It wasn't quite an act of Congress, but it was a fine example of what cooperation among San Juan County's state legislators can do.
In the last legislative session, which ended last month, Aztec secured more than $3.8 million of state capital outlay funding for the East Aztec Arterial Route project.
The project will create a loop on the east side of the city — starting on U.S. 550 near the new Mictrotel Hotel and rejoining the highway by way of the Navajo Dam Road — that bypasses the city's downtown area.
Currently, U.S. 550 is the main route trucks from Albuquerque and Santa Fe take to get to Colorado and other places in the region. They rumble through downtown past historic buildings and a school.
City leaders have expressed concerns about the safety of students and pedestrians. And the heavy trucks destroy roads and create vibrations that threaten the structures of those historic buildings.
The arterial is expected not only to relieve that pressure, but to provide development opportunities along the route — which will pass by Tiger Park — for big box stores or other commercial enterprises.
Since 2005 the city has been turned down 11 times for this funding.
But this year, Rep. Paul Bandy, R-Aztec, led the way by sponsoring the appropriation bill, which was part of his House Capital Outlay request.
Bandy and the other legislators — Sen. Bill Sharer, R-Farmington; Sen. Steve Neville, R- Aztec ; Rep. Tom Taylor, R-Farmington; Rep. James Strickler, R-Farmington; and Rep. Sharon Clahchischilliage, R-Kirtland — wrote a letter in support of the project.
Aztec Mayor Sally Burbridge and city commissioners Sherri Sipe and Roberta Locke went to Santa Fe during the legislative session and met with Gov. Susana Martinez's staff to discuss the project. The governor ultimately approved the funding.
We love it when a plan comes together. Our lawmakers were able to present a united front that can create serious leverage at the Roundhouse, where just about everyone comes with a funding request.
The cities in the area are often pitted against each other when it comes to securing state money. But we believe the legislators came together and set an appropriate priority for this session.
The arterial is badly needed in Aztec as the town begins a project that will connect the downtown with Aztec Ruins National Monument with a pedestrian bridge over the Animas River. Ultimately, the plan is to create an historic zone that will increase tourist traffic. We think that could benefit other cities in the area as well.
The city is about $3.2 million short of being able to pay for the entire route. But officials are working with the state Department of Transportation to find funding and are applying for federal grants.
"By this time next year, we'll have the funding for this project," said City Manager Joshua Ray. "We're looking at 2015. I'm very optimistic. We're going to get this done."
Sounds good to us.