Bernalillo, Rio Rancho investigate maglev for commuters
While the state looks to proven twentieth-century methods for its
commuter railroad, Bernalillo and Rio Rancho are exploring futuristic
technology to get people across the Rio Grande and to and from the
The initial goal is a 1.2-mile maglev line
connecting a park-and-ride station at the new Sandoval County complex
at NM 528 and Idalia Road with the still-to-be-built commuter-train
station in downtown Bernalillo. The system then could be expanded
about four miles to the west to the new Rio Rancho City Center,
the future home of City Hall, a sports arena, and other major projects.
Maglev, short for magnetic levitation, floats
passenger cars on a one-inch cushion of magnetic energy within a
dedicated guideway. The urban maglev system under consideration
requires less right-of-way than a traditional railroad and can be
elevated on pylons with a footprint about four feet square, according
to its promoters.
That light footprint could make it an attractive
option in the coming debate about widening US 550 or building a
second bridge across the Rio Grande in less than the twenty years
it took to build the last one in Albuquerque.
“The concentration of jobs is on the
wrong side of the river,” Rio Rancho Mayor Jim Owens said
at a recent maglev meeting in Bernalillo. “Anyone who is here
in the early morning or late afternoon knows that 550 has failed.”
For Bernalillo, the issue is what to do with
commuters wanting to ride trains into Albuquerque later this year
or from a second station if the service expands to Santa Fe in 2008,
as the state is proposing.
“Bernalillo is not going to be a parking
lot,” town administrator Lester Swindle said. “This
is a residential community. It's going to stay that way.”
Long term, maglev has the potential to provide
a mass-transit system within the burgeoning city of Rio Rancho and
could expand throughout the metro area, Owens added. Or beyond the
urban area, according to state Senator Steve Komadina.
“A natural extension would be through
Placitas as the most ecologically friendly way to connect to the
East Mountains and Tijeras,” Komadina said.
The project is not without its skeptics, however,
including Kevin Collins, a civil engineer with transit experience,
who attended the Bernalillo meeting.
“I agree now is the time to address the
transit problems in this region,” Collins told the Signpost.
“I don't necessarily agree that unproven technology not in
use in this country is the way to address it.”
Currently the only urban maglev vehicle in the United States runs
on a four-hundred-foot test track at the General Atomics plant in
San Diego, said David O'Laughlin, president of the Urban Maglev
Group of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. With the recent passage of the
federal transportation bill, construction of a three-mile demonstration
project serving California University of Pennsylvania is expected
to begin next spring, he said.
Heavy maglev trains with cars weighing thirty-five
to fifty-five tons already operate in Germany and China, O'Laughlin
continued. Urban maglev cars are twelve tons each, reducing guideway
construction to about $20 million a mile, he added.
The local project has attracted the attention
of the state, whose trade missions to Japan have interested JR Central,
operator of Japan's bullet train, in exploring projects here. Bernalillo
and Rio Rancho representatives have now been invited to join state
and JR Central officials at a meeting on superconducting magnets,
scheduled later this month at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
New Mexico Academy of Science statement on
Rio Rancho Science Policy 401
—JAYNE AUBELE, PRESIDENT, NEW MEXICO ACADEMY OF
The New Mexico Academy of Science recommends that the Rio Rancho
School District take prompt action to rescind Science Education
Policy 401, which was adopted on Monday, August 22, by the Rio Rancho
Board of Education. This policy is unfair to science and to Rio
Rancho's public school students and teachers, and could be detrimental
to Rio Rancho's science- and technology-based business community.
The policy says it adheres to New Mexico's current Science Content
Standards, Benchmarks, and Performance Standards. However, a clear
reading of those standards reveals the new policy is not based on
them, but is instead a subtle loophole for the introduction of non-scientific
ideas like “Intelligent Design” and unscientific “evidence
against evolution” into public school science classrooms.
