It is a crew with a wide variety of skills: jeweler, construction worker, automotive professional. One man even did time as a meat cutter at Furr’s, which really comes in handy when the Rio Metro Regional Transit District’s “G-2” Team holds a team-building barbecue at its office near the railroad tracks just off Broadway.
G-2 stands for “Go To”, a favored description of the Facility Maintenance unit that takes care of everything from covering graffiti at Rail Runner stations between Belen and Santa Fe to picking up trash and brush along the 100-mile track.
“We do a little bit of everything,” says team member Martin Chavez, whose main responsibility is overseeing maintenance of the Rail Runner stations from Downtown Albuquerque to Sandoval Co. / US 550 in Bernalillo. He has been on the crew for three years. Chavez worked construction all his life, so when it comes to tearing down an older building or building an office, he is a good hand to have. He’s also a skilled man at the barbecue grill.
A Congenial Boss
“We always make the best of what we have,” says Yosh Akutagawa, supervisor for the maintenance crew. Akutagawa, a graduate of New Mexico Military Institute, makes rider safety and comfort the priority for his crew, but he also makes working maintenance as enjoyable as possible. “I take care of the guys, and they take care of me.”
Alex Sanchez has been a team member for four years. His stretch of the Rail Runner route is Kewa (Santo Domingo Pueblo) to Santa Fe, where he lives. “You meet some interesting people,” he says.
Sanchez is fairly interesting himself. He was born in Russia, was adopted in 1996, and took a year to learn English after moving to the United States.
Team member J.R. Barela does silver-and turquoise jewelry when he isn’t maintaining the rail corridor between the Downtown Albuquerque Station and Belen. He enjoys the diversity of the job, “because there is so much happening all the time.”
Barela, worked for the Mid-Region Council of Governments (MRCOG) for 13 years before moving over to Rio Metro. MRCOG helps the governments in Bernalillo, Valencia, Torrance and Sandoval counties and the municipalities therein plan for the future. He has been in his current position with the Rio Metro for four years.
Before making the move to Rio Metro, Rick Frye worked for six years with Herzog, the contractor that operates the Rail Runner. He is “Rules Qualified”, which means he coordinates maintenance along the tracks, checks with dispatch for the locations of oncoming trains, and informs crews when they need to leave the tracks to allow trains to pass. Those skills, considered “flagging”, take Frye to the scenes of fatalities.
“I have been to a lot of fatalities,” he says, “either trains hitting cars or suicides. I can recall the first one and the last one. That’s the worst thing, dealing with the fatalities.”
Frye spent almost 30 years working in the automotive industry, starting as a mechanic and working up to sales and management. “I wanted a change, and boy did I get it!”
Over all, though, Frye says Yosh makes working on maintenance a good environment and Chavez agrees. “Yosh likes to find stuff along the tracks and hang it on your truck,” says Chavez.
The entire team agrees that Yosh is the guy who makes the job fun, and he doesn’t disagree. “When it’s not fun anymore, it’s time to move on,” he says.
Story & Picture by: Martin Frentzel