A preliminary design for future paths along upper Meadowlark Lane shows an uphill bike path along the south side of the road while cyclists would be expected to use the regular eastbound traffic lane going down. The road shoulder along the north side of upper Meadowlark would be designated for horse riders and carriages. At a sparsely-attended public meeting July 8, Village Engineer Steve Grollman briefed three members of the Village Council and three members of the Village’s Bicycle-Pedestrian Advisory Commission. It was the start of what Village Administrator Ron Curry had said would be a wide-open re-assessment of trail options after state highway officials nixed a multi-purpose paved path along the north side of the road due to non-compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXX No.1 February 20, 2021 “Corrales Returns $167,417 Meant for Meadowlark Trails.”)
During his briefing July 8, Grollman proposed constructing a ten-foot wide asphalt path between the subdivisions’ walls on the south side of the road and the existing eastbound driving lane. That path, for pedestrians and cyclists, would be designated for bikes headed uphill, or westward, only. Cyclists headed eastward, downhill, would be expected to use the regular driving lane along with cars and trucks. A six-inch high curb would divide the bike path from the adjacent driving lane. At each of the five roads leading into subdivisions along the south side of upper Meadowlark, Grollman said crosswalks would be painted on the trail pavement. Listening to the discussion, which included no objections from members of the Bicycle, Pedestrial Advisory Commission, Curry was optimistic. “I would like to think it could be done by the end of the year,” he ventured.
But at least two potential problems arise. First, unless no-passing rules are strictly enforced, cyclists in the eastbound traffic lane may be at exceptional risk near the medians. Second, cyclists making a right turn from southbound Loma Larga onto westbound Meadowlark could easily find themselves where they don’t want to be. The lane they should use going west is on the south side of that busy intersection, and could be difficult to access.
How horse riders would be expected to cross Loma Larga at the Meadowlark intersection remains unexplained as well, although that problem was raised years ago. Neither Grollman nor Curry indicated when the next opportunity for public input on the trail proposal will come. At the July 8 meeting, Grollman said he was about two-thirds finished with the design.
Back in August 2018, the engineer in charge of construction plans for reconfiguration of upper Meadowlark, Brad Sumrall of Weston Solutions, told the Village Council that the south side of the road from Loma Larga to the Rio Rancho boundary would remain pretty much as is, the terrain to be graded, with existing vegetation removed for a horse riding path. A proposed paved, multi-use path was to be constructed along the north side of the road, but even then, that part was expected to be more complicated, especially with steeper terrain near the top.
In a nutshell, the design and engineering for the proposed asphalt path showed grades going east-west and north-south that were too steep for safe wheelchair access. Sumrall had sought a waiver from ADA requirements, but that was rejected. A work-around involving flattening terrain on homeowners’ driveways was abandoned. So the strategy was that the trails portion would be accomplished with Village funds alone which, presumably, would not need to meet state-federal regulations, Curry suggested. Returning the money provided by N.M. Department of Transportation would be “the first step in restarting the whole process,” he added. That was to involve starting over with consultations among residents along upper Meadowlark, and the community in general, as to what is desired along the road connecting Loma Larga to bike lanes in Rio Rancho.
In February of this year, Curry said he expected to launch a new public involvement effort in April 2021, starting with consultations with the current Village Council member representing the upper Meadowlark neighborhood, Tyson Parker, joined by its previous representative, Dave Dornburg, who had indicated a desire to participate. First proposed well more than a decade ago, the project secured funding through the Mid-Region Council of Governments for a bicycle connection between the two municipalities. But the Village declined the money after the Village Council was caught up in homeowners’ disputes mainly about drainage. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXX, No.10, July 9, 2011 “Corrales Gives Back $160,000 for Upper Meadowlark Trail.” )
But proponents kept the project alive, building support community wide. Village officials conceded that more preliminary, conceptual work should have been done, especially regarding drainage.
In July 2013, villagers convened for a planning charrette to develop realistic proposals for better using the exceptionally wide right-of-way.
The sessions led by Architectural Research Consultants under contract to the Village attempted to resolve ongoing conflicts over the future of upper Meadowlark Neighbor-against-neighbor conflict had erupted over anticipated disruptions from the earlier funded project to construct bike trails along one or both sides of upper Meadowlark. Residents claimed the proposed changes might dump stormwater run-off onto their adjacent property, would increase traffic unbearably, make it difficult to safely exit their driveways onto Meadowlark and obliterate their frontage landscaping. Proponents noted that upper Meadowlark is one of the few Village roads where plenty of right-of-way exists to accommodate multi-modal transportation, that bike lanes there would significantly improve opportunities for bicycle commuting, and that, as an inter-municipal project, funding had been allocated for it.
From the beginning, opponents argued that funding provided through the Mid-region Council of Governments was nowhere near adequate to do the project right. No funds, for example, were provided for anticipated costs of managing drainage from the modified roadway. The council chambers were packed for the contentious April 12, 2011 council meeting at which the Meadowlark trail (as a stand-alone project not accompanying re-construction of the driving lanes as well) was voted down. Several of those residents spoke at the council meeting, citing safety issues, especially given the sight distances when they try to pull out from their driveways onto Meadowlark, and drainage concerns. They were apparently struck by Village Engineer Steve Grollman’s admission that the funding available to design the bike trail and compacted earth path did not specifically include money for drainage issues.