Stop your huffing: Train could save us from traffic horrors
By V.B. Price - Tribune Columnist
December 17, 2005
Trying to stay alive driving down from Santa Fe in the 5 o'clock rush hour this week, I thought again of how sane it will be one day to hop a train in Albuquerque, read for an hour and arrive refreshed at the capital.
The train idea has attracted a lot of boring bellyaching from chronic doubters, skeptics and government-haters. I'm tired of it. A passenger train to Santa Fe and beyond could well be one of the greatest boons to New Mexico commuters and small towns in the north-central part of the state since the first coming of the railroad in l879.
The rail line would take cars off the interstate, reduce air pollution and traffic deaths and save petroleum and could give us a new economic lifeline to help create business opportunities from Belen to Raton.
It's unfashionable to praise politicians these days. But just as Rio Grande bosque preservation owes its success largely to the vision and persistence of Sen. Pete Domenici, so does Gov. Bill Richardson get the credit for his imagination and tenacity in pushing for a passenger rail line through the middle Rio Grande Valley.
Such public transit like this used to be just a pipe dream of exhausted commuters and alternative-transportation lobbyists. Richardson has made it real.
We've all had enough of crazy speeders, loony weavers, tailgaters and avalanching 18-wheelers crashing down La Baja Hill just behind us. If it isn't the wreck that brings traffic to a standstill for four hours, then it's the insane lead foot with 14 DWIs careening over the median.
Driving in New Mexico is a living nightmare. What a boon a quiet train ride would be to everyone's peace of mind.
I can't help but think that Las Vegas, N.M., would experience a mini-boom of commuters and shoppers from Santa Fe or that Bernalillo, Los Lunas and Belen would have an economic uptick from not only commuter businesses but also from diners and other revelers from time to time.
And I'm sure Albuquerque's museums and rich cultural life, so frequently bypassed by Santa Fe vacationers, could get a real boost from travelers interested in the full New Mexican experience. The key is to keep ticket prices down and make sure the destinations along the route can accommodate nondriving visitors.
What a difference the people-friendly and pro-environment brainstorm of a passenger train is, compared with the dunderheaded, sledgehammer politics that have all but wrecked traffic flow in Albuquerque's mid-North Valley with the Montaņo Road Bridge and that will despoil a site held sacred to native peoples and compromise the Petroglyph National Monument with the extension of Paseo del Norte.
This train idea has revived my hope, somewhat, for the sanity of transportation politics in our state.
Price is an Albuquerque freelance writer, author, editor and commentator.