Freshly Paved-The Santa Fe Rail Trail

Though not officially open, the Rail Trail has been well recieved

Saturday, November 29, 2008
by Phil Parker • Journal Santa Fe

Rebecca Albertson was out Friday afternoon on the newly paved Rail Trail, riding her bike while her little white dog, Mustache, fidgeted and barked in a basket attached behind her seat (he runs alongside until he gets tired).

The stretch between Alta Vista and San Mateo had only been open for about a week, she said, but she’d already used it three times. She lives nearby, on Monterrey Drive.

“I love it,” she said. “I don’t have to worry about any cars … It used to be muddy and dirty, with a big, old ditch. Now they filled all that in and it’s so nice.”

Along with the December unveiling of the Rail Runner, this renovated Rail Trail is set to open soon.

Running north along the Rail Runner track from Rabbit Road, just south of Interstate 25, to Alta Vista Street, the Rail Trail is designed for Santa Feans who prefer transportation by a more self-propelled means.

“This is kind of the beginning of being able to say we have a network of urban trails,” said local bike advocate Tim Rogers. “Having trails that actually get people places will get them thinking they can use their bike for transportation.”

Rogers has worked on the project since early in its development.

“It’s biker-friendly because it’s on an alignment with the rail,” Rogers said. “There aren’t a lot of conflicts with driveways or vehicles or anything, except the major road crossings. It’s a natural corridor for a trail that’s existed informally for a long time.”

Albertson said the old, unpaved stretches along where the trail is now were frequent “hangouts for the homeless.”

Said Rogers: “It’s great now. You have no worries. Before, you needed a mountain bike or had to be prepared to go very slow. If it was wet or muddy, it was something to avoid for sure. Now you can have a child’s trailer hooked to your bike, things like that.”

Albertson said she’s seen several people making use of the paved trail since it was finished.

Rail Runner project manager Chris Blewett said there wasn’t a major cost increase to work on the trail, because crews were already doing most of the necessary work for the train.

“That trail’s always been along there,” Blewett said. “There were parts already done, but we thought it’d be a good idea to finish it off. We were doing a lot of grading and things like that anyway.”

According to several officials, there was no initial agreement to pave the whole trail. Rail Runner managers just decided it would be a good idea.

At present, the Rail Trail is not officially open. Signs posted where the trail intersects major streets warn pedestrians to stay off.

But the paving is complete and the remaining work — like signage — should be finished soon.

“People are still using it, and we’re just trying to finish up,” said Robert Bency, a construction project engineer. “We’re pretty much done, but we have to finish up with the major intersection compliance work — push buttons, signal systems. Within a couple weeks everything will be done.”

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