ISSUE 12-18-21 STILL NO START-UP DATE FOR UPPER MEADOWLARK TRAILS

Still no start-up date or timetable has been announced for construction of paths along upper Meadowlark Lane between Loma Larga and Rio Rancho. Earlier this year, Village Administrator Ron Curry predicted it might be complete by the end of 2021. But as of December 1, Corrales Public Works Director Mike Chavez reported “We are at 80 percent completion with the design,” which is being carried out by Village Engineer Steve Grollman.

In his briefing for the mayor and Village Council  last July, Grollman said he had the design three-quarters finished. During that July 8 report, Grollman proposed constructing a ten-foot wide  asphalt path between the subdivisions’ walls on the south side of the road and the existing eastbound driving lane. That path, for pedestrians and cyclists, would be designated for bikes headed uphill, or westward, only. Cyclists headed eastward, downhill, would be expected to use the regular driving lane along with cars and trucks.

As proposed in July, a six-inch high curb would divide the bike path from the adjacent driving lane. At each of the five roads leading into subdivisions along the south side of upper Meadowlark, Grollman said crosswalks would be painted on the trail pavement. Listening to the discussion, Curry was optimistic. “I would like to think it could be done by the end of the year,” he ventured.

In his December 1 email to Corrales Comment, Public Works Director Chavez suggested a cause for the delay. “We just closed out the final funding for the Meadowlark drainage, so we can now finish the drainage. Our engineer requests that we finish the drainage to Loma Larga before we start the trail project.

 “I am working on scheduling the contractor for the Loma Larga drainage as we speak.”

A solution to stormwater run-off from the 60-foot wide road right-of-way has stymied the upper Meadowlark project for a full decade.

In 2011, Corrales got a $214,000 grant from the Mid-Region Council of Governments (MRCOG) “to plan, design and construct the West Meadowlark Lane Trail.” But Village officials returned the money after stiff opposition from homeowners along the road over fears the project would bring stormwater flooding onto their property.

An opposition petition was presented to the Village Council at its April 12, 2011 meeting. The project was stopped even though it had been planned for at least three years. At an August, 2009 council meeting, a resolution was approved to design and build bike lanes and a five-foot wide compacted earth trail along upper West Meadowlark. At the time, the mayor was confident he would get the bike paths built during 2011. (See Corrales Comment series on trails, starting with Vol. XXVIII, No.18, November 7, 2009  “First Steps to Implement Village-wide Trails Plan”)

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But the project for bicycle riders, pedestrians and horse riders wasn’t done in 2011, and now apparently won’t be done in 2021, even though a state grant for $243,500 was formally accepted by the Village Council at its September 28, 2021 meeting to “plan, design and construct the West Meadowlark Lane Trail.”

Planning has, in fact, been under way for more than a decade. The proposal to construct bicycle lanes or paths that would link bike lanes along Loma Larga to those in Rio Rancho has been endlessly scrutinized since 2009, and was to have been implemented at roughly the same time the roadway was  realigned nearly three years ago.

On-the-ground work relocating utility lines inside the public right-of-way was completed by the end of February 2018, which included substantial earthmoving.  Awarding of a contract to actually rebuild the road was to have been accomplished by then.

But another hang-up arose: getting the N.M. Department of Transportation’s concurrence with design changes to the westerly end of the proposed bike trail.

NMDOT had withheld approval for the earlier design by Corrales engineer Brad Sumrall that depended on a waiver from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The original engineering plan was rejected because the slope was too severe (both east-west and north-south) for persons in a wheelchair.

A proposed work-around also failed to materialize.

The steep slope at the top of Corrales’ part on Meadowlark Lane was recognized as a potential problem from the earliest days of planning for the trails project. That was one reason why, in the early days of community input, the equestrian path was proposed for the north side of the road (since hooves could manage the slope without difficulty.)

But as the years wore on, alignment for the horse path was switched from the north side to the south, primarily based on evolving public input. That put the multi-use trail along the north side of the road, which led to the ADA issue.

Village officials decided to move ahead with reconstructing the roadway while  leaving the trails component for a later phase. As the road was being finished, Village Administrator Curry said the trails needed a start-from-scratch re-thinking, and promised a thorough public involvement effort.

But in July 2021, at the first public meeting to launch a re-start, only three members of the public attended since almost no notice was given. At that session, Grollman explained his preliminary design for a bike path and horse trail.

That was followed by another public meeting via Zoom on September 22. Again the meeting was not announced in time to be published in Corrales Comment before it was held. Meetings are also usually announced at the Village of Corrales website, http://www.corrales-nm.org.

The second time, Mayor Jo Anne Roake mentioned the Zoom meeting in her September 2021 “Mayor’s Message,” noting that “Door hanger notifications will also be hung on the doors of homes off Meadowlark, especially in the cul-de-sacs. Please spread the word.” People who live along upper Meadowlark are not the only villagers interested in potential trails for bikes, horses and those on human feet. Corraleños living throughout the village have decades-long involvement in what’s at stake in pending decisions.

(See Corrales Comment Vol.XXX, No.10, July 9, 2011 “Corrales Gives Back $160,000 for Upper Meadowlark Trail” and Vol.XXX No.16 October 8, 2011 “Upper Meadowlark Task Force Meets Mondays.” and Vol.XXXX No.1 February 20, 2021 “Corrales Returns $167,417 Meant for Meadowlark Trails.”)

The project has been amply aired in numerous public meetings for more than ten years. In 2013, a planning firm was called in to conduct a charrette to elicit optimal public input.

As stated in Corrales’ advertised “request for proposals” to build the roadway and trails, the firm winning the contract would “provide complete project design plans for the construction of pedestrian, equestrian, bicycle trails and road improvements including drainage along the upper section of West Meadowlark Road and design for traffic control options at the intersection of Loma Larga.”

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