APS has plans to build a bus depot in Tijeras off North Zamora Road and Rincon Loop Road, but residents and officials say they feel “blindsided” by the decision.
“I feel as though I was … not given the entire plan,” said Tijeras Mayor Jake Bruton. “[APS] kinda portrayed it as about 20 buses, a place to fuel them, and a small lounge area. And then I see the plan, and that is not what is in the plans.”
According to documents from APS, the bus depot will initially hold up to 24 buses on any given day, with the capacity of up to 50. The depot will also have a wash bay, a fuel station, a mechanic station, offices, and an 80-car parking lot.
APS currently runs 22 bus routes through the East Mountains 180 days a year.
County Commissioner Charlene Pyskoty, Bruton, and Tijeras resident Amy Owen all said they were opposed to the building of the bus depot.
“I am opposed to that location for a bus depot for many reasons,” Pyskoty said.
She said there are many environmental issues the bus depot poses to the area, like the amount of water potentially used to wash the buses, as well as the toxin run off, especially with a mechanic shop and a fuel station, that would go downhill and get into the ground or drinking water.
Pyskoty also said light pollution and noise pollution play a factor in her opposition, as well as the traffic that would accumulate on N Zamora Road because of the buses.
“I really invite APS to come drive on that stretch of road, especially if there’s snow or if there is a shut down on I-40, which happens often because that road North Zamora, it is a fairly narrow two-lane road,” she said. “Having 50 buses try to get out of there and then try to get onto Route 66 is just a traffic nightmare. If I-40 is shut down, traffic often shunts off onto 66 and North Zamora, it would just be untenable. It couldn’t work.”
Owen said in an email she is worried about the environmental impacts, as well as the financial impact the depot could have.
“We live in a beautiful neighborhood,” she said. “People who have lived here for 50 years or more have paid mortgages to have the privilege to live here. In the course of a few months one entity may have the opportunity to greatly reduce our property values and take away from the beauty that drew us to this area.”
In an operational facts sheet, APS states the lots will be paved so there will be no seepage of fluids, the fuel will be above ground, the wash bay is a recycling power washer for cleaning road salts off buses in the winter, and the shop floor will be concrete to prevent spillage.
Owen also said a lot of her neighbors still don’t even know about the bus depot, and she herself only found out in late January.
“[We felt] very blindsided,” she said. “We’re trying to do a little canvassing to get the word out because the only way I found out was through our Next Door app. That was a little concerning, so it hasn’t been made public for sure … Word has just kind of spread from there. We have a lot of neighbors that obviously aren’t on the Next Door app so we’re trying to go around and share information and phone numbers for representatives to reach out to.”
Bruton said he also only found out a couple of weeks ago when APS called the village about hydrant testing, and Pyskoty only found out because a neighbor reached out asking about the depot.
“I think a little more of a government-to-government courtesy of ‘Hey this going to be happening in your neighborhood, maybe you wanna listen in,’ would be quite appropriate months ago,” Bruton said. “It clearly impacts my community and I do take reservation with it.”
Pyskoty said APS owns another piece of land close to the proposed site that would be a better fit for the bus depot.
“APS actually has a piece of land which is actually 10 acres larger,” she said. “That parcel that they’re looking at in Rincon Loop is 13 acres. They have a parcel that is 23 acres, which is at the corner of North 14 and I-40. That’s such a better parcel for a bus depot because it’s right at the intersection of the major highways. It would make so much more sense for them to move it.”
Bruton also mentioned the land near North 14 and said the depot would still be centrally located and have access to the municipal water system. The traffic issues would also be taken care of because there is a stop light near there, and access to the freeway.
Pyskoty said she floated the idea of putting a mental health wellness center on the land near Rincon Loop instead of the depot, which would be a facility “that supports our APS students and teachers and the general community.” She said she envisions a landscape meditation garden and a meditation trail.
Owen said she loved that idea and thinks the neighborhood would be “absolutely fine” with the wellness center.
Bruton, Pyskoty, and Owen all mentioned a restrictive covenant drafted in 1989 that outlined what could be built in the area, which was all residential properties at the time, as well as an amendment drafted later that year that said APS could only use the land on Rincon Loop for an elementary school.
Pyskoty said she is unsure of the legal standing of the document, and Owen said some of her neighbors are meeting with lawyers to find out if APS can actually build a bus depot there.
Bruton said both his and Pyskoty’s hands are tied because APS is an independent government agency and they have no jurisdiction over what APS can do, just like APS has no jurisdiction over Tijeras or Bernalillo County.
“I think the community itself needs to activate a little bit and start communicating with APS board if they don’t want it,” he said. “I believe I’ve raised my concerns definitively, and I’m going to continue advocating for my residents but like I said, Commissioner Pyskoty and I are trying to collaborate and set up meetings where the public can come and speak with APS and voice their concerns. APS looks like they’re trying to do everything they can to mitigate the concerns.”
Pyskoty said she is alerting state agencies to see if the depot is an environmental issue worth setting restrictions on, as well as reaching out to APS board members and “digging through Bernalillo County resources” to see if there’s anything the county can do.
Ideally, she said she would like APS to move the bus depot to a more suitable location and “work with Bernalillo County and the residents to create something mutually beneficial on that parcel in Rincon loop.”
The residents near Rincon Loop have put together a website to share documents and updates on the bus depot, Owen said. You can find the website at rinconloop.weebly.com.
Officials from APS have not responded to The Independent’s requests for an interview.