Increase in traffic leads officials to ask drivers to avoid using County Road 5500 bridge
County says wait time to cross bridge has gone up to 5 minutes
FARMINGTON — San Juan County officials are asking drivers to avoid using the County Road 5500 bridge over the San Juan River while the structure is being rebuilt.
A request for motorists to avoid the bridge was posted on the county's Facebook page on the afternoon of July 1. County spokesman Devin Neeley said traffic on the structure has grown heavier since construction began in early June.
"We have seen an increase in traffic on the bridge despite asking people to not go that way," he said.
Neeley said he did not know how many vehicles a day are using the bridge now, but he said the increase has made conditions more hazardous for workers.
"I can't quantify the increase, but it has definitely gone up," he said. "We need to give our construction guys a break."
Neeley said the traffic increase is likely a product of drivers being curious about the construction or simply being confused and believing that the project has been finished.
That is certainly not the case, he said. Most of the western half of the bridge has been demolished and is being rebuilt, leaving only one lane on the east side of the bridge to handle alternating traffic.
The traffic increase is especially curious given the fact that the wait time to cross the bridge has grown due to the construction. Traffic lights at each end restrict traffic across the structure to one direction at a time, and the county's post on the Facebook page says delays of up to five minutes can result before motorists can proceed.
"PLEASE AVOID DRIVING THAT WAY IF YOU DON'T HAVE TO!" the county's post states.
Work on the project is expected to continue until the spring of 2021. The Albuquerque-based contractor Kiewit New Mexico Co. is performing the work under the terms of a $7.4 million contract it received from the San Juan County Commission earlier this year.
The original bridge dates from the 1970s and has been targeted for replacement since at least 2017. The cost of building a new bridge is being covered by capital outlay money from the state Legislature, funds from the New Mexico Department of Transportation and San Juan County bond money.
Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.