NM Highway 173 does not meet requirements for federal funding, according to NMDOT

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FARMINGTON — The New Mexico Department of Transportation has delayed work on New Mexico Highway 173, also known as Navajo Dam Road, due to funding issues. 

The state is delaying and expanding the project in hopes of receiving new federal funds after discovering the well-traveled stretch of roadway did not qualify for an anticipated federal highway improvement grant, NMDOT spokesperson Rosanne Rodriguez said.

New Mexico Highway 173 stretches from Aztec to the intersection with New Mexico Highway 575 in the community of Navajo Dam.

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Rodriguez said via email the project is currently in the fiscal year 2023 state transportation improvement plan. 

In addition to being postponed, Rodriguez said NMDOT has expanded the project from a 1.5 mile section of the highway to a 3-mile portion that includes the intersection with New Mexico Highway 575. 

She said the narrow road and issues with the pavement led to the highway being identified as a safety project in 2010. Construction was scheduled for 2016, but was ultimately shelved due to struggles with right of way and utilities, Rodriguez said. 

"They were going to do two miles of that and then they kind of put it on hold," said Aztec City Commissioner Sherri Sipe, who is also a member of the metropolitan planning organization. 

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The metropolitan planning organization works to prioritize transportation projects in San Juan County. Sipe informed the City Commission during its meeting last week, which can be watched on YouTube. 

While the project was shelved in 2016, it was included in the metropolitan planning organization's proposed transportation improvement plan for work in 2021. 

According to the proposed transportation improvement plan, the original project was estimated to cost about $4.2 million. The majority of the money — nearly $3.8 million — would have come from federal Highway Safety Improvement Program funding. 

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Rodriguez said the HSIP committee reviewed the application and found it does not qualify for the funding because it does not have "significant safety issues within the project limits."  

If the project cannot qualify for HSIP funding, NMDOT must find funding from the State Transportation Improvement Plan, Rodriguez said.

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

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