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Car-free Plaza in Santa Fe!

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  • James River Martin
    Plaza to Close to Traffic on Tuesday By GEOFF GRAMMER | The New Mexican 11/11/2002 Something will be missing from the Santa Fe Plaza beginning Tuesday
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 11, 2002
      Plaza to Close to Traffic on Tuesday

      By GEOFF GRAMMER | The New Mexican 11/11/2002

      Something will be missing from the Santa Fe Plaza beginning Tuesday

      For the first time in the city's history - except for special events
      such as the annual Fiestas - vehicular traffic will be banned from
      all the streets immediately around the Plaza park.

      Although the Plaza has been a hub of civic and commercial activity
      for centuries - starting long before the days when wagons lined the
      square bearing goods hauled across the Old Santa Fe Trail - the City
      Council voted to experiment with the street closings in the name of
      pedestrian safety.

      Some locals have complained that the move represents the ultimate
      surrender of Santa Fe's historic center to tourism.

      "This is the heart of our town. It is not a pedestrian mall or a
      theme park," Santa Fean Todd Graznow recently complained in a letter
      published in The New Mexican.

      But cries for reduced motor-vehicle traffic grew following two
      accidents this year in which tourists were struck by vehicles on
      nearby streets - one fatally.

      The council voted 5-3 last month to close the Plaza to vehicles -
      except for delivery trucks and local sightseeing vans - until the
      end of February.

      At that time, the recently formed Plaza Task Force is expected to
      submit a long-term recommendation regarding Plaza traffic to the
      council. That recommendation could include complete or partial
      closure of the Plaza to motorists or it could recommend keeping
      streets open to motorists.

      John Nitzel, director of the city's transportation and engineering
      division, said the four streets on the Plaza will be barricaded with
      large planter-type structures - similar to those already in place at
      the intersections of Palace and Lincoln avenues. The city in recent
      years has used such barriers to block only two sides of the Plaza
      during summer months.

      The big planters, according to Nitzel, are more aesthetically
      pleasing than the more portable white-and-red barricades sometimes
      used to block off streets in downtown Santa Fe during special events.

      City employees delivered guidelines to downtown businesses affected
      by the closure, detailing how and where deliveries are to be made.
      Delivery trucks and tour buses can enter the Plaza through an
      opening between barricades at the intersection of Palace and Lincoln
      avenues, Nitzel said.

      He added that any business owner who needs explanation should
      contact the Traffic Engineering Division at 955-6619 or the city's
      Public Works Department at 955-6621.

      Nitzel said at a city Public Works Committee meeting last month that
      closing the Plaza would create numerous "conflict points" and safety
      concerns on other streets in the downtown area as rerouted traffic
      increases on other streets.

      This year's accidents involving pedestrians occurred just outside
      the Plaza on sections of street that will remain open to traffic.

      On June 26, Baltimore tourist Jane Sewell died from injuries she
      suffered after being hit by a pickup near the intersection of
      Washington and Palace avenues.

      On Sept. 28, a pickup driven by a man accused of drunken driving
      struck a Silverton, Colo., couple on Palace Avenue in front of the
      Museum of Fine Arts, about 20 feet west of a crosswalk. Helen Coté,
      who was dragged several blocks under the vehicle, is recovering from
      her injuries in an Albuquerque hospital after several weeks in a
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