Highway 64 Bridge: Unsafe at any Speed!
“Gov. Martinez, Tear Down this Wall!” –Dawn Kohorst, Vendor.
Commissioner Nick Jaramillo grilled New Mexico Department of Transportation’s Region 5 Engineer, Mr. Galbadon, who appeared at the Jan. 3 commission meeting in response to a request for an explanation of the controversial (attempted) removal of Vendors from the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. While Mr. Galbadon, initially, claimed “safety” was the reason for the installation of barriers, the expulsion of vendors and closure of parking lots on the east side of the bridge, he finally admitted that Taos Pueblo and their surrogate, the Bureau of Indian Affairs had threatened NMDOT with “losing our easement.”
The original 1963 “grant” of “right a way,” included conditions allowing construction of the roadway for transportation, not vending, according to the engineer. The agreement is silent on parking, vending, and the usual conditions affecting state and federal highways. Commissioner Jaramillo called the agreement typically general and vague, likening the actions of NMDOT and Taos Pueblo to something out of cold-war “Russia.”
The engineer admitted he hadn’t visited the Bridge yet to see the new configuration of cement barriers, which forces visitors and vendors to parallel park on the west side, thus endangering pedestrians, who must skirt traffic and find their way to one of the most popular tourist attractions in the county and state. Further Mr. Galbadon hinted that parking and picnicking areas (included in the original survey attached to the original 1960s era agreement) would not be restored for use by the public.
So where will thousands of summer visitors, including those who arrive in RVs, cars, and tour buses, park?
Further, as one of the vendors pointed out at the commission meeting, NMDOT and the New Mexico Department of Public Safety, according to NMDOT Secretary Alfred Dominguez’s Nov. 29 2011 letter “will work with legal counsel for the Pueblo of Taos to amend the right of way easement to allow Pueblo officials to pursue reasonable civil remedies against trespassers.” NMDOT and New Mexico Department of Public Safety (NMDPS) would expand the power of Taos Pueblo’s patriarchal theocracy so that an autocratic governor–no rights for women– can intervene in the environs of Taos by allowing Taos Pueblo Cops to become the enforcers at the Bridge.
In effect the Taos Pueblo cops, i.e. Taos Pueblo Government, will be allowed to prosecute and persecute off-reservation residents and citizens if the deal comes to fruition. The proposed action represents a recipe for violence and will ignite a new round of multi-cultural Americano—Taos Pueblo Indian wars right here in Taos County. Engineer Galbadon said vendors across the state violate NMDOT administrative rules, while admitting that the criminal code doesn’t apply to roadside vendors (except in Taos?).
As the facts on the ground show, NMDOT has violated its declared concern about “public safety” and fiscal responsibility at the Bridge. The contractor at the Bridge has created an unsafe one-lane roadway during a superficial cosmetic upgrade to the facility, a project that has gone on and on and on for months with little actual progress or visible improvements to the Bridge–except for painting the metal rails. They haven’t even fixed the potholes and broken pavement in the roadway.
Commissioner Dan Barrone pointed out that the Bridge area provided one of the few safe places for trucks engaged in commerce (gravel, lumber, wood hauling) to pull off the highway between the Blinking Light intersection and Tres Piedras.
Ironically, Gov. Martinez, who has characterized herself as pro-business and anti-regulation, has engaged in restrictive policies against commerce and targeted a “special group” of American entrepreneurs by allowing Taos Pueblo Government to usurp the rights of “other” citizens.
Discussions of a solution to the problem include the possibility of the BLM expanding and re-configuring the west side rest state park area to accommodate parking and vendors in the area near the west rim trailhead. In effect, one department of federal government and one of state government makes trouble for a second department of federal and state government at taxpayer expense due to ineptitude and broken treaties, based on the mean-spirited actions of the government at Taos Pueblo.
We hear that Lauriano (sp?) Romero has been named this year’s Taos Pueblo Governor and that Pueblo puppet master, Gilbert “Atomic” Suazo, the Lt. Gov. Suazo has been consolidating his grip on power at Taos Pueblo for years. He’s all for the expansion of the airport–worshipping the new sky gods–but fears the Vendors, who peacefully co-exist with the legendary troll living beneath the bridge.
One vendor, a retired school teacher, said she enjoyed supplementing her income, going to work when she liked, keeping her own hours, enjoying the fresh air and company. But that’s a problem. These freelance vendors can’t be controlled, systematized, made to bend to the will of government. They sell a few items, pay a few bills, buy a few meals for their kids, and enjoy themselves in the process–providing visitors with information, first aid, and souvenirs from their trip to Taos.
There’s simply too much personal freedom at the Bridge. Gov. Martinez, NMDOT, NMDPS, and Taos Pueblo don’t want folks to engage in the pursuit of happiness. It’s just too damn American. The Taos County Commissioners, in contrast, represent their patch-work multi-cultural constituents in what appears to be the last stand against government totalitarianism. Viva Los Commissioners and especially St. Nick.