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Update! La Posta Sidewalk/Safe Routes to Schools Project - You can help!

26
Aug

Update! La Posta Sidewalk/Safe Routes to Schools Project – You can help!

After a summer working with our allies to get the La Posta Sidewalk/Safe Routes to Schools project on the Town of Taos Infrastructure Capital Improvement Plan (ICIP) we are happy to tell you that we are almost there! Being on the ICIP will help to get our project in front of potential funding opportunities.

This doesn’t mean we are golden yet, however. We still need to make sure the council actually puts us on the ICIP and then we will continue to go after funding. This is really just a first step.

You can help by dropping a note to the Taos Town Council urging them to make sure the La Posta Sidewalk project is on the final ICIP list that will be voted on by the full council September 10. Also, urge them to get the project in the Top 10 of items on the list.

A Quick Recap

The Taos Land Trust has been working on trails and walkability in and around the Town of Taos since 2015. To be frank, walking in Taos is dangerous. Even on sidewalks. This is not a town built to accommodate any sort of non-vehicular transportation and making the town walkable or bikeable has never been a priority.

The primary goal of the La PostaSidewalk/Safe Routes project is to create a safe walking route between Taos High School, Taos Integrated School of the Arts (TISA), local business and Rio Fernando Park and Fred Baca Park. Improvements to this 10-block (.75 mi) route along La Posta Road would provide over 900 students, area residents and students safe walking access to these parks. Furthermore, it would connect dozens of small businesses, medical services, and several low-income residential neighborhoods. It also connects the main highway and the primary bike route which both cross La Posta.

The sidewalk along the north side of La Posta from Paseo to Salazar is in terrible condition. It is too narrow, crumbling in spots, and overgrown with vegetation. Further complicating navigation, there are a number of places the sidewalk slopes to the street (old driveways?). It is not ADA compliant. Students and residents who use the route report that it is uncomfortable to use even on the best days due to the high traffic speeds along the road. During rain events cars splash water onto the sidewalk and pedestrians. In the winter, after we get snow, the sidewalk is impassible and students and residents walk in the road. For homes, businesses and organizations, specifically Dream Tree, on the south side of La Posta there is simply no safe way to walk. Dream Tree residents and staff report that they have to dash through traffic in order to cross the road or walk along the narrow dirt path that has developed along that side of the road. A Dream Tree resident was hit early this year WHILE ON THE SIDEWALK. Then there is the section from Salazar down where no sidewalk exists. La Posta is also considered a bike route but riders rarely use it again due to the speed of traffic. It is just plain dangerous.

Much of the current route needs simple improvements. About 1,500 feet with existing sidewalk needs to be improved, widened and made compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Another 1,000 feet needs a new sidewalk, and 1,000 feet will be a path through Rio Fernando Park to Fred Baca Park. There will need to be safe crosswalks constructed at the intersection of La Posta and Salazar Road.

Besides improving access for local residents and students creating this safe sidewalk route will increase safety, reduce traffic, pollution and wear and tear on infrastructure, reduce speeding (a significant problem throughout our community) and finally, it will have a positive economic impact on local businesses.

We’ve had the fortune of working on this with a broad coalition or partners who would either benefit from the improved sidewalk or understand the need. The administration and teachers at Taos High School have been a great help as has TISA, DreamTree Project, Albertson’s, Mountain Home Health, Knight Financial, Taos Alive, TiLT, and Taos Gems and Minerals.

All along, we’ve had great support from the Taos Town Council and the town management. However, our town in under severe financial constraints. As a result, there is a laundry list of important unmet needs in our town – and yet we can’t get the La Post Safe Route built out without the help of the town.

MONEY! Money! Money! 

Given the constraints the town is under we’ve been doing as much of the heavy lifting on this project as possible to help. In July, Maya Anthony was able to work with some infrastructure experts and to build out a cost estimate for the project.  Here is what she came up with:

  • Conduct ADA inventory to identify areas of concern – $10-$12,000
  • Complete topographic survey of the project area – $15-$18,000
  • Complete construction documents – $30-$35,000
  • This all results in a total estimated cost of $55-$65,000

Construction is another matter. We received an estimate of about $350,000 but that number is dependent on the ADA inventory and some other factors so that number could shift.  And so, all totaled we THINK we are looking at approximately $415,000 in costs to get the La Posta Safe Route built out.

There are some caveats here that need addressing.

First, we realize this price doesn’t include the costs of any land acquisition that MIGHT need to happen, so the actual costs will be higher. Still, we don’t estimate the whole project to cost more than $750,000.

Second, for clarity, this cost estimate assumes the improvements will be along only one side of the road and given land-ownership patterns in Taos, this only makes sense.

It is also important to consider that the Right of Way (ROW) is somewhat restrictive so it may not be possible to obtain ADA compliance throughout the entire length of the route – if and where that’s the case, the cost estimate would include obtaining approval for areas of exception.

Along the section of the road from the Salazar intersection to Rio Fernando Park, the road is wide enough that the town may not need to obtain land from the two landowners. That remains to be seen after the topographic survey of the area. We all know that speeding cars in Taos is a major problem so narrowing that section of the road by even 2-3 feet will help reduce speeds and increase safety for both drivers, walkers and bikers.

Once we get on the ICIP for 2020-2021 we will continue exploring funding options in tandem with the Town. As we promised when we first came before the council, we are looking at a number of funding sources to help get this process moving. There is CMAQ-Flex funding, BUILD grants and others to start. We will also be approaching the state legislature and our Congressional representatives. We don’t have any illusion that we will for certain be able to find funding for the whole project but we aim to move it forward in order to make it more “shovel ready” and thus more attractive to continued funding sources.

Please contact us with any questions or any suggestions on funding sources!

And drop a note to the Town of Taos Council about the ICIP!

 

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