Portales city council sets sights on U.S. 70 project

Tony Parra

Portales Mayor Orlando Ortega and city councilors have U.S. Highway 70 listed as their top construction priority for funding from the New Mexico State Department of Transportation during Tuesday evening’s city council meeting.

The money would be requested through Governor Richardson’s Investment Partnership program to improve state highways during the 2006 legislative session. If the state legislators grant the $20 million for the project, construction can begin as soon as next year.

Such a project would be constructed from 2006 to 2012 and Portales city officials have agreed to take the lead on planning and design working with the direction of the NMDOT district engineer.

Portales City Manager Debi Lee said she will send a letter to area legislators to ask for their support on the project. City councilors approved a resolution listing U.S. Highway 70 as the top priority for the GRIP II program.

“We would like to have Highway 70 redone from each end of town,” Lee said. “We want a complete reconstruction and make it pedestrian friendly.”

Ortega said he and city councilors have been discussing the need to improve U.S. Highway 70. Lee said the state engineer would make a request to the United States

Department of Transportation to be able to do construction work on the highway at a later date. She also said some of $20 million could be from the federal government.

• City councilors unanimously approved a resolution authorizing Ortega to make an amendment on the contract with Marron Associates of Albuquerque to produce an environmental study of the Portales Municipal Airport.
Portales has a $40,000 grant to pay for the services, with $36,000 coming from the Federal Aviation Administration, $2,000 from the City of Portales and $2,000 from the State of New Mexico.

FAA requested an amendment to the contract with Marron Associates to include a noise study and public meetings. The cost of the environmental study of $29,711 has been agreed to by the City of Portales representatives and Marron Associates members.

Lee said the next step is to send the amendment back to the FAA and the New Mexico Aviation Division of the NMDOT. She said once Portales city officials receive the OK from them they will contact Marron Associates members so they can begin the work on the environmental study.

Lee said she is hopeful Marron Associates members can start on the study between 30-60 days from now.

“This (environmental study) will reap benefits to the airport,” Ortega said. “They (New Mexico Aviation Division members) encouraged us to work on our airport because there are federal dollars available for improvements.”

The study can help the City of Portales receive more money from the FAA to lengthen the runways making it accessible for larger airplanes to land and fuel.