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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The New Mexico Rail Runner Express Fits Into A New Vision For Bernalillo County - Mass Transit Magazine Feature

Source: New Mexico Rail Runner Express (Press Release)

With the New Mexico Rail Runner Express bringing a steady flow of commuters in and out of the station at Rio Bravo and south Second Street, the Bernalillo County / International Sunport Rail Runner station is poised to play an important role in the future of the South Valley. The Bernalillo County Commission last night unanimously adopted the “Bernalillo County / International Sunport Station Area Plan” which is designed to help the area transform into a mixed-use area offering local and regional employment and retail opportunities, housing, and other amenities.

“The Rail Runner introduces a range of new opportunities for the South Valley”, says Lawrence Rael, Executive Director of the Mid-Region Council of Governments. “In addition to providing a much-needed transportation alternative for South Valley residents with direct connections to Downtown and to Santa Fe, the Rail Runner makes the area more attractive to high quality residential, retail and office uses. Achieving these new opportunities necessitates rethinking the infrastructure investments in the area – basically, what roads are built and how they are designed – what land uses are permitted by the area’s zoning, and how the new buildings are designed. The Station Area Plan defines these new directions and indicates the County’s commitment to the new future for the area.”

“The Station Area Plan is the product of the efforts and cooperation by business and property owners in the South Valley, Bernalillo County, the Mid-Region Council of Governments, and residents who live in the area. The plan presents an exciting new future for the area” said Bernalillo County Commissioner Art de la Cruz, whose district includes the land covered by the plan.

The plan focuses on the area within a quarter-to-half-mile – basically, walking distance – from the station. The area’s large parcels of vacant land will provide a center of neighborhood serving retail and employment space, which will be designed to encourage walking to and from the Rail Runner and other transit connections. The plan brings with it an elective alternative zoning classification that allows mixed uses, higher density, and development standards to create a pedestrian environment. The plan also defines specific improvements – such as pedestrian and bike paths – that will help the station better serve existing residents and businesses in the Mountain View neighborhood.

The planning effort was a collaborative effort by Bernalillo County and the Mid-Region Council of Governments. MRCOG has actively worked with communities along the Rail Runner corridor to help identify economic and land use opportunities near the Rail Runner station and to plan for infrastructure and policy actions to help achieve the visions for the areas.

In other Rail Runner News:

The New Mexico Rail Runner Express got the cover spot on this month’s Mass Transit Magazine – a national publication dedicated to critical issues in our nation’s transit industry.

“This is great public relations for New Mexico”, says Lawrence Rael, Executive Director of the Mid-Region Council of Governments. “We are certainly proud of the job we’ve done to bring commuter rail to our citizens, and now the rest of the country can read about it. This really puts New Mexico on the map.”

The article in Mass Transit delves into what it took to bring commuter rail to New Mexico’s central valley – from the planning and funding stages all the way through the construction and equipment stages – to eventually getting the train on the track in July of 2006. In addition to this in-depth look at the New Mexico Rail Runner Express, there are a number of photos that show the train with its very unique industry-breaking design as it is pictured in various high desert settings throughout the corridor in which it travels.

This article is something that New Mexicans can read and be proud of”, adds Rael. “The Rail Runner represents the fastest start-up of a commuter rail system in the country over the last 25-years, and that’s a huge credit to the citizens of New Mexico who have truly embraced this clean, convenient transportation alternative.”

Mass Transit Magazine is read by more than 20,000 public transportation leaders across the U.S. Those wishing to read the article can view it at the link below.

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