The current NE-SE Connector project originated out of the Santa Fe Community College District Plan, adopted by the Santa Fe Board of County Commissioners in 2000, as an outgrowth of the Santa Fe County Sustainable Growth Management Plan (1999). In 2000, the NE and SE Connectors were identified as proposed primary roads within the Community College District. The NE-SE Connectors were subsequently included in the Santa Fe Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Metropolitan Transportation Plan 2010-2035 as a result the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) and Santa Fe County signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2006, amended in 2012, outlining the need for the project. The purpose and need for the project include the following:
The NE connector is driven by the need for connectivity between Dinosaur Trail and Rabbit Road. There is currently a “missing” direct link between these two roadways. A more direct route is needed because vehicles currently travel through residential streets of the Oshara Village Subdivision.
The purpose of the SE Connector is to reduce traffic congestion on Richards Avenue by providing an alternate route from Rabbit Road to Avenida del Sur. Additionally, the SE Connector is needed to provide secondary emergency access to Santa Fe Community College consistent with the Community College District Plan.
Between 2013 and 2015, a NE and SE Connectors Alignment and Corridor Study: Phase A/B Initial and Detailed Evaluation of Alternatives (OCCAM|EC Consulting Engineers 2015) was developed on behalf of Santa Fe County. This study was developed in accordance with the NMDOT’s Location Study Procedures (NMDOT 2015) to assess existing conditions, fully define purpose and need, evaluate possible alternatives, and select preferred alternatives for both the NE and SE Connectors. The Phase A/B study considered responsiveness to purpose and need, roadway geometry, traffic, constructability, right-of-way, environmental factors, neighborhood impacts, drainage features, and regional connectivity. During Phase A, five alternatives were developed and evaluated for the NE Connector and nine were considered for the SE Connector, including No Build Alternatives. Public meetings were held in 2013, 2014, and 2015, in addition to numerous Steering Committee, Task Force, and Study Team meetings.
After detailed analysis in Phase B, the Study recommended the two alternatives be carried forward into the environmental documentation and subsequent project phases. The recommendations were based on consideration of the above criteria and extensive public input and coordination with property owners and key stakeholders such as Santa Fe Community College:
For the NE connector, the preferred alternative would realign the existing Rabbit Road to become the I-25 south-side frontage road between Richards Avenue and Saint Francis Drive. It would extend along the southern side of I-25 from Dinosaur Trail (on the western side of Richards Avenue) to Rabbit Road. After completion of the NE Connector, sections of Dinosaur Trail and Rabbit Road south of the connector would be abandoned.
The preferred alternative for the SE Connector would extend south-southeast from the NE Connector along an existing PNM power line easement to just south of College Drive and continue south to the Avenida del Sur intersection. From that point, the Southeast Connector would proceed west along Avenida del Sur to Richards Avenue.
The Phase A/B Study further recommended that roundabouts be considered at the major intersections.
In 2018, the NMDOT issued a categorical exclusion (CE) authorizing right-of-way acquisition for the project. Santa Fe County has since proceeded with right-of-way acquisition, design, and completion of the environmental commitments in the CE, including additional biological surveys and cultural resource consultation. The current project is the result of more than 20 years of planning, culminating with the implementation and construction of the NE-SE Connectors.