The idea of building a new road across the Arroyo de los Chamisos, which would extend Richards Avenue between Siringo and Rodeo roads, has long been a topic of discussion and debate in Santa Fe.
Expect the contentious issue to be back in the forefront in the new year.
Officials with the city’s Public Works Department are holding a neighborhood meeting Jan. 16 to solicit public input on the idea as part of a nearly $250,000 study that will reexamine the possibility of building a crossing over the arroyo, which has served as a roadblock to connecting Richards Avenue.
The so-called early neighborhood notification meeting will be from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Santa Fe Higher Education Center, 1950 Siringo Road.
The study will look at various alternatives. While it will analyze extending Richards Avenue between Siringo and Rodeo roads — which some residents of the Bellamah neighborhood have opposed in the past — it will evaluate at least two other options, including connecting Richards Avenue farther west, toward Vegas Verdes.
Efforts to reach Regina Wheeler, the city’s public works director, and John Romero, director of the city’s Engineering Division, before publication were unsuccessful.
News of the city studying an arroyo crossing generated largely positive responses on Facebook.
“Finally!!!” Rachael Hemann wrote in a post on the Santa Fe Bulletin Board Facebook page.
“I’m a Bellamah resident and would appreciate the new street,” wrote Kim Currie. “Great news.”
Others, however, were less enthusiastic.
“Oh oh,” wrote Rose Gonzales. “Lots of unneeded traffic in that little neighborhood!”
The north and south ends of the road, which are separated by the arroyo and the rodeo grounds, have never touched.
The two stretches of roadway are connected by a dirt and gravel path that only emergency responders are allowed to use, forcing many motorists to cut through residential streets to access the south end — which leads to Santa Fe Community College and some of the city’s newest and biggest subdivisions — or the north end, which carries traffic to Cerrillos Road and Agua Fría Street.
District 4 City Councilor Jamie Cassutt-Sanchez, who was sworn into office Wednesday, said she’s taking a wait-and-see approach.
“This is actually one of those projects that is really high on my list” to gather information about, she said, adding that data collected in the study will help guide her decision.
“Making decisions without all the information is not the correct course of action to take,” she said. “Information is good. We should be making informed decisions.”
Cassutt-Sanchez said she heard from area residents on opposite sides of the issue while she was on the campaign trail.
The other District 4 city councilor, JoAnne Vigil Coppler, has said residential streets such as Camino Carlos Rey and Avenida de las Campanas are being inundated with traffic because Richards Avenue doesn’t connect.
“It’s certainly been a political issue,” she said a year ago. “Sometimes those issues don’t gain traction, but we shouldn’t stop trying to alleviate our traffic congestion. It’s really unbelievable.”
Cassutt-Sanchez said she doesn’t know whether a crossing will alleviate traffic. That’s a question the study will hopefully answer, she said.
“I’m not a traffic expert, so I think that is one of those really important questions that we need to be looking [at] in this study,” she said. “Not only what happens if we do the extension but also what are the ramifications if we don’t.”