path and the railroad tracks. The next step lies with NMDOT, as the agency controls the railroad’s right-of-way. The city says it’s now waiting to hear from NMDOT about what it would take to do the project.
So far, there’s no estimate on how much this proposed leg of the rail trail could cost, or who would pay for it. If it happens, one idea is to eventually extend the trail south to the city’s Rail Yards development or even further north up the tracks.