More than seven years after the state spent $1 million to build the Rail Runner Express Zia Road Station on Santa Fe’s south side, plans to open the never-used facility are finally gaining traction.
City officials say the New Mexico Department of Transportation recently approved construction plans for an access road, sidewalks, lighting and other infrastructure for the so-called kiss-and-ride commuter train stop.
“I’m definitely hoping that there is light at the end of this tunnel,” said District 4 City Councilor Ron Trujillo, who has long advocated for the opening of the station near the southwest corner of Zia Road and St. Francis Drive.
“We’ve had the Zia Station constructed for I don’t know how many years now,” he said. “It’s about time that we open it up and start utilizing it.”
Matt O’Reilly, the city’s asset development director, said there are still a few legal agreements that need to get worked out among the city, the state and the development firm proposing a transit-oriented project on the land adjoining the station.
“We’re working through the nuts and bolts of those legal agreements,” he said, adding he doesn’t anticipate any roadblocks.
O’Reilly also said he didn’t know when the agreements would be finalized and signed.
“We’d like to get them finished soon,” he said.
The state built the train platform in 2008 on the public right of way with the intention that Zia Station LLC, which owns the adjacent land, would build access to it as part of a commercial and residential project on the site.
But the proposed development has been on hold for years amid legal hurdles, neighborhood concerns about traffic and density and economic challenges.
“There’s a whole bunch of issues,” Trujillo said.
Santa Fe developer Merritt Brown, a partner in the local SF Brown development company, said he hopes to submit the construction plans to the city soon in order to obtain a building permit.
“This has been so ridiculous. It’s taken so long,” Brown said Friday.
“I think we’re close. But whether there’s light at the end of that tunnel, that remains to be seen. We think we see it. We hope that’s what we’re seeing,” he said.
Uncertainty about the station has stalled Brown’s project.
After nearby residents raised concerns about constructing a small parking lot, the City Council in 2011 approved the concept of using the station as a “kiss-and-ride” train stop, without commuter parking.
“People did not want any parking there, so it’s just a drop-off facility where you can pull in, drop somebody off and leave,” Brown said.
Brown said he still wants to build a mixed-use development on the property adjacent to the currently fenced-in Zia Station. But the exact proposal remains to be seen.
“All the focus has been on just getting the station opened,” he said.
“We have not done anything [with the proposed mix-use development] over the past several years,” Brown added. “The details will be worked out once we start that land-use discussion again.”
Contact Daniel J. Chacón at 986-3089 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @danieljchacon.