I read with concern Steven Valdez’s letter (“Connect Richards now,” Feb. 14), arguing that it “definitely is a no-brainer” to pave a Richards Avenue connection. Projects that cost millions of dollars are not “no-brainers.” Arguing that neighbors who oppose this costly project are “only concerned about their property” is incorrect.

Property owners have every right to be concerned about their property values; likely Valdez is concerned with his if he owns a home. For many homeowners in the affected area, their houses represent their life savings.

But the proposed routes across the arroyo raise a variety of other problems that bear careful thought. They run through relatively narrow residential streets with speed bumps, so none is easily traversable between Cerrillos and Rodeo roads. Also, no methodology is provided in the preliminary report indicating how the figures on the number of cars that would use the proposed routes were calculated.

No proposed route seems likely to carry the numbers of cars projected. Given the distances to the Institute of American Indian Arts and Santa Fe Community College, the real connection will be to Genoveva Chavez Community Center. To spend millions of dollars on creating that connection at the same time that the city is engaged in trying to redevelop the midtown campus is worrisome. Just how many major projects can the city afford?

The report also argues that the project will not affect water flow in the arroyo, based on 100-year floodplain maps. In a time of intense climate change, those maps are hardly predictive.

In the summer of 2018, after very heavy rainfall, the arroyo nearly overflowed its banks. The proximity of many houses and businesses to the arroyo on both sides means that flood control considerations must be a priority in weighing the costs and benefits of the project.

It is fair to ask: Will this project actually change driving patterns as much as those in favor argue that it will? As planning goes forward, what, it must also be asked, will be the project’s mid- and long-term financial, environmental and even recreational costs to Santa Feans?

Susan Kellogg is a historian who lives in Santa Fe.

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