Site of, hopefully, future notch of South Diversion Channel Trail at Rio Bravo
Chances are you were one of the throng riding, rolling, running or walking along one of our undeniable treasures, the Paseo del Bosque Trail yesterday. I'd say chances are good, because it sure seemed like 99.4% of all City residents were out on an 80 degree, light wind Sunday.
And that's okay, for while not quite everybody knows the "rules" of interaction on the Trail (yes, I'm looking at you, bike racer guy), the shared community experience of being together in the outdoors on that ribbon of asphalt alongside that ribbon of water is very, very good for the collective soul. Our extensive multi-use path trail system, including Paseo del Bosque along the Rio Grande and arroyo trail throughout, has gotta be in the top 2 or 3 greatest things about this town. Maybe top 1.
As everyone knows, because everyone was out on the Paseo del Bosque yesterday, the Trail runs basically from Alameda in the far North Valley to south of Rio Bravo in the far South Valley, before curling east alongside the Tijeras Arroyo and then back up the South Diversion Channel to form the "Chavez Loop."
The whole stretch from Alameda down and back up to Rio Bravo at Broadway is just about 25 miles. That's 25 miles with zero automobile interaction, with pretty much only the flaming testosterone of bike racer guy to worry about. It's beautiful.
But you know what would make it even more beautiful?
As alluded to above, the Chavez Loop isn't really a "loop," but a semi-circle. After curling around and north to Rio Bravo, the glorious Paseo del Bosque Trail ignominiously ends, currently, at the multi-use death trap that is Broadway at Rio Bravo. To add poignancy to the sudden drop in multi-use safety, one gets to ride a path about 100 feet east to the maw that is Rio Bravo/Broadway itself before staring up at the extraordinarily dangerous Rio Bravo/I-25 interchange. It's truly the end of the multi-use road.
And yeah, you can also basically put your multi-modal tail between your legs, making your way west along Rio Bravo past the dangers of the 2nd St. intersection to the Bosque Trail again. It's okay, but, again, a forlorn southern end to a fabulous Trail.
But what if the Bosque Path could be extended, as a multi-use path with zero car interaction, north and east pretty much all the way back to UNM?
Here's how: Extend the Trail back north/east along the South Diversion Channel.
Crudely highlighted in red above, the South Diversion Channel continues north of Rio Bravo through industrial and unimproved South Valley all the way past where the Sunport Extension is supposed to happen (ask me about how that project is going sometime), underneath I-25 and onward beneath Gibson, then splitting east to University and north to Avenida Cesar Chavez, ending finally just south of Milne Stadium and Roosevelt Park in what is now the far southern reaches of UNM.
In addition to the tangible appeal of lengthening the Bosque Trail experience, extending the South Diversion Channel path also addresses a host of South Valley multi-modal transport dilemmas. Most prominent among these is the age-old "How the Hell do I cross I-25 without killing myself (or having somebody else do it for me)?"
Additionally, a series of "notches" similar to those used at Montaño in the Bosque Path and throughout (almost all) of the North Diversion Channel would eliminate crossing traffic at problematic streets such as Gibson. Assuming the Sunport Extension finally happens, adding such a notch there will be an important part of the overall planning for that long, long, long-awaited project.
Speaking of long, the idea to extend a path on the South Diversion Channel has been around for a long time and is most definitely part of the area's 2040 Long Range Bikeway Map as shown below:
Note: The dashed green lines are "Proposed, Paved Trail"
One thing to keep in mind when looking at the 2040 Long Range Bikeway Map is that there are at least 100 improvement projects (new bike lanes, extended multi-use paths, etc.) on the Map, but no indication on how these over 100 projects are prioritized. Where do we start?
Well, I'm arguing we should start, or at least highly prioritize, extending the South Diversion Channel. Atop all the excellent reasons for doing so, two impending road construction projects make such work more time-critical. One is the aforementioned and unfortunately delayed Sunport Extension. The other is the two-year construction period coming up to build the next iteration of the I-25/Rio Bravo Interchange. That work will include ZERO bike/pedestrian detours across I-25, meaning cyclists/walkers will either have to cross I-25 quite a bit further south at Bobby Foster, or go north to Bridge (okay, that's too dangerous) or further north to Coal.
No, I am not naively arguing that extension of South Diversion Channel start tomorrow and be done in time for the pending construction at I-25/Rio Bravo. Instead, I cite these projects to show how lacking safe multi-modal options are from the South Valley to Southeast Albuquerque. The North Valley, for example, has the Paseo del Norte trail running east off of Paseo del Bosque. From there, riders can hit the northern stretch of the North Diversion Channel. It's great!
Well, the South Valley network of multi-use path can be just as great, IF the South Diversion Channel is extended. Moreover, such an extension would achieve a near 100% connection back to the North Diversion Channel, requiring a rider/walker to merely use lightly-trafficked Buena Vista (or other options) up across UNM Main Campus to the southern terminus of that Trail.
Think about it! Picture that!
We can turn that forlorn look up the hyper-dangerous Rio Bravo from the current edge of the Paseo del Bosque/Chavez "Loop" into miles and more miles of car-free trail, while safely crossing I-25 and connecting back to "civilization" and all the other fabulous parts of our terrific Bosque/Arroyo-based trail system.
Are there obstacles? Will it take time, money and (hopefully not) right-of-way purchasing? Is there a Superfund site or two to possibly contend with?
Yes, possibly, to all of the above. Still, extending the South Diversion Channel Trail is a project very much worth the hassle of addressing these issues. I hope to see you some day, even bike racer guy, riding the other direction as we cross paths on the trail between, say, Sunport and I-25.
I'll be sure to ring my bell and say "hi."