For those who have not followed these arguments closely, Intelligent
Design is, despite its supporters' public denials, a faith-based
view of the creation of life; its advocates reject all or much of
evolution. The Academy is not opposed to any religion, but our position
is that religious topics such as Intelligent Design are better suited
to comparative religion or philosophy classes than to science classes.
Furthermore, the National Academy of Sciences has also stated that
“No body of beliefs that has its origin in doctrinal material
rather than scientific observation, interpretation, and experimentation
should be admissible as science in any science course.” (http://www.nap.edu/books/0309064066/html/25.html)
The Academy opposes Policy 401 because it proposes a completely
inaccurate definition of science itself. Saying that “reasonable
people may disagree about the meaning and interpretation of data”
obscures the fact that, in science, all ideas and observations are
not created equal. Alternative ideas are tested in science every
day—but if they fail, they are discarded for better explanations
Science is not an ideology, but rather a way of understanding
the natural world. It is very different from other ways of decision-making.
In everyday pursuits such as legal hearings or newspaper editorials,
advocates can peruse available knowledge, and end up with a handful
of facts that appear to support their particular argument. In science,
however, inconvenient facts cannot be casually discarded. Scientists
must choose among various explanations, looking for those that best
handle all relevant data. Explanations that don't work must be replaced
with better ones. This process has resulted in a handful of powerful
and general explanations that bring sense to the universe, including
the theories of chemistry, electromagnetism, relativity, quantum
mechanics, and, yes, the theory of evolution.
If scientists simply agreed to disagree about “the meaning
and interpretation of data,” scientific progress would cease.
Science is about testing ideas and claims, not pretending that all
“interpretations” are equally valid.
If the new Rio Rancho Science Policy “has been taken directly
from the State Content Standards,” why isn't the Academy taking
this issue up with the New Mexico Public Education Department (PED),
instead of the Rio Rancho Public Schools? The answer is that Policy
401 adds new language to the standards, and changes the definition
of science itself in the process.
Intelligent Design has no explanations of its own other than “These
things are so complex, there's no way they could have developed
naturally.” The “alternative explanations” provided
by Intelligent Design “theorists” bring confusion to
science, not clarity. They have been reviewed extensively by the
scientific community and found to be without merit. Some biological
phenomena remain unexplained, of course, but there are currently
no scientific data that contradict the theory of evolution.
Rio Rancho's students and teachers deserve real science in their
classrooms, not the anti-evolution spin of Intelligent Design's
many pundits and lawyers. The New Mexico Academy of Science urges
the Rio Rancho School Board to reconsider this unnecessary policy
that has no basis in science.
This statement was approved by the board members
of the New Mexico Academy of Science on August 25, 2005.
Placitas residents file suit against Sandoval
Sandoval County approved a four-lot subdivision of just over three
acres of land in November 1999. This led to the approval of building
permits, water-well drilling permits, and septic tank and leach-field
permits over an old landfill site within Placitas Trails subdivision.
On June 30 of this year, a group called Placitas Trails Concerned
Citizens filed suit against Sandoval County in the Thirteenth Judicial
District Court. The plaintiffs allege that Sandoval County failed
to enforce its own subdivision regulations, failed to regulate the
dump closing, permitted the dump to be reopened, disturbed, modified,
burned, and used as a building site without requiring suitable notice
or requiring environmental evaluation as to the hazards of the use
of a solid-waste fill as a construction site and water-well site,
contrary to state and federal laws.
The plaintiffs contend that the water wells and septic leach fields
will allow contamination to infiltrate into the water supply of
Placitas. They have asked the court to order Sandoval County to
permanently seal the wells and remove the septic tanks and leach
fields, replacing them with contained sewage treatments.
Sandoval County referred the case to Kevin Brown, an attorney for
the New Mexico Association of Counties. The county’s answer
was presented to the court on August 5. All allegations were denied.
Brown told the Signpost that the New Mexico agency that regulates
solid waste approved a June-July 2000 cleanup of the dump. He also
said, “It is our information that a geologist looked at the
site and determined that there is no threat for groundwater pollution.”
