Thursday, December 22, 2005

A Vision for Montaño: 2020

The following was written by Pauline Sargent and read to the Metropolitan Transportation Board of the Mid-Region Council of Governments on Monday, December 19, 2005. It is reprinted here with the author's permission:

Picture This…

The year is 2020. It’s October and the cottonwoods along the Rio Grande are shimmering gold. Sandhill cranes can be heard warbling their calls from the fields near the river. The water is flowing peacefully under the Montaño Bridge and people from all over the state are on the bridge: they are sitting on benches, walking, pushing strollers, biking, and riding their horses along the wide paths on either side of the light rail tracks that run down the center of the bridge. Our long awaited goal has finally been achieved. The Montaño Light Rail Corridor is completed and declared a success.

In 2015 the last personal motorized vehicle (car, truck, motorcycle, whatever) crossed the bridge. Since then, only non-motorized vehicles, pedestrians, and natural gas powered Rapid Ride buses have been allowed on the bridge. The ridership on the buses slowly but surely increased since they began running in 2008 and the Park&Ride lots are now full Monday through Friday. With the increase in public transportation throughout the city, commuters can park on the west side and ride quickly to their jobs on the east side and in downtown Albuquerque. With the removal of personal motorized vehicles the pedestrian and bicycle traffic on the bridge has increased exponentially. Walks along the newly established acequia trails that wind through the valley neighborhoods to the Bosque and to the bridge are common weekend pastimes. On weekday evenings dog walkers, runners, and bicyclists are everywhere. Tourists come by the busload to the Rio Grande Park to walk through the Bosque and out onto the river over the Montaño Bridge. They go home wishing that their hometown had the same wonderful greenways that make Albuquerque such a great place to live.

But today – October of 2020 – the bridge is even better. The buses have gone and the only sound of vehicles crossing the bridge is the swoosh of the light rail as it pulls into one of the stations at either end. In the middle of the bridge, between trains, the only traffic one can hear is the distant, muffled roar of I-40 and Paseo del Norte. The sounds of the river dominate. Birds. Water flowing, Kids playing. Bicycles passing. The occasional horse clip clopping along the path. The air is sweet and the sky in that very special blue that only New Mexico in October can boast of. It is a wonderful day for the people of Albuquerque and for our growing appreciation of the great, the grand, Rio Grande.
I would add: In the middle of the bridge there is a plaque that reads: "We are grateful to the forward thinking city and state leaders of 2005/2006 who had this vision and made it happen." Signed: The People of Albuquerque.