BERNALILLO — Representatives for the New Mexico Department of Transportation gave the Sandoval County Commission an in-depth presentation about its plans to expand US 550.
Chris Baca, an engineer for NMDOT, told the commission that phase two of the expansion on US 550 will begin very soon.
Baca pointed out that phase one, which consisted of expanding the bridge that runs over the Rio Grande on US 550, was complete.
Baca said the second phase, which will run from NM 313 to NM 528 and include what he calls a continuous flow of traffic at the intersection of US 550 and NM 528, will begin Oct. 28 and is estimated to last until the summer of 2021.
“This project has an estimated cost of just under $24 million,” Baca said.
Some of the major projects that are included in the phase two plan include the continued widening of US 550 to make it a six-lane highway with three lanes in each direction, he said.
“We will also be doing significant reconstruction at the intersection of US 550 and NM 528 with what is termed a continuous-flow intersection,” Baca said.
Baca said studies show that there are currently 50,000 vehicles that use the US 550 corridor every day with the projected number in the year 2035 reaching 70,000.
Other components of the phase two plan include updating and installing storm drain systems along with coordinating a new traffic signal system with the existing lights on the road.
As for the question of fitting six lanes into the space along U.S. 550, Baca said that NMDOT has been in right-of-way acquisitions for over a year and have purchased approximately 16 feet of right-away on both north and south sides of the road.
Commissioner Kenneth Eichwald asked Baca if the county or the Town of Bernalillo would incur any costs due to this expansion.
“In the previous deal, the Town of Bernalillo came and asked us for additional funding for some of their infrastructure … has that all been brought into the project or are they going to be coming back to ask for more funds?” Eichwald asked.
Kenneth Murphy, NMDOT District 3 engineer, told the commission that the town of Bernalillo will have to pay for any upgrades during this phase itself.
“Sometimes a relocation of infrastructure isn’t really reimbursable,” Murphy said. “On the first phase, the Town of Bernalillo did spend some money putting in waterlines and other utilities.”
Eichwald replied with another inquiry into who would be paying for the moving and coordinating of the proposed lights on the US 550 corridor.
“I ask because Sandoval County was asked to pay for the lighting, if there’s going to be more lights, who’s going to be paying for that?” Eichwald asked
Murphy said NMDOT will be managing the lights and paying for the utilities and electricity on the lights.
“The roadway lighting itself has been split between entities,” he said. “We have an agreement with Santa Ana Pueblo in place and also the Town of Bernalillo for the roadway lighting, but the signals will be managed by NMDOT.”