The concerned citizens were reportedly not well received by everyone
at the Placitas Trails Homeowners Association or the water board
at a recent meeting.
During the upcoming discovery phase, older area residents will testify
about the use of the dump and what kinds of trash was buried there.
Wayne Connell, president of Placitas Trails Concerned Citizens
stated, “We have talked to old-timers and they have told us
that between 1952 and 1971 they dumped everything in this dump.
This included tires, car parts, glass bottles, household trash,
paint, solvent, construction trash, batteries, ash, and lawn waste.”
He said that the former owner was denied permission to develop the
property in 1990 by a state agency for the same reasons stated in
Connell told the Signpost, “My question and the reason for
the lawsuit is, what changed between September 1990 and November
1999 that allowed Sandoval County Planning and Zoning to approve
a summary plat for a subdivision over the old landfill?”
Tramway interchange reconstruction will rev
up in October
An eleven-month project to replace the I-25 Tramway interchange
shifts into high gear this month, after the Albuquerque International
Balloon Fiesta, according to the New Mexico Department of Transportation.
Preliminary work on the $15 million job by contractor A. S. Horner
already has begun but is not affecting traffic, NMDOT spokesman
Phil Gallegos said. A groundbreaking to officially launch the project
was scheduled for September 30, he added.
The work will replace the 1960-era overpasses and widen them to
accommodate the anticipated expansion of I-25 to six lanes between
Tramway and Bernalillo. Signals will replace stop signs at the Tramway
intersections on both sides of I-25, and the acceleration lane from
Tramway to northbound I-25 is to be lengthened, with its sight distances
Gallegos said the first work after the balloon fiesta will be
to build a temporary two-lane bridge between the existing bridges,
for use by detour traffic, while the first overpass is razed and
rebuilt. Then traffic shifts to the new and temporary bridges while
the second overpass is replaced.
The contractor is required to keep two lanes open in each direction
during construction and can earn a $250,000 incentive bonus for
completing the project a month early, he said. The project will
be posted as a double-fine zone for traffic violations, he added.
The schedule calls for Tramway to be totally closed overnight twenty-five
to thirty times during the project, he said.
Gallegos produces a report on construction projects and schedules
in the Albuquerque-based DOT District 3 and distributes it as an
e-mail attachment. To subscribe to the free report, e-mail him at
Road-construction information and weather-related traffic advisories
can be found on the DOT Web site, www.nmshtd.state.nm.us.
Miriam Greenwald evacuates New Orleans, lands in
EDDIE TORRES III
With barely time to recover from one hurricane, Eddie Torres III
found himself back on the road guiding an eighteen-wheeler toward
The Bernalillo town councilor, a second-generation firefighter,
got the call in his role as a driver and acting lieutenant with
the Albuquerque Fire Department. He was one of twenty AFD personnel
assigned to New Mexico Task Force One and dispatched to San Antonio,
Texas, to await the results of Hurricane Rita.
Two weeks earlier he had spent eleven long days driving, boating,
and wading through the ruins of New Orleans, delivering relief supplies
to residents caught by the rising waters and joining in search,
rescue, and evacuation. It is the rescues, evacuating as many as
186 people in his two-and-a-half-ton truck in one day, that stick
in his mind.
The babies, the kids, the look they would give you when you helped
Mom and Dad out of the house and into the boat,” the father
of three said. “The gratitude, the hugs, and the handshakes.
“It always touches you, and the kids make you think about
what you have at home.”
Rescuers looked for signs that a flooded home might still be occupied,
announcing themselves by yelling, whistling, and shouting into bullhorns.
Torres pounded on one roof and was about to leave when he heard
an elderly man call out, after spending a week in his attic unable
to attract rescuers attention.
Other memories, the stench, the devastation, and the darker side
of human nature, also remain.
