Sandoval Signpost


An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988
  Public Safety

An acrobatic pedestrian crosses the state-owned railroad tracks at the Rail Runner Express Downtown Bernalillo station. Fencing the line will include a pedestrian crossing with warning devices here.
Photo credit: —Bill Diven

Pedestrian protection coming to tracks

~Bill Diven

The plan to fence the railroad through Bernalillo, while providing a pedestrian crossing, is moving toward its first phase of construction.

Money is in place and final plans are to be ready by June 1 for fencing from north of the Downtown Bernalillo Rail Runner Express station to the existing fence at the south end of town. The work is expected to cost more than $600,000, depending on final design, which could add trails along the fence and a designated pedestrian cross with gates and warning devices near the Rail Runner station.

That location already is a busy crossing between eastern neighborhoods and downtown businesses and services, surveys by Parametrix confirmed. The company is the engineering consultant planning the project for the New Mexico Department of Transportation, which bought the tracks from BNSF Railway in 2006 for the Rail Runner service.

Construction is expected to start this fall or winter.

Parametrix found pedestrians crossing the downtown tracks more than seventy times on an average weekday and 18 times farther north, where the Bernalillo ditch irrigation canal flows under the tracks. The ditch path is part of an informal route to Bernalillo High School and also passes by Carroll Elementary School.

More than a dozen pedestrians—the railroad considers them trespassers—have died on the tracks in, or adjacent to, Bernalillo since 1995.

A second phase to extend the fence to the Sandoval/US 550 Rail Runner station also is in discussion, although it's complicated by pedestrian traffic along the Bernalillo ditch and lack of firm funding.

Bernalillo town officials have been working toward the fence-and-crossing project for years as a matter of public safety. Early on they resisted the ideas of bridging the downtown tracks, or tunneling under them, as too costly.

They also worked with Amtrak to reduce the speed of the twice-daily Southwest Chief as it passes through town.

Gated pedestrian crossings are becoming more common with the city of Denver installing them along a new high-speed rail route connecting its downtown Amtrak and commuter station with Denver International Airport.

Sheriff's office investigates homicides, make burglary arrest

~Signpost Staff

The Sandoval County Sheriff's Office is investigating two unrelated homicides that occurred in late April in Llanito and Placitas.

Two brothers are suspected in the killing of Donald Kalma, 35, at his home in Llanito, just north of Bernalillo, Lt. Keith Elder said in a statement released by SCSO. The investigation began in northeastern Rio Rancho after Kalma's body was found near the Mariposa subdivision.

The sheriff's office identified the suspects as Kalma's nephews Liam Johnson, 19, and Jacob Johnson, both of Bernalillo. The brothers each face an open count of murder, and the investigation into a motive is continuing.

Investigators allege the brothers lured Kalma outside his home, bludgeoned him with a hammer, and carried the body in a pickup truck to Rio Rancho where they dumped it.

Meanwhile, Thomas Goodridge, 72, of Placitas also is charged with an open count of murder in the death of his wife, Anna Goodridge, 76. Investigators reported that Goodridge beat his wife with a rock as she slept and then called the county dispatch center to report the incident.

At last report, all three suspects were lodged in the Sandoval County Detention Center. New Mexico State Police forensic investigators are assisting county officers in processing the crime scenes.

SCSO also reports deputies responding to a burglary in progress in Placitas Trails called in extra support in the hunt for suspects. In saturating the area, they nabbed an Albuquerque woman found hiding near the recycling center on State Road 165.

The woman, whose name was not released, was arrested on felony charges. She also was found to be a suspect in a vehicle theft in the county last year and was named is several felony warrants pending in Santa Fe.

A male suspect in the burglary fled in a black hatchback vehicle and remains at large. The woman told investigators she and the man were in Bernalillo and decided to cruise Placitas intent on breaking into a home.

SCSO Lt. Allen Mills asked that anyone who might have home-surveillance video of a similar vehicle or had someone knock on their door recently looking for work to contact him at 867-7516.

Gilman Canyon rock slide, September, 2016
Photo credit: —Santa Fe National Forest

Threat of rock fall closes Gilman Tunnels

~Signpost Staff

Dangerous rock conditions above Forest Road 376 in Guadalupe Box Canyon have forced the closure of a half-mile stretch of the road that includes the Gilman Tunnels.

The Santa Fe National Forest imposed the closure in mid-April and said removing and stabilizing rock could begin as early as May 1 and take no more than 45 days.

“We apologize in advance for any inconvenience caused by our work on the Gilman Tunnels," Jemez District Ranger Brian Riley said. Public safety is our primary concern, and we want to mitigate the potential danger from falling rock as soon as possible,”

The location in the Jemez Mountains is about five miles northwest of State Road 4. Recreation and grazing sites beyond the closure remain accessible from State Road 126 west of its junction with NM 4.

A logging railroad blasted the tunnels out of the rock walls in the 1920s to feed timber to the sawmill in Bernalillo. The tunnels have also appeared in recent movie productions, including "3:10 to Yuma."

On September 20, part of a cliff with one boulder, estimated to weight forty tons, fell onto the highway, engulfing an approaching pickup truck in a cloud of dust. Traffic resumed the next day with gravel patching the pavement and signs warning not to stop or park along a two-hundred-foot section of the road.

Bernalillo Middle School to host D.A.R.E. night

An evening of activities is planned for May 11, as Bernalillo Middle School stages the first of what is expected to be an annual D.A.R.E. night.

Billed as a Drug and Alcohol Awareness Event, the three hours, beginning at 5:30 p.m., will include a live band, refreshments, a climbing wall, and face painting. There also will be student presentation, parent-information booths, raffles, and door prizes.

D.A.R.E. was founded in 1983 as the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, a joint effort of the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles Unified School District. Its activities bring parents, teachers, community leaders, and law enforcement together and have since broadened to include safe web browsing, bullying, and school and community safety. Current national topics also include the growing opioid epidemic and the impact of legalizing marijuana.
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