FARMINGTON — During Farmington City Council's Tuesday work session, the city's lobbyist said the New Mexico legislature is unlikely to fund a $28 million project that would connect Piñon Hills Boulevard to County Road 3000.
Scott Scanland, Farmington's lobbyist, told city council that Gov. Susana Martinez has funded many community water projects during legislative sessions. He said lobbying for the city's detention pond and replacement waterlines would likely be more successful than high-dollar capital projects that require many funding cycles to complete, such as the Piñon Hills bridge and extension project.
The bridge and extension project -- a joint project of the city and San Juan County -- would build a connection between Piñon Hills Boulevard, Main Street and County Road 3000 to link northeast Farmington and the Crouch Mesa area and reduce traffic on Browning Parkway, according to the city's fiscal year 2015-2019 Infrastructure Capital Improvement Plan, or ICIP. The document proposed constructing a bridge across the Animas River and a nearby oxbow.
Farmington is requesting the following funding for its top five projects listed on its ICIP:
· $19 million for the Piñon Hills Boulevard bridge and extension,
· $1.5 million for the detention pond at Porter Arroyo,
· $4 million for Fire Station No. 7 and related equipment,
· $6 million for the replacement waterlines and
· $3.6 million for phase two of the Farmington Civic Center's expansion.
Despite Scanland's comments, council decided to keep the bridge project as its top priority on the ICIP list, and it agreed to tell Scanland to set it as his top lobbying priority. The body also agreed to tell him to lobby for the detention pond and the replacement waterline.
The bridge and extension is among the Farmington Metropolitan Planning Organization's top five important projects in the region, MPO Planner Joe Delmagori said. A $159,761 traffic study of East Main Street completed in August 2002 identified the project as a way to reduce traffic on the street.
Farmington received $3 million from a Federal Highway Administration grant for the project, City Engineer Nica Westerling said. But the funding will not be available until after Oct. 1, she said.
The county lists the project as its fourth funding priority on its ICIP. The county is seeking $8.388 million for the project, according to its ICIP.
But County Chief Operation Officer Mike Stark said the county is not likely to receive any funding for the project.
"Really, there's a lack of federal and state grants to fund a project of that magnitude," he said.
The county and city jointly applied for a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant through the U.S. Department of Transportation. But Stark said they have been denied funding each of the four years they've applied.
Councilor Jason Sandel said the city's action on the Piñon Hills bridge and extension is too slow.
"Instead of building a plan to get it done, we continue to sit back and find excuses to why we can't," he said. "And, to me, leaders find a way to get it done."
City Manager Rob Mayes said the project is still a priority, but without increasing taxes or cutting services, funding it is difficult.
"There's not a doubt about the importance of that bridge," he said.