The City Council Finance Committee on Monday endorsed an agreement that will allow the city to assume responsibility for four stretches of roads previously owned and maintained by the state Department of Transportation.
The agreement shifts maintenance responsibilities for more than seven miles of thoroughfares, including approximately four miles of Cerrillos Road from Beckner Road to St. Michael’s Drive; about 2½ miles of St. Michael’s Drive, from Cerrillos to St. Francis Drive and St. Francis to Old Pecos Trail; and 1.2 miles of Old Pecos Trail between St. Michael’s and Rodeo Road.
The transfer agreement goes into effect Aug. 1, according to a city memo, and was approved 4-0 by the Finance Committee.
The Santa Fe City Council is expected to vote on the agreement at its May 12 meeting.
The road transfer agreement is a byproduct of the state’s decision to construct N.M. 599 to serve as a bypass for traffic on Cerrillos Road and St. Francis Drive. As a result, the city and the state executed an agreement outlining responsibilities for 15 state-administered roads inside the city, including Washington Avenue, Agua Fría Road, Airport Road and Guadalupe Street, with the agreement the city would assume control and maintenance in the future after a slate of upgrades.
Eleven of the 15 roads have already been transferred to the city, with the current agreement shifting the final four road portions into city possession. The exception is a 1.45-mile segment of Cerrillos Road from St. Michael’s Drive to St. Francis Drive.
The state Department of Transportation is in the design phase of a project to upgrade that stretch of road and will transfer the segment after the work is complete. The upgrades are expected to take two to three years.
The city will conduct upgrades to ramps and drainage inlets along St. Michael’s Drive and Old Pecos Trail to bring the streets up to date with federal American with Disabilities Act standards. The cost for the upgrades will be reimbursed by the state through a separate agreement.
The agreement increases the city’s “priority one” road maintenance responsibility — paved roads used as major arteries for emergency vehicles and buses — by 50 percent, according to a city memo.
To tackle the extra road mileage, the city’s Department of Public Works requested four new equipment operators and the purchase of a new sweeper and snow plow in the recently approved 2022 fiscal year budget.
City Public Works Director Regina Wheeler said the new employees will result in a new crew to maintain the additional road miles, but added the department’s Streets Division likely won’t have the equipment until later this year or early 2022.
Public Works Engineering Division Director Javier Rosado said the department is working to identify funding for the equipment.
Councilor Jamie Cassutt-Sanchez during the meeting questioned how the city would balance the new workload. But Wheeler earlier in the day said she doesn’t expect the new tasks to impact current responsibilities.
“We think with the crew, it will do the trick,” Wheeler said. “We are adding a crew, a snow plow and sweeper, and that should give the equipment and staff to maintain the roads without decreasing our level of service.”
City Councilor Carol Romero-Wirth said the transfer was an important step in the city’s streetlight conversion project, freeing the city to augment the streetlights to fit its preference. Streetlights on NMDOT roads are set to a specific kelvin, otherwise known as color temperature.