County commissioners will consider awarding contract for C.R. 5500 bridge project
Contract could go to company that built 'Big I' interchange
- Commissioners will meet at noon March 30 at the San Juan County Building, 100 S. Oliver Drive in Aztec.
- The agenda includes a proposal to award a contract to build the bridge to the Kiewit New Mexico Co. of Albuquerque.
- The bridge is located south of U.S. Highway 64 and southeast of McGee Park.
FARMINGTON — The years-long effort to replace the aging County Road 5500 bridge that crosses the San Juan River will resume this week when the San Juan County Commission gathers for a special meeting to consider awarding a construction contract.
Commissioners will meet at noon March 30 at the San Juan County Building, 100 S. Oliver Drive in Aztec. The agenda for the meeting is short and is highlighted by consideration of a proposal to award a contract to build the bridge to the Kiewit New Mexico Co. of Albuquerque.
The bridge is located south of U.S. Highway 64 and southeast of McGee Park. It was built in the 1970s by local residents and has been targeted for replacement since an engineering report released in 2017 revealed its condition had deteriorated sharply over the preceding several years.
But replacing the bridge has been easier said than done. A design for a new bridge was approved by commissioners in 2018, with $2.4 million in capital outlay funds from the Legislature, money from the New Mexico Department of Transportation and county bond funding earmarked for the project.
County officials hoped the project would be put out to bid shortly afterward, but the surveying and engineering processes took longer than anticipated.
The job finally was put out to bid in December 2020, and county officials expected to award a contract on Feb. 2 and have construction underway by now. But they were surprised when all the bids received for the project came in substantially over budget.
County spokesman Devin Neeley said county engineers believed the project was "overdesigned," meaning some aspects of the new bridge — especially its height — were more elaborate than they needed to be. A redesign of the project was completed quickly, and the county put it out to bid again on Feb. 14.
This time, apparently, at least one bid came close to the county's target figure of $5.5 million for the project — that of the Kiewit New Mexico Co., the contractor that built the massive $237 million "Big I" interchange of Interstate 25 and Interstate 40 in Albuquerque.
The project had been scheduled for completion in late fall of this year before the awarding of a contract was delayed. It is unclear if county officials still expect the work to be done be done before the end of 2021. They previously had estimated the construction would take nine months, with one lane of alternating traffic remaining open over the life of the project.
The bridge remains in use on a modified basis. Traffic across the structure has been limited to a single lane since March 2018, with temporary traffic signals installed at each end. The weight limit for the bridge also was reduced by almost half to 13 tons, and the speed limit was reduced from 35 mph to 15 mph.
The number of vehicles crossing the bridge each day has declined substantially since those changes were put in place, going from an average of 4,400 vehicles a day in 2017 to 3,351 in 2019.
Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.