Design plans for safety improvements on two busy state highways running through Eddy County continued, officials said.
Engineering, environmental, right-of-way and utilities development plans for the New Mexico 128 and New Mexico 31 road project south of Carlsbad were forecasted to last through March 2022, the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) website indicated.
Requests for work contractors were slated for August 2022 and phase one work is scheduled to start late next year, read NMDOT’s website.
Terry Ward, project manager with WSP Engineering in Albuquerque, said estimated cost on phase one ranged from $70 to $80 million and was fully funded.
“Both New Mexico 31 and New Mexico 128 traverse Bureau of Land Management (BLM), State Land Office, and private lands, mainly serving the oil and gas industry,” read the NMDOT’s website dedicated to the project.
NMDOT selected the first phase of improvements to be delivered using the Design-Build procurement methodology, per the website.
“This provides maximum funding flexibility for NMDOT and its partners and allows NMDOT to aggressively move towards starting construction of the improvements sooner,” the website stated.
Jennifer Hyre, WSP’s environmental planning manager, said New Mexico 31 extends 22 miles from the U.S. Highway 285 and U.S. 62/180 junction and New Mexico 128 extends 60 miles from New Mexico 31 through the City of Jal.
“Both roadways are part of a major transportation network,” she said.
Hyre said both highways were classified as “major collectors” since both connect communities with populations over 5,000.
Data gathering indicated both highways need pavement improvements, additional lanes, shoulders, passing lanes and drainage improvements, the NMDOT website said.
Ward cited the number of traffic crashes occurring on both roadways from 2015-2019.
He said 169 crashes were noted on New Mexico 31 along with three traffic deaths.
“We found that the New Mexico 31-128 intersection (near Loving) had a crash rate four-and-a-half times higher than the adjacent highway segments,” he said.
During the same time period on New Mexico 128 there were 553 crashes were reported along with 24 traffic deaths, Ward said.
He said traffic along the highway corridor was anticipated to grow from 2019 to 2041.
NMDOT District 2 Engineer Francisco Sanchez from Roswell said his agency and WSP teamed up for an online meeting Aug. 31 to address safety concerns and congestion issues.
He said both roads were, “heavily tied to important industries,” in Eddy and Lea counties.
Mike Smith can be reached at 575-628-5546 or by email at [email protected] or @ArgusMichae on Twitter.