AZTEC — Building an arterial route east of Aztec's historic downtown has taken another twist.
On Tuesday, city commissioners voted to approve about $10,000 for the route.
In August, the Federal Highway Administration denied the city a path toward completing the arterial route, which would remove heavy truck traffic off Main Avenue and divert it east of downtown. Federal funding stalled over concerns that the work was being done in increments, specifically a stretch of the planned arterial route from Pepsi Way at U.S. Highway 550 to or near the Williams arroyo.
Ed Kotyk, the city's projects manager, said the transportation department decried the piecemeal road project as a "road to nowhere."
City officials received word last month from the state's transportation department that $3 million was available toward the road project if the city could demonstrate ownership of an undeveloped portion of Legion Road -- an old oil field road -- that extends from the Aztec Speedway and meanders to the planned arterial route.
The $10,000 will help establish the city's intent to both complete the project and make way to upgrade Legion Road.
But Kotyk views the new condition as puzzling.
"Legion Road is not a priority roadway for the city," he said. "But to the (New Mexico Department of Transportation) and the feds, it is."
The irony of the new requirements from the state and federal government places the city in the position of potentially building a road it never intended to in the first place.
"Now, we really might be building a road to nowhere," Kotyk said of Legion Road. "It's frustrating. We don't have the money to build the entire arterial project -- over $11 million total -- at once. So we have to do it pieces. But every time we accomplish a task, (the state and federal transportation departments) change the requirements."
On Thursday, Kotyk received an email from the state transportation department indicating the city would have to secure the right-of-way for Legion Road and also build it before more work on the arterial could be attempted.
"We have also just been told that funding for the entire project could be available to build the arterial if we wait until 2019, which is another change," Kotyk said. "Every time we finish a lap, they throw in more hurdles."