San Juan County Commissioners approved an agreement Tuesday night that will allow the county to partner with the Navajo Nation to replace a bridge that serves the Huerfano area south of Bloomfield.
If the Navajo Nation approves its half of the agreement and provides $1.5 million of the estimated $2.5 million project, construction to replace the bridge could begin this summer, said Dave Keck, San Juan County public works administrator.
The bridge, which is known as "the military bridge" and is officially named Bridge 8105, is on County Road 7150. The road starts about five miles south of Bloomfield on U.S. Highway 550 and the bridge is about eight miles west of the highway.
Bridges in New Mexico are rated for safety on a scale of 1 to 100, with 100 being the best. The military bridge scored a 13, by far the worst of all the 18 bridges on county roads, Keck said. Anything that scores less than a 50 on that scale is considered substandard.
The bridge was built in the 1970s and is a Bailey bridge, which means it is made out of military surplus material, Keck said.
It rises about 12 feet over Galleglos Wash and is used daily by Huerfano residents. Huerfano is a Navajo Nation chapter.
"It's not going to last much longer," said Larry Bonney, the Huerfano chapter coordinator. "It's a very crucial item the community members are concerned about."
Bonney said Huerfano voters have approved four resolutions in the past two years that have asked for financial support from state, county and tribal governments to replace the bridge.
The bridge can't handle the weight of heavy trucks or school buses so an access road the dips into the wash was built for them. That road can be dangerous when it rains and is the route Bloomfield school buses take to and from many students' houses, Bonney said.
Keck said the new bridge with be a two-tiered concrete bridge and will be able to handle heavy truck traffic and school buses.
The tribe has agreed to pay $1.5 million for the bridge replacement but its portion of the intergovernmental agreement hasn't yet been finalized.
The county will spend about $450,000 of county government funds on the project, and the county will maintain the bridge once it is completed.
A $650,000 federal grant is expected to cover the remaining cost of the bridge.
"I think this is a very important agreement," Keck said. "It's kind of a monumental step for doing joint projects between San Juan County and the Navajo Nation."
Ryan Boetel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 505-564-4644. Follow him on Twitter @rboetel.