BLOOMFIELD — Road work through the heart of Bloomfield that has snarled traffic for three years has again slowed.
The majority of construction along a two-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 64 east of North First Street has been completed, even though orange construction barrels still dot the roadway.
The last phase of the project -- expanding turn ways and paving at the intersection of U.S. Highway 64 and U.S. Highway 550, which leads to Albuquerque -- is expected to start soon.
"Right now, we're studying our traffic control plan (for the intersection) to ensure that turns, especially left turns through the intersection, by large, heavy trucks -- those heading west turning south and those heading north that want to turn west -- are adjusted for and safe," said Paul Brasher, an engineer with the New Mexico Department of Transportation who is overseeing the project. "We're going to pour concrete right in the middle of the intersection, which will begin in the next few days and take about 10 days total to complete."
Because of unrelated infrastructure work near the intersection, Brasher said, the transportation department was compelled to "re-sequence" its roadwork plans.
"It's not a delay, other than the fact that we're studying traffic to ensure the trucks can turn safely," Brasher said. "It doesn't help, of course, that the intersection itself is not perpendicular, at nice, square, 90 degree angles."
During the concrete work, North Fifth Street, which adjoins the intersection on the north side, will be closed and timing of the traffic signals at the intersection will be reprogrammed to a slower rate for safety and traffic flow, Brasher said.
The project -- which started three years ago today on Dec. 17, 2010 -- has cost approximately $16.5 million, a $2 million increase from the original budget of $14.5 million.
Also on a list of final parts of the project yet to be completed is a "punch list" of more than 50 replacements or repairs near the intersection or along Highway 64.
"We have everything from somebody's footprints in concrete to damaged curbs and sidewalks to a downed light post in front of Farmer's Market, driveway repairs, median curbing -- it's a list," Brasher said.
Work on those items will begin as weather permits throughout the winter. Repairs will begin in earnest in the spring and are scheduled to be completed by midsummer.
"It was always going to be complicated," Brasher said of the road project. "But this is it -- the ultimate rebuild. Once we're done -- and we will be done, this will end -- people will be glad it's done and to have the improvement."
Brasher acknowledged public frustration about the length of the project.
"We're doing the best we can, but we can't compromise safety and quality to finish quickly," he said. "This project is built to last. When it's all done, people will be glad to have the improvement."