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Santa Fe Council Adopts Multimodal Transportation Plan

In an effort to push out car-centered infrastructure, Santa Fe officials are aiming for a more environmentally friendly transportation system with the addition of more bike lanes and expanded bus routes.

(TNS) — Despite Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber's objections that a new Multimodal Transition Plan does not go far enough to ensure the city's commitment to developing a less car-centric and more environmentally friendly transportation system, the City Council voted Wednesday to adopt the guiding document.

Councilor Signe Lindell and Webber cast the only votes against measure.

The plan resulted from a collaboration among several city departments — including Public Works, Land Use and Community Development — and includes recommendations for policy and infrastructure planning laid out in a 119-page report compiled by the Metropolitan Planning Organization with a goal of "reducing dependency on automobile transportation."

It aims to spur changes to design standards in the city code, creation of more bicycle lanes, expanded hours and routes for the Santa Fe Trails bus system, and parking prices that change based on demand.

Webber referenced the book The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs and argued the plan's lack of recommendations for discouraging automobile use is "tantamount to raising the white flag of surrender" to cars in Santa Fe.

"I think there were two years of hard work, and when I read the document it doesn't — in my mind — measure up to the urgency of the situation or the opportunity to make a difference in our transportation policy, our land use policy, our environmental policy and our social policy," Webber said, explaining why he was voting against adoption of the plan.

The report identifies the amount of land in each of the city's various corridors dedicated to automobile use: 54 percent in downtown Santa Fe, 72 percent in the midtown area and 66 percent in southwestern Santa Fe. Yet, Webber said he saw no evidence the plan would work "to reclaim land from the automobile and convert it to community uses or constructive economic uses."

Furthermore, he said, enacting the plan's recommendations wouldn't significantly move the needle on curbing the city's greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change, 35 percent of which are currently attributed to transportation.

"We're not being aggressive enough, bold enough or willing to make hard decisions to disincentivize the automobile in favor of transit, bikes and pedestrian use," Webber said. "I think we've labored mightily and produced a mouse."

He proposed sending the Multimodal Transition Plan back to the drawing board to seek a "bolder" and "visionary effort."

The plan was the only item on a consent agenda for the council's hourlong meeting Wednesday to be pulled for discussion, while 19 other items — including budget amendments, land use decisions and state legislative priorities — received unanimous approval in one sweeping vote.

Other items included in the approval vote without discussion include the following:

  • A plan for a land swap with the state in which the city is set to receive six properties on Siringo Road and St. Michael's Drive, plus almost $5 million, in exchange for one piece of property on Cerrillos Road and one on Camino Entrada that have been leased by the state. The state-owned parcels would aid the city in its massive redevelopment of the midtown campus, according to a resolution. The trade still must be approved by the Legislature.

  • A memorandum of understanding pledging a commitment to change water use practices to conserve resources, along with other public water systems in the Colorado River Basin.

  • A contract with Carrollo Engineers of more than $3.7 million for the design of the San Juan Chama Return Flow Project, which includes a pump station and 17-mile pipeline from the city's wastewater treatment facility on Paseo Real to the Rio Grande, directly downstream of the Buckman Direct Diversion intake. The pipeline project, estimated to cost more than $20 million, is intended to send treated effluent to the Rio Grande in exchange for credits for future San Juan-Chama Project flows to help prevent city water shortages in coming decades. The design contract for Carrollo Engineers was awarded after a competitive bid process.

  • Final approvals for land use amendments in preparation for Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center's construction of a new cancer center adjacent to its main campus on St. Michael's Drive.

  • Legislative priorities and capital outlay funding requests from the Legislature that include $10 million for planning and construction of infrastructure at the midtown property, $7.5 million for four artificial turf fields, $2 million to design and remodel Fogelson Library at the midtown campus into a new central library and $3.5 million for improvements at SWAN Park.

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