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Governor breaks ground for rail station

By Jackie Schlotfeldt – News-Bulletin.com

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

With the sound of passing freight trains sometimes interrupting the ceremony, Gov. Bill Richardson and local leaders broke ground for the new Rail Runner commuter station in Belen Tuesday afternoon. The Rail Runner Express is scheduled to begin running from Belen to Bernalillo this summer.

“We are making history today in Belen,” Richardson said. “Belen’s population has grown and so has New Mexico’s. That’s why we need a world class rail system to match what we’ve become — a vibrant and fast growing state.” Richardson noted that Belen has a history of rail service and rail workers that goes back a long time. “We are investing in New Mexico’s future,” he said. “It’s the wave of the future.”

The Belen station is one of nine scheduled to be built along the Rail Runner route. The first phase will cost $50 million, which includes five locomotives and 10 passenger cars, as well as the stations.

“This is a historic day for transportation in Belen,” Richardson said. “It’s like going back to the future. It will be a fast, clean and affordable way to travel.”

The Belen station will be located at the end of De Soto Avenue and will have approximately 220 parking spaces.

Mayor Ronnie Torres said he was glad to be a part of the new commuter rail. “I see people from Bernalillo here, and I don’t care if we’re (Belen) considered the head or the tail of the route,” Torres said. “I’m glad we are a part of history and the Rail Runner will be treated with respect and pride.”

Although many people were involved in making the project a reality, Torres said, “It’s the folks behind the scenes who do the work.”

Calls from all over have come in asking if this is the Belen that is on the commuter Rail Runner route, Torres said. “We haven’t had that many calls in a long time.”

Torres invited people who live further north to come down to Belen’s Winter Snow Queen Festival and he said, in turn, Valencia County residents will go to Bernalillo County for such events as the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta.

“We’ll all become that much closer together,” he said. He added that, at the Belen Model Train display at the Harvey House Museum, the

Rail Runner has been running for months — “although space is limited,” he said.

Twin Mountain Construction will build the station’s platform, which should take about two months to construct.

“This is a brand new transportation alternative that will not only serve the people of the area for years to come, but also spur important economic growth and development,” Lawrence Rael, executive director of the Mid-Region Council of Governments, said in a press release.


New Lego exhibit at the Wheels Museum. View The New Mexico Lego Users Group has
partnered with WHEELS to have a beautiful Lego Train layout for children of all ages to enjoy. The exhibit will vary from season to season and we invite you to come see this new Lego train exhibit.

January 8, 15, 22, 29 – Sunday morning admission free from 9 am-1 pm at the Albuquerque Museum and the City’s International Balloon Museum.

Do you have a few hours each month to help the Wheels Museum? Volunteers are needed so the Museum can be open more; run the model railroad trains, also help needed with events, marketing, fund raising. Call Leba Freed at (505) 243-6269.

Febuary 16, 11 am. Bob Bovee Long Steel Rails concert. This program for all ages presents songs and stories about the famous trains, rail workers, hobos, train wrecks and train robbers. Call or email Leba Freed for reservations at (505) 243-6269 or leba4@aol.com.

March 17, Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day at WHEELS. Movie, tours, train ride and food celebration.

April 1, 1 pm. Doug Figgs and Badger. Back by popular demand. By reservations only (505) 243- 6269. Doug’s show was sold out last year, so call early! Donation: $10.00.

April 8, 11 am. “Historic Albuquerque” Ronn Perea will present old Albuquerque anecdotes including delightful stories about our beloved Alvarado Hotel and the politicians, actors and entertainers who stayed there. This is a free event but, of course, donations are always appreciated.

April 22, Wheels Museum Day trip to Rancho De Chimayo Restaurante, El Santuario de Chimayo and the Santa Fe Plaza. Call Leba or Janet at (505) 243-6269 for more information. The museum is a 501C3 non-profit community organization whose mission is to create a transportation museum at the downtown Albuquerque Steam Locomotive Repair Shops.

May 19-May 23, Train trip to the Grand Canyon. Only a few spaces left.Scheduled through Amtrak Vacations, call Leba or Janet at (505) 243-6269 for reservations and more information.