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NM HIGHWAY 550 ARTERIAL ROUTE PROJECT

 

NM Highway 550 Arterial Route Project

by David Edward Albright, Special to TALON

Does it seem like government projects often move at a turtle's pace? What about the cost and quality of work on highways? Why do highways have to be repaired/repaved so often? How will the Highway 550 bypass affect local businesses? Questions such as these arise regarding the ongoing NM State Highway 550 Aztec Arterial Route project.

To get some answers about the current status of the project, I talked to Aztec City Manager, Josh Ray. The State of New Mexico didn't responded to emails.

What is the total cost of the project?

Ray said, "This project has been divided into three different phases. Phase 1a was completed in 2010 by Consolidated Contractors for an estimated $2.5 million. Phase 1b was completed by Old Castle Construction for an estimated $4,446,043. Phase 2 of the Arterial Route, yet to be completed, is an estimated $8.3 million. Engineering, construction management, and right of way for the total project are an estimated $2.1 million. Total project is an estimated $17,346,043."

Who is the primary contractor in charge?

Ray said, "Wilson Engineering is the principle engineer on the project."

What are the specific issues, i.e., problems, obstacles, delays as the project progresses?

Ray's response was, "There have been a number of issues in getting this project fully constructed. The lack of sufficient funding up front did not allow for the project to be constructed at one time. Therefore, the project was broken down into three different phases. Changes in staffing at the NM Department of Transportation have caused significant issues for this project and continue to create issues for the project."

What is the projected completion date?

"We anticipate going to construction on the final phase of the Arterial Route in March 2018 for a construction period of 18 months. Therefore, we look for the project to be completed in 2019," Ray said.

What do you expect the economic impact to be?

"This route has amazing potential for both our downtown corridor and for future development. It will allow for additional downtown development. The new roadway will have sufficient utilities and infrastructure in place for a number of different economic development projects.

When asked if Ray had any concerns about the arterial project, he replied, "The only concern is trying to get this project approved by NM DOT and to bid. We must attract new contractors that can provide quality service for a fair price.

My next question to Josh Ray was "Regarding funding sources, are they a combination of City of Aztec, State of NM and Federal?

He replied, "The City of Aztec has paid for a significant portion of the planning and engineering for this project. The Federal Highway Administration has contributed to the project and the Capital Outlay process by the State of New Mexico has contributed.

When asked if he anticipated any economic decline for local businesses from tourists who use the bypass without stopping in Aztec, his answer was, "I think the potential for both economic decline and increased economic activity exist whenever you construct a new arterial route. However, I do not see our downtown businesses being significantly impacted by the construction of the Arterial Route."

Ray also added, "We have been investigating different types of parking options, traffic flow patterns, and are currently completing our Metropolitan Redevelopment plan for downtown. Main Street already has a pedestrian plaza located next to Rubia's restaurant. In addition, we are currently working on the plan for a North Main extension project that will begin construction this fall. In that plan, we will have a pedestrian plaza that includes a number of pedestrian friendly ammenities."

He continued, "The North Main extension project will include both bike lanes and routes. Main Street cannot have new routes or bike lanes until NM DOT approves such due to the fact that Main Street is a state highway."

The question remains: Do contractors, when bidding government projects have any intention to bid fairly and to do quality work in an efficient and expeditious manner?

 

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