ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Albuquerque Public Schools is pumping the breaks on a big project to build a 50-bus depot in the East Mountains after getting backlash from nearby residents. The residents say pressing pause on the project isn’t good enough, and argue APS legally cannot build a depot there.
APS said it needs a bus depot in the East Mountains to get area kids to school since bus companies it relied on in the past are now closed. Neighbors say a 13-acre bus depot doesn’t belong in any residential area, including theirs.
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Driving through the Rincon Loop neighborhood signs opposing the planned bus depot stick out among the greenery. “There’s animals up here, there’s deer up here, there’s a lot of reasons we moved up here, that could be impacted by a bus depot right in the middle of our neighborhood,” Douglas Wilson, a resident in the neighborhood said.
The APS bus depot would sit on the corner of Shady Oak Circle and Zamora Road, which is just feet away from I-40. It houses at least 50 buses and includes a fueling station, auto shops and a wash bay. Neighbors say it would cause noise and pollution but their biggest concern is the community well that sits on the property and an aquifer that is under it.
“If that well gets contaminated, our home is, we just can’t live here. There’s no water supply and it’s difficult to live in a home without water,” Wilson said. According to a member of the Tijeras Water Cooperative, the community well serves about 60 homes in the area and the aquifer helps provide water to the private wells in the neighborhood.
APS said once a school district acquires property it is given a ‘special use’ designation, so the district can build the depot in a place zoned for residential developments. Neighbors said building the depot there would still be illegal. They point to a 1989 covenant where APS agreed the property would be used for a future elementary school. APS said specific use of its land is never predetermined and that it is seeking a legal opinion on the matter.
APS said while no fuel leakage is 100% guaranteed, it said the area will be paved to mitigate any leakage. It also said the appropriate studies of its environmental impact are being done.
A petition against building the bus depot at the Rincon Loop location has more than 800 signatures. The neighbors also have hired a lawyer who has served two letters to the APS school board. According to the neighbors, the school board has until March 10, 2021, to respond.
APS has launched its own online survey for APS parents in the East Mountains to give feedback on the bus depot. After public comment in a recent board meeting brought up the concern that families without internet access wouldn’t be able to participate, board member Elizabeth Armijo said the district will work on ways to reach everyone. Once feedback is received, APS plans to have a virtual, community forum at the end of April or the beginning of May. Anyone can also share feedback to this email: firstname.lastname@example.org.