Traffic concerns top agenda at quarterly luncheon

By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor

Engineers involved with the city of Portales Transportation Plan got a taste of the public discussion to come Tuesday during presentations at three meetings.

Scott Verhines and Clay Koontz of GC Engineering Inc. of Albuquerque were the featured speakers at the Roosevelt County Chamber of Commerce Quarterly Luncheon and gave a report to Portales City Council during the evening. In between, they met with the steering committee for the PTP.

With heavy truck traffic, the roadway on the main artery through Portales, U.S. 70, is an ongoing maintenance and safety issue, according to city officials.

Opening his chamber address, Verhines outlined the six options he said represented the city’s most likely options for relieving traffic, in particular truck traffic, in downtown Portales. Those options include doing nothing, one that looks at traffic calming or slowing down traffic downtown and four relief routes that would route truck traffic around the city.

“There’s a delicate balance to make it (truck relief routes) attractive to the traffic you want to take it and not so convenient that the traffic you don’t want taking it use it.”

Verhines told the city council the steering committee is going to begin intensifying the study of the various options at its next meeting in December. He said he is hoping to have recommendations from the committee by February and begin a public hearing process soon thereafter.

While the planning process is going smoothly so far, according to Verhines and Portales City Manager Debi Lee, it doesn’t necessarily mean that one of the options will be built immediately. Lee opened the chamber meeting saying funding from the New Mexico Department of Transportation could be as far off as 2011. No price tag for any of the options has been discussed at this point.

“These recommendations are very crucial in my opinion for the lobbying effort to get something done,” Lee said.
Verhines agreed that NMDOT can be the city’s biggest ally or its toughest obstacle depending on whether the city had done its homework and the community was behind the option being proposed.

“Readiness of the project can move you up considerably (in the funding cycle),” Verhines said.

Verhines told the chamber group the feedback received so far from the Portales Industrial Park tenants support the relief route alternative northwest of the city. He cautioned everything was preliminary though and the steering committee and GC wouldn’t make a recommendation until each alternative had been thoroughly discussed.

Verhines told both groups trucking firms that operate locally had told them a route that would take the same amount of time or just slightly longer would be preferable to truck drivers if they could avoid the downtown traffic and its inherent problems.

“Any shift of truck traffic you can take off of downtown will make a significant impact of maintenance of the streets,” Verhines said.

In other business, the city council:

• Approved a notice of intent to issue and sale Industrial Revenue Bonds for the purpose of a $70 million plant expansion at DairiConcepts.

• Renewed an agreement with the Administrative Office of the Court for use of video equipment.

• Approved an easement for Newton and Belinda Hilliard to perform maintenance on a fence encroaching on the city right-of-way at 1743 S. Ave. O.

• Approved an amendment of a memorandum of agreement with the city of Clovis and the counties of Roosevelt and Curry changing the quorum and number of votes required for action for the Local Growth Management Organization.

• Approved hiring Design Plus LLC for architectural services on the renovations of the city pool.