The City of Rio Rancho is taking an early step in the journey to improve and widen the stretch of Southern Boulevard between Golf Course Road and Unser Boulevard.

On Wednesday, Rio Rancho Governing Body members unanimously approved a budget adjustment to pay for design of what the improved road would look like. With restrictions due to COVID-19, Mayor Gregg Hull and a few city staff members participated in the governing body meeting at City Hall, while city councilors took part by phone. 

The city received almost $1.8 million from the state Department of Transportation. It provided matching funds of a little more than $306,000 from road impact fees, which are fees developers pay to cover city costs of improving the road system to handle new development.

“This Phase 2 project consists of, obviously, widening the roadway, including bike lanes, landscaping, access management, drainage — a lot of similar stuff we did previously on Phase 1, but hopefully getting all the way to Unser Boulevard,” said Public Works Director BJ Gottlieb.

Phase 1 consisted of the recently completed work on Southern from NM 528 to Golf Course.

Gottlieb said the city would advertise seeking design services the day after the meeting, receive proposals by the end of May and start the design in June.

Estimates place the cost of the roadwork above $20 million, and it will happen when the city can get the money, according to city information.

In other business, governing body members:

• Awarded a $1.08 million contract to AUI Inc. to rehabilitate a wastewater lift station built in 1970 and install a new force-main line.

• Recognized Councilors Marlene Feuer and Dave Bency for their service, as the meeting was their last before leaving office.

• Approved a club liquor license for the local Moose lodge.

• Heard Acting City Manager Peter Wells recognize city staff members in essential positions working despite COVID-19 restrictions.

“There’s a lot of people working a lot of long, hard hours during this time to maintain services,” he said.