HISTORY IN THE MAKING: Rail Trail Project Comes into Focus at Vision Unveiling

At a weekend press event, City leaders and internationally-recognized architect Antoine Predock unveiled the latest vision for the Rail Trail, a 7-mile pedestrian and cycling loop that will link many of the city’s most distinctive areas.

Mayor Tim Keller and Metropolitan Redevelopment Agency Director Terry Brunner said the project is the largest in scale the City has taken on since the BioPark.

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

So far, the City has raised $39 million of the approximately $60 million it will require to build the loop. Construction will start this fiscal year, Brunner said, though fundraising will continue.

Next, Predock walked the audience through a presentation of the vision for the project, which included colorful renderings and video that showed what it might be like to cycle along the completed Rail Trail.

At “hotspots” along the route, which Predock calls “auras,” Rail Trail users will be invited to pause to take in a collage that captures the history of the place, along with a QR code visitors can scan with their smartphone to learn more. The most dramatic of these will be an electric tumbleweed, a 25-foot neon sphere that cyclists and pedestrians will walk through and cars will drive underneath at a railroad underpass. A rendering of the unlit electric tumbleweed is above.

Another milestone along the trail will be the Enchantment Plaza, where the trail will be raised above the ground to give users a spectacular view of the city and the Sandia Mountains, and create space for pop-up shops and restaurants underneath, perhaps in shipping containers. You can see a rendering of this aura below.

The Chamber has been vocal supporters of the Rail Trail as a unique way to showcase the incredible economic, cultural, historical, and ecological diversity of our city – and bring together neighborhoods in and around greater Downtown. The project has the unprecedented potential to be an anchor attraction in Downtown, catalyzing the development of commercial enterprises and unique public spaces that will pull more people and businesses into the area.

Chamber leaders have also helped the City accrue this funding at all levels of government, from local, state, and even federal sources, including an in-person Chamber delegation visit last winter to Washington, DC to meet with federal agency leaders and New Mexico Congressional members. We’re encouraged to see the project move ahead and are looking forward to sharing more updates on its progress.

The Mayor expressed it well: “What Antoine has done is, he’s made this a canvas, a canvas that will tell each of us our story and explain why we are the Land of Enchantment, whether it’s our history or our geography,” Keller told the crowd. “And then fundamentally, it unites us in terms of why we’re together in this place, Albuquerque, New Mexico.”

A rendering shows the planned Enchantment Plaza, a raised portion of the Rail Trail that will give walkers and cyclists views of the city and the Sandia Mountains, and which may one day be home to small pop-up shops below.

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