State expresses commitment to reconstruction of La Plata Highway

Roadway has drawn many complaints from residents

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times
Traffic moves south May 10 on U.S. Highway 170 in La Plata.
  • A 2010 study estimated the cost of reconstruction at $16 million.
  • The La Plata Highway project is one of several slated for development in the county.
  • A transportation improvement plan will be considered June 14 at a meeting in Aztec.


AZTEC — A New Mexico Department of Transportation official expressed the state's commitment to redesigning and reconstructing N.M. Highway 170, also known as the La Plata Highway, during a Farmington Metropolitan Planning Organization meeting today at the county offices in Aztec.

District 5 engineer Paul Brasher said the highway is on the state's transportation improvement plan. While it is a priority, he said it may be several years before the redesign and reconstruction can take place. In the meantime, he said the state will continue to patch potholes and seal cracks in the road.

Many residents have expressed concern about increased traffic on the highway from a coal mine in Hesperus, Colo., as well as the lack of shoulders and numerous potholes.

"I get phone calls fairly often about that road," Brasher said.

He said the road was studied in 2010 to determine the price of reconstructing it. He recalled that it was estimated then the reconstruction project would cost about $16 million.

But Brasher said there have been problems statewide with construction bids coming in much higher than the engineer estimates.

The La Plata Highway is one of several projects slated for development in San Juan County. The MPO is expected to approve a transportation improvement plan for fiscal years 2018 through 2023 during its June 14 meeting in Aztec. The MPO operates on the federal fiscal year, which starts in October.

The East Aztec Arterial Route is included in a transportation improvement plan for San Juan County that is under consideration by the Farmington Metropolitan Planning Organization.


Several projects from the previous transportation improvement plan transferred over, including phase two of the East Aztec Arterial Route, the U.S. Highway 64 widening project, the downtown Farmington Complete Streets project and phase two of the Foothills Drive enhancements.

New projects added to the list include East Blanco Bridge in Bloomfield, an extension of the Among the Waters trail in southwest Farmington, a trail at the Farmington Museum at Gateway park, an extension of the Gwynhaven Trail and improvements to the bridge on County Road 5500.

In addition to discussing future developments, the MPO is considering a new fiscal agent. Currently, the city of Farmington serves as the fiscal agent for the MPO.

Assistant city manager Julie Baird said when the MPO was formed, there was discussion of having the Northwest New Mexico Council of Governments serve as the fiscal agent. After the senior planner took a new job and the position was left vacant, Farmington decided it would be a good time to re-evaluate its role in the MPO.

Baird said having the Northwest New Mexico Council of Governments serve as the fiscal agent would allow Farmington to act solely as a member entity and level the playing field for the other entities, which include the cities of Aztec and Bloomfield, and San Juan County.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.