“Our boat was shot at,” Torres said. “You would
think they would want to be helped.”
No one suffered injuries during the deployment, although Torres
said one boat sank in the fetid water. That crew went through a
decontamination procedure before returning to work.
“It was an eye-opener,” he said. “Mother Nature
As a child, Miriam Greenwald lived through the great Mississippi
River flood of 1927, the benchmark of New Orleans disasters before
Even Hurricane Betsy, in 1965, which broke every window in her
home, didn't force her to flee. But when Katrina came calling, Greenwald
moved at 2:00 a.m. from her twelfth-floor apartment into the hallway,
and then to the eleventh floor, as windows shattered, before evacuating
to Baton Rouge on two-hours' notice when the levees broke.
Within five days after Katrina hit, the New Orleans native arrived
in Placitas with one change of clothes in a borrowed suitcase.
“It's unbelievable what people have done for me here,”
Greenwald said. “You talk about Southern hospitality ...”
She has received flowers, shoes, and workout clothing, has found
a bridge game; a hairdresser has volunteered her services and the
Jewish Community Center has waived its dues. In return, the retired
medical-records librarian and long-time hospital volunteer has been
working at El Pueblo Health Center with her son-in-law and grandson,
Dr. Alan and Josh Firestone, and at the Sandia Prep School library
with her daughter, B. J. Firestone.
Since arriving here, Greenwald has accounted for close friends
separated in the evacuation and for her ninety-two-year-old sister-in-law,
who was feared lost during the week she waited for rescue by canoe.
Greenwald also received a call from the owner of the kennel where
she boarded her dog.
“I lost my dog,” she said. “The rescue people
came by in a canoe but didn't have any room for the animals.
“She would have been eleven in December.”
It is a small but personal loss amid the human devastation, she
Greenwald's senior-living center suffered minimal structural damage
and she is optimistic about returning by November 1. Still, she
recognizes much of the center's support staff is dispersed and that
may be a bigger problem than repairing the building.
Despite New Mexico friendliness, she is anxious to return to her
“Absolutely,” she said. “You all drive like crazy
“We don't go over forty miles an hour in the city.”
County construction costs expected to soar
Sandoval County commissioners have been warned to expect increased
construction costs for county building projects.
County planning director Mike Springfield told commissioners overall
costs have been rising about 5 percent every six months. The addition
to the Health Commons, pegged at $175 a square foot, now is estimated
at $185, and the application for funds to build the county transit
center next year will be based on $200 a square foot, he said.
“Concrete is out of sight,” he said. “Asphalt
has doubled this year.”
At the same meeting, Bob Wesseley, of Placitas, questioned the
planned paving of two and a half miles of Camino San Francisco for
less than $200,000. The 1996 paving of the mile of Camino Tecolote
from NM 165 to San Francisco cost $50,000 but had to be redone two
years later at ten times the cost, he said.
“The obvious question is whether Sandoval County is prepared
to pay $2 million for the factor-of-ten redo of San Francisco two
years from now,” Wesseley said.
Commissioners, as is their policy during the public-comment period
of their meetings, did not respond to Wesseley's question.
Decision on MAPCO pipeline expansion in Placitas
expected after January 1
A decision on whether to allow Mid-America Pipeline Company to expand
its pipeline in Placitas is not expected before January 1, according
to the Bureau of Land Management.
The last of the endangered-species reviews has been completed,
but the resulting biological assessment still must be sent to the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for its review, BLM spokesman Danita
Burns said in a statement to the Signpost. The USFWS response likely
won't be ready until after January 1, she said.
BLM managers also still are addressing public comments received
after the draft environmental assessment was released in June, Burns
Mid-America already pumps natural-gas liquids through Placitas in
a multi-pipeline corridor running along Las Huertas Creek and Diamond
Tail Road, on its way to Hobbs from gas fields in Wyoming. The company
proposes to increase the pipeline capacity by building parallel
segments at a dozen locations to boost pressure.
