Work is expected to continue on the Upper Meadowlark project in the months ahead, starting with curbing and landscaping along the north side of the road. Originally, that is where a paved bike lane and pedestrian path were envisioned. Now, both an equestrian trail and a multi-use bike-pedestrian path are under consideration for the south side of the roadway.
The long-delayed project was discussed at the September 8 Village Council meeting. In recapping, Councillor Dave Dornburg told Corrales Comment, “We are looking at costing the work that remains, and then determining what funding we have available. First will be curbing and landscaping to hold the hillside. The second part is a pathway, w hich will include villager input for alternatives.
“I am currently envisioning a single multi-use path on the south side of the road. Original plan proved unworkable, so simpler probably is better, and still meets the aim of a safe pedestrian trail offset from the road and traffic.
“We are not planning on re-pursuing federal Department of Transportation funds. We think we have options to fund these phases, but time will tell.
“Stay tuned; there is much to be learned and decided in the near future,” Dornburg said September 9. During the council meeting discussion on the annual update of a Infrastructure Capital Improvment Plan, he suggested the Village’s right-of-way along the south side of the road could accommodate the paths. “Back in the day, the whole project was to have been constructed including the road, the paths, the curbing and all the other stuff, we had all the money we needed with the exception of the part [that required Americans With Disabilities Act approval along the north side of the road], so the decision was made to do the road as you see constructed with the understanding that if we could get [the north side bike trail] back into ADA compliance, it’s likely we would be able to get that funding back.
“But we’re not going to be able to go down that road, so that’s why we have to fund the rest of the project separately.” Mayor Jo Anne Roake suggested the Village may be able to get funding for the remainder of the project through the state highway department. “The project was split up into parts, so we’ll just have to go with it that way. We do have a plan, and we’ve been very successful in getting Municipal Arterial Project and road co-op funding, so when we get to that last portion with the path, I think we’ll be okay.”
The mayor said the Village is unlikely to get any capital project funding from the state legislature next session. “I did ask the director of the N.M. Municipal League what our chances were of getting any money this year for capital improvement projects, and he said ‘zero.’
“That doesn’t mean we are not going to be at the ready, and we’ll keep re-sorting this list [ICIP] to be ready to take advanage of funding that is available.” Earlier this year, Village Administrator Ron Curry said he anticipated that another round of public comment and brainstorming will be needed to begin a new plan for the bike and horse trails.
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 stalled. Curry has said the Village probably would have to find its own funds to complete the project, bypassing the need to comply with ADA. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXIX No.7 June 6, 2020 “Upper Meadowlark Project Dispute Nears Resolution.”)
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. The most costly part, presumably, has already been constructed and paid for.