By Dennis Domrzalski

New Mexico Business Weekly

Thursday, February 12, 2004

A $55 million to $70 million commuter rail line running through Albuquerque from Belen to Bernalillo will be operating by July of 2005, Gov. Bill Richardson announced Thursday.

The Belen to Bernalillo run is the first phase of Richardson’s plan to run commuter train service to Santa Fe.

“The process to create a commuter rail line is well underway. We are the only state in the West to make a commitment to commuter rail. We want to be a beachhead to say that rail works,” Richardson said during a talk at the Alvarado.

Transportation Center in Downtown Albuquerque.
Richardson said the state has $30 million in pocket for the project, and is looking to the federal government for the other $25 million. The money would be spent on upgrading tracks and signal systems and on commuter rail cars, Richardson said.

The line would run on the tracks of the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railroad. State officials are currently negotiating with the railroad on issues relating to the commuter service, Richardson said.

Lawrence Rael, executive director of the Middle Rio Grande Council of Governments, said the Belen to Bernalillo route would have six to eight stations, including stops in downtown Albuquerque, Belen, Los Lunas and Bernalillo. Service would initially be Monday-through Friday from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., Rael said.

The cost of the project is cheap when compared to highway projects, Rael said.

For instance, the reconstruction of the Coors and I-40 interchange on Albuquerque’s Westside will cost $75 million to $90 million, Rael said.