The 22.5-mile local segment would begin at a pumping station near
San Ysidro and cross under the Rio Grande and I-25 north of Bernalillo
before connecting with the existing pipeline within the Placitas
In an unrelated project, Giant has proposed to revive a dormant
crude-oil pipeline to connect oil fields in southeastern New Mexico
with its underutilized refinery at Bloomfield. A public meeting
on the project is planned for November, at a time and place still
to be announced, according to Giant vice president Leland Gould.
William “Bill” Sapien
–WILLIAM SAPIEN, CHAIRMAN, SANDOVAL COUNTY COMMISSION
It's been a year since the county commission approved a $16 billion
bond agreement encouraging Intel to remain in Sandoval County and
continue employing thousands of area residents. While that action
is fast becoming ancient history, the benefits it offers county
residents keep getting better with time.
In contrast to business stories about other government bodies
nationally—and even worldwide—that are offering subsidies
to prompt large employers to relocate or expand, Sandoval County
did not pay Intel any money. Instead, the deal was structured so
that as Intel invested money into New Mexico, the company would
not have to pay gross receipts tax and equivalent taxes. No property
taxes were abated.
In return, Intel is paying Sandoval County up to $95 million for,
basically, the ability to expand its local plant and hire local
residents. The county commission already has authorized that the
money be used to help pay for needed infrastructure such as transportation,
education and water and wastewater projects, and to further enhance
the county's economic development capabilities.
The $16 billion Intel deal was a great benefit for county residents
a year ago.
Based on the current state of the national economy, rising unemployment,
and the resulting deals being struck with large employers by other
states and nations, the Intel agreement is an even better deal for
county residents today.
Our economy is sound. Our jobless rate is relatively low and we
now have needed funds to help solve some major concerns over water
and wastewater, education, transportation, and further economic
I'll not repeat the terms of the bond agreement, as they were
deliberated fully in public and extensively reported by the news
media before, during, and after the commission gave its approval
in fall 2004. Former commission chairman Daymon Ely developed a
concise Q&A that fully details the workings of the Intel bond
deal. That document was published in numerous newspapers last year
and can also be accessed at www.sandovalcounty.com
The money that Intel is paying the county—up to $95 million
in supplemental rent—is very important to county residents
and offers considerable benefits for the future. Those proceeds
are being allocated by the county commission to establish $12 million
in permanent funds that our communities can access for water, wastewater,
and education projects. Additional funds are being used to create
transportation systems to ease congestion throughout the region
and for economic development projects that will further enhance
and diversify our area's economy.
The commission has appropriated $10 million to the Mid-Region
Council of Governments to help fund the commuter-rail project initially
proposed by Governor Bill Richardson. Engines and railcars already
have been purchased and commuter-rail service is scheduled to begin
service from Belen to Bernalillo by January 2006, and is expected
to be extended to Santa Fe in 2008.
Additionally, the commission has earmarked $6 million toward development
of an intra-county transportation system that will provide bus service
throughout the county. Those funds will purchase fifteen passenger
vans and develop a transportation center adjacent to the county
Health Commons and newly opened Judicial Complex near Idalia and
NM 528. From there, service will be linked to regional transportation
alternatives, including the commuter-rail system.
Other funding from the Intel proceeds has been earmarked for the
El Zócalo economic development complex in Bernalillo, a county-wide
broadband network, and other projects that will further diversify
and improve our county's economy. And $8 million was allocated to
help develop Rio Rancho's multipurpose event center.
Sandoval County's agreement with Intel is a fair one for the company
and a great one for county residents. It keeps good paying jobs
in New Mexico. It tells other companies that New Mexico is a good
place to do business, and it allows the county to invest real money
to help solve real problems while meeting our responsibility of
providing efficient services and protection for all residents.
Questions or comments for Commissioner Sapien
can be mailed to him in care of Sandoval County Administrative Offices,
P.O. Box 40, Bernalllo, NM 87004.