A common — and sometimes justified — complaint among residents of Santa Fe is that government officials too often don’t ask their input on big decisions until it’s too late.
Everything from the design of a new museum in the Railyard to construction of a water pipeline has to be debated. Right at the moment of decision, though, it is common for people to pipe up, loudly protesting they weren’t consulted and whatever decision has been made is wrong.
Well, it’s time to weigh in again. And this time, there must be no excuse that people’s opinions weren’t heard. From 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Santa Fe residents should show up at the Santa Fe Higher Education Center, 1950 Siringo Road, at a meeting held by the city Public Works Department to discuss a possible extension of Richards Avenue.
The meeting is part of a $250,000 study by the city of Santa Fe considering whether the city should build a bridge across the Arroyo de los Chamisos, connecting Richards Avenue between Siringo and Rodeo roads. Other options are on the table as well, including connecting Richards Avenue farther west, toward Vegas Verdes.
Supporters say the connection would make traffic move more smoothly from areas south of Rodeo Road, while detractors believe the road extension wouldn’t alleviate enough traffic to make up for disruption to the homes along Richards Avenue.
With this issue, listening to the public won’t be enough, either. Depending on where you live, your opinion is likely to change. Residents who live in subdivisions such as Rancho Viejo want easier access to town. Folks along Avenida las Campanas and Camino Carlos Rey would like reduced traffic by their homes. The people on Richards Avenue between Siringo and Cerrillos roads fear connecting Richards to Rodeo Road could destroy their peace and quiet.
All of those issues can and must be debated, along with the bigger issue of how better to move traffic around Santa Fe, since outlying developments often have outpaced road capacity. The issue of access to Interstate 25 from Richards Avenue must be part of any extension discussion; people living in the developments past the Santa Fe Community College need more ways to reach other parts of Santa Fe.
The question to be answered is what project(s) are best able to make that reasonable goal happen without hurting the quality of life in other parts of town. Where is the best place to connect Richards Avenue? Can mass transit or better bicycle paths be part of the solutions? After all, travel by car or truck is not the only way of moving people around — especially not in a city and region dedicated to reducing carbon emissions. There’s a lot weighing on the possible connection of one road. That’s why people need to pay attention.
The extension of Richards Avenue has been debated, and then rejected, for decades. The concerns of residents in the Bellamah neighborhood have won out in the past; the sheer numbers of people who need to get from one place to another in Santa Fe could change the conclusions this time around.
No decision is set in stone — yet. Now is the moment to show up and become informed. Otherwise, the decision will be made without enough public input. When that happens, we all lose.