|With planners working on construction documents and a key state organization strongly hinting that it will fund at least a part of the overall effort, a $5 million renovation of Fourth Street in Barelas looks set to proceed this year or soon thereafter.
The project, which covers the area between Coal and just north of César Chávez, entails a laundry list of changes designed to slow down traffic, make life easier for pedestrians, and generally beautify the area.
Throughout the stretch, plans call for sidewalk and ramp work, curb extensions aimed at slowing down cars and reducing the overall length of crosswalks, and an extensive collection of trees. But special attention is paid to three intersections: At Coal, long thought of as a kind of gateway to the Barelas neighborhood from the Downtown core, there would be a prominent crosswalk and landscaping arrangement. Stover will feature the plaza pictured above. And further south, Barelas Road is to be reconfigured so that it approaches Fourth in a perpendicular fashion, rather than the current x-shape that planners believe is more dangerous. (A more thorough presentation on the details is here.)
The Fourth Street renovation, which has for years been spearheaded by the Barelas Community Coalition, received $390,000 in construction funding from the state legislature recently. But while that is just a small fraction of the overall $5 million budget, much more could shortly be on the way. New Mexico MainStreet, a state economic development program aimed at revitalizing commercial corridors, received $10 million of its own from the legislature this year and is all but promising to kick a generous chunk of that toward Barelas.
“This will be a priority,” MainStreet Director Daniel Gutierrez told DAN.
Gutierrez said it’s too early to tell how much the project might get but that the division should be sorted out by the end of summer in the hopes of starting at least part of the project next year.
The overall goal of the project, however, is more clear. Fourth has for decades been in a commercial slump following the decline of the Santa Fe Railway Shops (now known as the Rail Yards) and the rise of I-40, which diverted east-west traffic that had often run along Fourth, once a part of Route 66.
The theory, at least, is that “if you have good sidewalks, people will come,” Gutierrez said. “The whole idea is to spur private reinvestment.”