A developer who owns the land adjacent to the Rail Runner tracks where Suzanne LeBeau, 60, died after being struck by a train on her bicycle says the April 19 fatality might have been avoided if a long unused train station at Zia Road was open. The developer, Marc Bertram, called LeBeau “a personal friend and a neighbor of mine for over 15 years.”
“I believe that if the train had been stopping at this location, it would have been traveling slower as it approached the stop and perhaps, perhaps this could have been avoided,” he writes to SFR. “When a train is not planning to stop, it is impossible for it to come to a stop from an average speed of 30 mph.”
Bertram says members of a vocal group called the Candlelight Neighborhood Association have been a major obstacle to opening the station, even though city officials voted to ask the state to start using it two years ago. The group, he says, “needs to look at the bigger picture and realize that this stop belongs to the entire City of Santa Fe and support the opening of this station so that the intersection will be safer for all the citizens of Santa Fe.”
In January, the New Mexico Department of Transportation released a report that studied impact of opening a kiss-and-ride station. The study noted that from 2007 to 2011, 157 crashes have occurred at the intersection. Two of the crashes involved pedestrians who made errors. A 2012 study sponsored by the Santa Fe Metropolitan Planning Organization ranked the intersection with the third highest number of crashes.
Santa Fe Police says LeBeau was cycling north on the Rail Trail as it makes a sharp eastward-bound turn. The train tracks are just feet after that turn. A signal arm descends over Zia Road to prevent drivers from crossing the tracks as the train passes, but no such device is available for pedestrians or cyclists at the trail crossing.