Official frustrated about spending $183K for new paperwork on Aztec's arterial route

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times
A barrier blocks the south entrance to the East Aztec Arterial Route, Wednesday, March 10, 2021, in Aztec.

AZTEC — A barrier has blocked off the south end of the East Aztec Arterial Route for years and, while it has been a priority project for the city for decades, it has faced delay after delay.

Now some of the past work done to prepare for the next phase of the project has expired, requiring it to be redone and submitted to the state. This will cost $183,000. Once this has been completed, the city will be able to send the project out to bid. The project could be sent out to bid in June.

The Aztec City Commission approved this expenditure during its meeting on March 9, but Commissioner Austin Randall expressed frustration with having to redo what has previously been done.

"I understand exactly why we have to do it, but it is still very frustrating," he said.

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The north end of the East Aztec Arterial Route joins with New Mexico Highway 173.

Later in the meeting, Randall described it as spending $183,000 to update paperwork.

The city contracted with Wilson & Company in 2008 for the East Aztec Arterial Route, which is being built in phases. The southern end of the route intersects with U.S. Highway 550 near Pepsi Way while the northern end of the route joins with New Mexico Highway 173 before intersecting with U.S. Highway 550 across from the Dollar General in east Aztec. 

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Both the southern and northern ends of the project have been completed. The next phase will link the two sections.

The arterial route is intended to divert heavy truck traffic away from the downtown. This will allow the city to make the downtown more pedestrian friendly. Aztec has planned a downtown renovation that could be similar to what the City of Farmington completed last year in its downtown. 

The south end of the East Aztec Arterial is pictured, Wednesday, March 10, 2021.

Diverting truck traffic away from the downtown is also intended to protect the historic buildings that currently shake at times due to truck traffic. 

According to the staff summary in the agenda packet, changes in personnel at the city, the New Mexico Department of Transportation and the Bureau of Land Management from 2008 to 2020 resulted in a complete review of the entire project, including the already completed phases. 

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The Bureau of Land Management is involved because the city is acquiring right of way from the BLM. The staff summary also states that changes in design standards at the federal and state level have led to significant changes for the project, as did mitigating for an old landfill on the BLM land. The mitigation includes a remediation plan and installing a retaining wall to minimize impacts to the landfill. 

While the New Mexico Department of Transportation was certifying the right of way earlier this year, it found that prior work, including the findings of no significant impact, had expired. Wilson and Company informed the city that the documents are more than three years old and must be updated with current information.

The East Aztec Arterial Route is intended to divert truck traffic away from downtown Aztec and joins with New Mexico Highway 173 on the north end of the road.

Project Manager Ed Kotyk said the right of way acquisition was completed in December and submitted to the state. But previous work, including the Finding of No Significant Impact, must be redone because it has expired. 

Commissioner Mike Padilla Sr. expressed concerns about the impacts that the East Aztec Arterial Route could have on the intersection of New Mexico Highway 173 and U.S. Highway 550. He asked for more information about what the plan is to address the increase in traffic at that intersection.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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