AZTEC — Finishing the bypass road that began in 2005 to relieve the city's historic downtown corridor of heavy truck traffic is closer to becoming a reality.
Thanks to legislative help from Rep. Paul Bandy, R-Aztec, and San Juan delegates, the city of Aztec has secured more than $3.8 million for the East Aztec Arterial Route project.
Bandy sponsored the appropriation bill as part of his House Capital Outlay request during the 30-day legislative session that ended last month.
"Rep. Bandy was the sole sponsor and really provided us with real leadership," Aztec City Manager Joshua Ray said. "Bandy wanted to lead on this, and that's what we needed. And lo and behold, he did so."
Aztec Mayor Sally Burbridge and Commissioners Sherri Sipe and Roberta Locke also traveled to Santa Fe on Municipal Day during the legislative session to meet with legislators and Gov. Susana Martinez's staff to discuss the project.
To secure the money, Bandy drafted a letter with 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.
Bandy could not be reached for comment last week.
City officials hoped Martinez would approve a match grant that would have doubled the appropriation and funded the entire project, but the governor stopped short of that.
Nevertheless, the capital outlay dollars will speed up the road's progress, Ray said.
"We were very happy to get the good news," Ray said. "Bloomfield had a big project. Farmington had several. It was tough, but I'm very pleased to see that this long-fought-for project is closer than ever."
With the outlay funding, the city is now $3.2 million short of funding the entire route, which has been partially built in piecemeal portions, or phases, whenever funds for sections of the eastern bypass road were secured.
The city is now working with state Transportation Department Commissioner Butch Mathews and the department's District 5 Engineer Miguel Gabaldon to secure the remaining $3.2 million needed to fund the entire route.
The city will also apply this year for federal funding through the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER Discretionary Grant program, which funds projects "that have a significant impact on the Nation, a region or a metropolitan area," according to the Transportation Department's website.
"By this time next year, we'll have the funding for this project," Ray said, standing last week at the start of an unconstructed section of the arterial route that leads south from Tiger Park, off Navajo Dam Road. "We're looking at 2015. I'm very optimistic. We're going to get this done."
James Fenton covers Aztec and Bloomfield for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4631 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @fentondt on Twitter.