City leaders unveil plans for ‘Rail Trail’ project in Albuquerque

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – City leaders unveiled their grand vision for the Albuquerque Rail Trail Project Saturday. They say construction could start later this year.

The Rail Trail was first proposed as a walking path connecting the Albuquerque Rail Yards to downtown Albuquerque, and up towards Lomas.

But, it’s clear city leaders have a lot more planned for the project, including some new city landmarks.

The new Rail Trail is expected to pass right through a neon tumbleweed, and a new “Enchantment Plaza” near the Big-I.

City officials say the multi-level structure will include space for food trucks, vendors and other events on the ground. An elevated path will also give people views of the Sandia mountains in the distance.

Both of the structures are just part of the city’s grand vision for the Rail Trail Project. They’re planning to build it in phases.

Once complete, officials say it will be a seven-mile loop connecting some of Albuquerque’s most popular attractions and historic neighborhoods. 

“This is probably the largest public works undertaking since we literally built the zoo and the tram,” said Keller.  

Keller knows the planned rail project may seem too good to be true. But after nearly $40 million in investments from the city, state, and feds, he says the city is almost ready to break ground.

“The project is roughly half funded, and so that means we could start,” Keller said. 

World-renowned architect, Antoine Predock, unveiled his designs for the project Saturday, including new plazas, landmarks and an overall layout.

“We’ve kind of identified 11 different auras, or kind of historical areas along the trail areas that have a history that we can talk about,” said Terry Brunner, director of the Metropolitan Redevelopment Agency. 

Each of the areas will include certain attractions like the neon tumbleweed, or enchantment plaza. But most of those will come later.

“We’re excited to start hopefully with a central crossing which will be an at grade crossing with ramps at Central to eliminate the dangerous underpass that we have for pedestrians,” said Brunner.  

Officials with the Metropolitan Redevelopment Agency believe construction on that crossing will begin this fall, and some parts of the trail soon after.

“Potentially Sawmill or that length from Rail Yards all the way up to Lomas. Those are probably our first sections,” Brunner said.  

City leaders predict the finished trail will be a major tourist attraction, but they also believe it will bring new life to downtown Albuquerque.

“What we’ve learned from a lot of other cities is when they’re able to rehab their downtowns with a major tourism or amenity or attraction, it really helps drive downtown improvements,” said Brunner.  

Keller believes that impact will spread even beyond Albuquerque.

“When we pull this off, almost every New Mexican will know about the Rail Trail and will have experiences with it,” said Keller.  

City leaders say the renderings are their plans moving forward. There are still a few parts of the trail that are in the planning stage, but officials predict the full trail could be completed by 2027.