New petition presented to council

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By Jennifer Garcia

When one door closes another one opens, or so the saying goes. This holds true for petitions that have been presented to council as well.

On Monday, a petition presented to council regarding the West Jemez Bypass was discussed and as a result, the project was removed from the Capital Improvement Projects list.

During Tuesday night’s meeting in council chambers, another petition regarding rerouting SR 502 was discussed.

The petition, spearheaded by White Rock resident Richard Dunn, proposed that SR 502 be rerouted from the Main Hill and Trinity Drive to the truck route.

“This is a proposal that had been hatched a couple years ago and has been bouncing around,” Dunn said. “In the 1970s, Trinity Drive was primarily a bypass for Central Avenue. There were few businesses and little housing on the south side of Trinity. Since then, the south side of Trinity has become developed and it is no longer a bypass.

“Rerouting SR 502 recreates the bypass for the highway and its users while allowing Trinity to become a community complete street,” he said.

During the presentation to council, Dunn gave a PowerPoint presentation that outlined the proposal, as well as the advantages and potential problems that could arise from doing a reroute.

One of the advantages Dunn pointed out would be that the truck route would become eligible for state highway funds, which could be used for widening the route to three or four lanes. In addition, a reroute would also allow the complete streets committee to look at a more balanced use of the road.

Dunn said that Main Hill Road could become a state scenic byway and/or a National Park road.

“Main Hill Road could become a tourist-friendly entrance to our town,” Dunn said.

As part of the work-arounds, Dunn suggested funding and staff that have  been assigned to the West Jemez Bypass project could be reallocated to the truck route and funds for widening East Trinity Drive could also be reallocated.

One of the possible kinks that Dunn sees in the plan revolves around state and Santa Fe County jurisdiction for the road, as well as analysis and design costs, Department of Energy jurisdiction for the truck route and juggling other Los Alamos County work projects while working on the reroute.

Following his presentation, Dunn suggested that council could refer to the downtown streets standards committee and ask the transportation board and environmental sustainability board for their input.

“This is not so much a demand as letting council know there’s some interest in thinking outside the box as far as this street is concerned,” Dunn said.

Councilor Mike Wismer had some concerns regarding Dunn’s plan.

“I’ve never heard of diverting traffic around from where a complete street is going to go. I thought the idea was to bring people to that area,” Wismer said.

Dunn said some of the towns he’s been to, where tourists go and stay are not on the main street.

“You might draw different kinds of people, but just the idea that you’re moving people off who don’t stop anyway, but could stop on the way home from work … They’ll have an enjoyable shopping experience instead of fighting to come in and out.”

Councilor Vincent Chiravalle seemed to like Dunn’s idea and told him so.

However, Chiravalle did have some concerns about traffic speed on Trinity.

“The speed limit is 35 and I’m comfortable with that, but often the limit is abused. I think if we can find ways to mitigate the abuse of the speed limit, that would be useful,” he commented.

He also said that he wasn’t sure that the designation of the road could be changed entirely because it’s a purview of the state and Department of Transportation.

“I think the issue of improving Trinity Drive would be best served if we looked at it in the overall context of our master plan,” Chiravalle said.

Councilor Ralph Phelps expressed disappointment in not having the reroute idea brought to council sooner.

“I’m really disappointed that the folks who are professionals and think about this kind of thing didn’t think about it two years ago. I would not like to see this fall into the black hole. I think it’s worthy of further consideration,” he said.

After further discussion and a vote, a motion made by Chiravalle to acknowledge the petition, thank petitioners for their recommendations and take no further action, passed 6-0, as Councilor Sharon Stover was absent.

As part of a friendly amendment to the motion, made by Chair Michael Wheeler, staff is being asked to consider the reroute option in the transportation master plan.