BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Los Alamos County Transportation Board members appeared pleased Thursday evening with a presentation by Michael Gomez and Bernadette Scargall of Santa Fe Engineering Consultants on the Finch Street Extension Project and other road improvements related to The Hill Apartments development.
The company was tasked to identify possible off-site road improvements in the Trinity Drive/35th Street area including connecting Finch Street and the Los Alamos Medical Center parking lot. The Hill Apartments project is currently under design-development review. Scargall noted that the company came before the Transportation Board two years ago to obtain Board input and County staff comments.
”From some of the feedback obtained from the Board we were able to implement a road diet corridor on a portion of Trinity Drive which improves safety for drivers and pedestrians. In addition, the Board suggested that we further look into the feasibility of extending Finch Street to the Los Alamos Medical Center,” she said.
Scargall said The Hill Apartments consists of some 158 units from studios to three-bedroom units and that the Finch Street extension may have an impact on existing facilities and parcels. To the north of Trinity Drive there are private residences as well as the Trinity Professional Plaza and the Alpine Laser Dental. To the south is the new construction project and to the west is LAMC. Scargall showed the overall site plan for the road improvements pointing out the proposed right-of-way median with only one acquisition needed, which is owned by LAMC.
Gomez said the project will add a right turn deceleration lane on eastbound Trinity Drive which meets New Mexico Department of Transportation standards.
“It gives a good area for cars to make a right turn into the hospital and not get queued up. Along with that, we’re going to close the existing driveway entrance. There are problems with this entrance because it’s offset from the street on the north side and left turns are prohibited right now. They use cone and things out there to prohibit that left turn movement,” he said.
The project will add curb and gutter and extend the sidewalk on the interior of the parking lot.
“There probably are going to be some changes but we’re acquiring enough right-of-way that all of the pedestrian facilities and the ADA facilities will be under the ownership of the County. For our acquisition we’ve set the alignment so that we can tie into the existing curb and gutter on the adjacent residence,” Gomez said.
The entrance to LAMC from Trinity Drive will be moved further east and is designed to handle big trucks with paint markings on the road instead of curb and gutter everywhere to direct normal vehicles and allowing bigger vehicles to encroach into the painted area, Gomez said. He noted that there’s one drop inlet on Trinity Drive that is going to have to be relocated also.
Gomez said tying the extension into the Hill Apartments construction is a cooperative effort between the County and the developer of the project. On Finch Street, there will be two 12-foot driving lanes with curb and gutter on both sides and a sidewalk on both sides of the street. A portion of the alignment will involve retaining walls and a guardrail because there is a drop-off of about eight feet in places.
Gomez noted that the transit route will be impacted and that one of the improvements that the Hill Apartments along with the Public Works Department will need to build is a bus pullout so that buses are totally outside of the traffic flow and have refuge in there for loading and unloading. That will be constructed when the apartments are built, Gomez said.
He noted that the project will include improving pedestrian accessibility including ADA access to get from the upper level at LAMC to the lower level at the new apartments.
“With the connectivity to the medical center, hopefully some of the employees will live there and walk to work instead of driving,” Gomez said, adding that with the Trinity road diet, there is also a bicycle lane.
“Adjacent properties are not being impacted other than the hospital property. It really does improve traffic movement. It provides two points of access for safety. And the fire department I think is very much in favor of that,” he said.
Gomez said the company got great input from the Transportation Board two years ago that totally modified the project with a good alternative.
“I think it was a great accomplishment. We are here to get more input. The project is at the 60 percent design stage right now so we’re getting DOT input, medical center input and come up with a final design. DOT has indicated they will allow the project to go forward without a full-blown traffic impact analysis. Instead they want a site threshold analysis,” he said.
County Senior Engineer Eric Ulibarri said the medical center is very excited about the project and they are meeting with upper management to see how they can dedicate the right-of-way to the County.
“Once we get that, we would have to dedicate a portion of it to the DOT for the deceleration lane. It’s a process we’re in right now. There are a few key players we’re having to work with on that so that process is ongoing and the medical center is very happy to be working with us on this project,” he said.
Board Chair Kyle Wheeler said personally she is very pleased to see that this project happening and that it’s actually better than she expected.
“I think having that second exit out of the Hill housing development is a great thing. I think it’s something a lot of people at Quemazon wish they had,” she said.
Board member David Shiferl noted that the “really nicely planned and presented development of the street”, saying it looks better than he ever thought it would turn out.
Maps and drawings of the project may be viewed at: