AZTEC — More surprise utilities have been discovered underground at one of the busiest intersections in the city.
While preparing trenching work last week, road crews found an unexpected water line underground at the corner of Light Plant Road and Aztec Boulevard.
The $1.1 million New Mexico Department of Transportation project has been halted by winter weather and slowed by underground surprises since work began last summer. The road project is designed to open up the busy intersection that primarily handles traffic on N.M. Highway 516 heading west to Farmington and east into downtown Aztec by widening turns at the corners and installing new light signals.
"It's not long ago that we were fraught with surprise by finding underground utilities we didn't know were there," said Paul Brasher, engineer for the state department's District 5 office. "We notified the city, and they're going to lower the water line that's in the way."
City Projects Manager Ed Kotyk confirmed the work will be done this month.
"The utility that was discovered will be worked on next week," Kotyk said at a commission meeting Tuesday.
Brasher said the intersection is not the most complicated road project he's overseen, but it has had enough surprises underground to keep DOT officials busy replanning daily work orders.
"We've had to relocate, relay how the storm sewer is going to work," Brasher said on Friday. "The exact location of these things gets readjusted because we keep discovering things as we go. There is no mapping, and so many underground line spots, locations of electric, gas and water lines (are) all laid so close together. Every time we think we have a handle on it, something comes up."
Brasher said despite the latest wrinkle, the project will be finished by the end of the month, ahead of the Aug. 15 start of the school year.
On Friday, workers were busy pouring concrete for sidewalks along the northwest corner.
Next week, work will begin on storm sewer extensions, which will include trenching for a water pipe that will cross the intersection. After that, crews will replace a 250-foot median on the west side of the intersection that was taken out to allow greater traffic flow during work and add asphalt, stripe painting and new street signs. Some of the work will be done overnight, Brasher said, to ensure the work does not snarl school bus traffic next month.
"Yes, we'll finish before school gets back in session," Brasher said. "We'll trench across the street, crossing gas, water and electric to get there. Some of it will be done at night."
Brasher, who originally went to college on a violin scholarship, sees parallels between road projects and symphonies.
"It's had its moments when it's been like the fourth movement of Shostakovich's fifth symphony, especially the first 60 seconds. But, overall, that's not this intersection," he said. "This intersection is like the opening of Mendelssohn's Italian symphony, the rising third. It's an extremely optimistic, welcoming piece, and I'm just as optimistic about this project. The next few weeks are the crescendo."
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.