The wide shoulders of upper Meadowlark Lane have sat cleared and presumably ready for construction of bike paths and horse trails (as envisioned, and re-envisioned) more than a decade ago. Those components of the over all plan were bumped to a later phase as the driving lanes with medians and integrated drainage features were constructed last year.
But Village officials have been engaged in a protracted dispute with the contractor who took on the job. Village Administrator Ron Curry, who inherited the troubled project last summer, said May 8 that the matter should be resolved no later than next month.
Curry has maintained the second phase with trails should not be started until the first phase is completed and disputes resolved. Earlier this year, Curry said the stormwater drainage features have not been connected to the area where collected water would be ponded along Loma Larga.
He has said getting satisfactory closure on the first phase is important to avoid the Village of Corrales paying for completion or remediating flaws left by the contractor.
For months now, the Village Administrator has voiced optimism that the dispute could be resolved soon. At the mayor’s town hall teleconference event May 28, Curry said “We are in contact every day with our attorneys as of late and we are still trying to come to closure on it.
“We’re exchanging paperwork on it right now and we feel the Village is in the right position, but it’s not resolved yet.
“If I’m being optimistic, it will be resolved in the next two to three weeks. If I’m being pessimistic, it could go on for another 90 to 120 days.” Councillor Dave Dornberg, who lives along West Meadowlark and represents the area on the council, asked for an update on the project at the June 16 council meeting.
Earlier this year, Curry said he anticipates that another round of public comment and brainstorming will be needed to begin a second phase for the bike and horse trails. The project is not just stalled, it is essentially out the window. What the objectives will be when and if it resumes is still to be determined. When the proposal began more than a decade ago, its primary goal was to construct a bike path connecting Corrales to Rio Rancho along upper Meadowlark.
That was funded by the Mid-Region Council of Governments, but Village officials turned the money back when upper Meadowlark residents objected that funding was insufficient to address anticipated stormwater drainage problems into their adjacent property.
In 2016, the Village was ready to hire an engineer to design the over all project including trails from Loma Larga to the Rio Rancho boundary. The project funded through the Mid-Region Council of Governments and the N.M. Department of Transportation (NMDOT) was to realign and rebuild upper Meadowlark to include bicycle paths and horse trails as well as improved drainage and traffic safety features. (See Corrales Comment, Vol.XXXIII, No.3, March 22, 2014 “Upper Meadowlark To Get Improved Drainage.”)
But only the driving lanes and drainage features actually got underway, since the engineering work ran into a problem with the federal Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The N.M. Department of Transportation refused to approve Corrales; design for the bicycle-pedestrian path along the north side of the road because the terrain was so steep at the top of Corrales portion of Meadowlark.
That design obstacle was never overcome. So that’s where prospects for the bike trail and horse path ended. Curry has said the Village may have to find its own funds to complete the project, bypassing the need to comply with ADA.
In September 2013, the consulting firm hired to suggest ways to improve upper Meadowlark Lane, Architectural Research Consultants, called for bike riders to use the same downhill driving lane as autos, or divert to the future pedestrian path along the south side of the re-configured roadway.
Appearing before the mayor and Village Council at their September 10, 2013 meeting, the firm’s Steve Burstein presented a revised “Option A” that showed a five-foot wide bike lane adjacent to the westbound driving lane, while eastbound bike riders would be expected to come down in the same regular traffic lane used by motor vehicles.
If cyclists did not want to “take the lane” with regular traffic coming down hill, they would be encouraged to bike along the proposed pedestrian path along the south side of Meadowlark.
Among the advantages of that revised plan, cyclists using the bike paths along the Rio Rancho section of Meadowlark Lane would have a continuous connection to designated routes coming down into Corrales. Downhill bike riders would be informed to merge with regular vehicle traffic, or veer off onto the pedestrian trail.
Then-Mayor Phil Gasteyer said he thought the revised recommendation would be “much more acceptable to the whole neighborhood.”
Some residents along the north side of upper Meadowlark had objected to routing both uphill and downhill bike riders to a future path on the north side of the road. They said they feared pulling into the path of fast bike riders as they left their driveways and tried to enter traffic.
In that plan, downhill cyclists would use the eastbound driving lane or use the proposed pedestrian path along the south side of the road. The change was endorsed by the Corrales Bicycle, Pedestrian Advisory Commission as well, following communications with Burstein and his planners.
At that point, the plans were almost purely hypothetical since no funds had been allocated to tackle the re-make of upper Meadowlark, estimated subsequently at $1.18 million.