By Helena Rodriguez, PNT Staff Writer
The New Mexico Department of Transportation Commission announced a $7 million plan to correct a failed pavement project on the Dora Highway and plans for an engineering design for U.S. 70 in downtown Portales Thursday.
In a meeting at Eastern New Mexico University, the six-member commission also heard traffic safety concerns in accident-prone areas, with a particular hot spot being the Third and Kilgore intersection in Portales. The road behind Portales High School is mainly used to get to the Wal-Mart Supercenter. The Arch Highway was another area of concern due to increased dairy traffic.
“The problem at Third and Kilgore is that a lot of people think it is a four-way stop sign intersection, but it only has two stop signs. It is a really confusing thing out there,” said David Sanders, chairman of the Roosevelt County Commission.
The meeting was attending by state senators Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, and Gay Kernan, R-Hobbs, as well as by various state officials from the New Mexico Tourism Department, Federal Highway Administration and Department of Transportation, with representatives coming from throughout the state.
Gary Shubert, a Department of Transportation engineer for District 2, which includes Roosevelt, Curry, De Baca, Lincoln, Otero, Chaves, Eddy, Lea and parts of Guadalupe and Torrance counties, responded to questions posed by the commission chair, Johnny Cope of Hobbs. He said that while a previous review of the Third and Kilgore area was conducted, that they will look at it again. “I know there is more traffic there now because of Wal-Mart,” he said.
According to Shubert, if a study warrants a four-way stop-sign intersection, the additional stop signs could be in place in as little as two months.
Regarding the Arch Highway, Shubert said, “It has changed recently because there are so many dairies out there now. Kernan has been asked to look into it, but at this point, there is just no money. It would take about $30 million (to rebuild the road).”
Portales Mayor Orlando Ortega also gave commissioners a rundown of his local wish list which included:
• Traffic lights at the intersection of Main and Second streets. He noted the city is in the process of turning Main Street into a two-way street east of the courthouse.
• A traffic light at North Chicago and U.S. 70 to help move truck traffic east and west rather than north and south.
• Right-of-way on U.S. 70 for water line reconstruction due to recent water main breaks, a situation deemed an emergency.
Shubert assured Ortega that the water line situation has been placed on a fast track due to its urgency. Shubert said that with a $3 million budget, they will look at redesigning U.S 70 in downtown Portales. However, he said additional funds would be needed to implement the project. “Right now, the costs (of repairing roads) has doubled and budgets have not,” he said.
Regarding increased truck traffic in the downtown area, he said, “That would require the constructing of a truck bypass or some other route because we are limited by space due to existing businesses. However, that would also be up to the local community to decide.”’
Shubert also gave the commission an update on work being done elsewhere in District 2 which includes:
• Work on New Mexico 209, South of Grady
• The recent completion of half-mile bridge/railroad overpass in Clovis, on NM 467 which allows emergency vehicle access
• Upgrading of a back gate area at Cannon Air Force Base