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Trinity Street standards revisted

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By Jennifer Garcia

Trinity Drive has been in the spotlight a lot lately because of plans to make it a complete street.

One of the focal points surrounding the project is the street standards for Trinity Drive.

Some in the public, as well as council members, have expressed concern over the current design of Trinity Drive and have inquired about how it and other downtown streets could be made more pedestrian friendly, as well as more attractive.

At Tuesday night’s council meeting, Community Development Director Rick Bohn spoke to councilors about the street standards and plans for Trinity Drive.

Prior to the discussion, Council Chair Michael Wheeler wanted to reiterate the point that nothing has been decided regarding plans for Trinity Drive.

“This is not the final decision,” he said, “This is another step in the process.”

“This is a very popular topic and a very important one, too,” Bohn began. He said that street standards were adopted in 2004 as part of the Downtown Master Plan, but some street standards need to be brought up to code.

“We’ve been looking at different possibilities of where street standards may go,” he continued. “Eventually we’ll look at all the downtown streets and coordinate with the state on NM502 work. We’re not about to break ground on any street any time soon.”

The issue with the current street standards is that they do not take into account proper lane widths or other traffic engineering standards, they are obsolete, or they are not practical to implement because of the lack of an existing right-of-way, among other issues.

During the discussion, Bohn mentioned that the Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corporation has set up a website so that the public can get information and updates on what’s going on with the street standards and Trinity Drive plans.

He said that if residents would like to, they can also contact either him or County Planner Paul Belson to share their ideas on the project, or provide them with an e-mail address so they can be added to the mailing list that is sent out to notify people of the project’s progress.

Councilor Nona Bowman asked Bohn if any other consultants would be brought in to help with the project. She referred back to the dissatisfaction Public Works Director Kyle Zimmerman expressed over the consultants that spoke during the March workshop.

“We’re working with Kyle and Public Works,” Bohn said. “They have a lot of expertise. If we feel we need more help, we’ll talk about it. We’re going to pick their brains first.”

Concern about not having a good plan for Trinity Drive was expressed by Councilor Ralph Phelps.

“You have at least three studies and committees. I’m really concerned that I don’t see a good plan in place,” he said.

Bohn said one coordinating factor is the Planning and Zoning Commission. He also said that the Community Development department is the right agency to coordinate all of these activities.

“Our responsibility is to make sure we’re giving you bits and pieces that don’t fit together,” he commented.

Councilor Robert Gibson wanted to know why the street standards need to be looked at again.

“How did we get to the point of having to look at another set of standards so quickly,” he queried.

Bohn said planners did the work for the standards.

“I’m not sure if they had engineers,” he said. “Everyone had their hearts in the right place but didn’t take the next step to apply the engineering data.”

Gibson expressed concern over what he described as an ill-defined problem.

“I’m not sure we know where development should take place. That’s one of the problems with the flexible approach that we’re taking. At this point it’s hard to say what we’re trying to do with this road. I think the folks working on this need to have an idea of what to say and do before we decide on how many lanes, etc.”

Wheeler said while the effort to get people to attend the Downtown Street Standards Committee meetings has not been completely successful, it’s been a huge effort in bringing the public together.

“I see efforts in integrating with other departments,” he said. “Complete streets means complete for all modes of traffic. If we’re going to do this project, we need to make improvements for all the traffic. Given the constraints, I’m not sure we can’t fudge the standards to meet our needs.”

Resident Richard Hanneman suggested to council that any plans for Trinity Drive be put on a backburner until the Trinity Place development is built.

“Doing Trinity Drive is probably best after everything is done and we can see how Trinity is being used,” he said.

Howard Cady, another Los Alamos resident who in the recent past expressed his dissatisfaction with how the county was handling the planning process, seems to have had a change of heart regarding the process.

“I’m much happier today. I’ve heard lots of good questions from council today. I believe they have the right people in on planning now. I’m happy with the direction and the people,” he commented.

He said the planning approach shows much more direct thinking.