City, state officials announce $40 million in funding for long-awaited road project

First phase of project expected to go out to bid this winter

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
  • Tthe funding for the project came from the American Rescue Plan Act passed by Congress in 2021, and the money is being administered by the state of New Mexico.
  • The original cost estimate for the work 25 years ago was $4.2 million.
  • Farmington already has spent $3.5 million on design work and site acquisition for the extension.

FARMINGTON — A Farmington road extension that has been in the planning stages for approximately a quarter of a century finally got the shot in the arm it had been waiting for Aug. 19 when city and state officials announced that $40 million in funding has been set aside for the project.

During a press conference at the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Mayor Nate Duckett and Farmington Community Works Director David Sypher were joined by a variety of other city and county officials in celebrating the announcement. Sypher said the funding came from the American Rescue Plan Act passed by Congress in 2021, and the money is being administered by the state of New Mexico.

"This is exactly the kind of work we should be celebrating in every single community," Lujan Grisham said of the project, which will extend Pinon Hills Boulevard southeast all the way to U.S. Highway 64, giving motorists another much-needed option for crossing the Animas River.

Duckett noted how the original cost estimate for the work 25 years ago was $4.2 million."Thirty-six million dollars later, here we stand today," he said to a round of laughter.

Farmington Mayor Nate Duckett, left, addresses the crowd at an Aug. 19 press conference at the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park while Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Farmington Community Works Director David Sypher listen.

Sypher described how the project already had been floating around for years when he joined the city staff a decade ago.

"It's been a long, long road, and it's exciting we can move forward into this awesome project," he said.

Duckett noted that while the project has sat atop the capital improvements wish list for local officials for decades, there was never any feasible plan for getting it built until now.

"For a lot of people, this was not going to reach fruition," he said, adding that members of the Farmington City Council had even debated removing it from the wish list at times over the years.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham talks about the $40 million in funding the city of Farmington will receive to proceed with the long-planned Pinon Hills Boulevard extension.

In an interview with The Daily Times after the press conference, Sypher explained that the project has been stalled since 2016 by a lack of funding. Farmington already has spent $3.5 million on design work and site acquisition for the extension, he said.

Now, with the federal funding administered by the state, the project — which has been divided into three phases — can get moving in earnest. Sypher said the city will finish its design for the $9.2 million first phase, which extends from N.M. Highway 516 to Hubbard Road, and submit it for approval and certification, which he hopes will come in December.

"Our goal is to put it out for bid in January or February for phase one," he said.

A display board illustrates the path of the planned Pinon Hills Boulevard extension during an Aug. 19 press conference at the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park.

Phase two, which carries a price tag of $29.3 million, would extend to Wildflower Parkway and is also the city's responsibility. The third and final phase would extend the road to U.S. Highway 64 and is the responsibility of San Juan County, he said.

That work is expected to cost an additional $9.5 million to $10 million, money that has not been appropriated yet. But the governor indicated a request for that funding from the Legislature would be well received by her office.

"I'm an easy sell on the extra $9 million," she said, explaining that an unprecedented amount of funding is expected to be available to state lawmakers when they open the 2023 session in Santa Fe in January.

If everything goes according to plan, Sypher told The Daily Times, the entire project could be finished by the middle of 2025.

Duckett said the extension would have huge implications in terms of reducing traffic congestion on East Main Street in Farmington as well as contributing to public safety and opening new territory for commercial and residential development.

"Time is of the essence right now," he said, noting that the rate of inflation makes it important to break ground on the project and get it built as quickly as possible.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription: http://bit.ly/2I6TU0e.