Wednesday meeting sought public input on U.S. 64 San Juan Bridge Crossing Project

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SHIPROCK — The nearly 80-year-old bridge here that carries westbound vehicles over the San Juan River along U.S. highways 64 and 491 is scheduled to be decommissioned.

The New Mexico Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration held a meeting Wednesday evening at the Shiprock Chapter house to update community members on the status of the U.S. 64 San Juan Bridge Crossing Project.

Eric Froberg, a project manager for T.Y. Lin International, gave a presentation to those attending the meeting regarding several options to address the aging San Juan River Bridge, which has been deemed structurally deficient.

The Albuquerque-based firm was tasked by NMDOT to evaluate the condition of the westbound and eastbound traffic bridges over the river, and complete preliminary engineering on the project.

Built in 1936, the San Juan River Bridge has been labeled a historic highway bridge and is on the National Register of Historic Places, according to the National Park Service. It handles westbound traffic for U.S. highways 64 and 491 between the Hesperus Peak Boulevard intersection on the east side of the bridge and the San Francisco Peak Boulevard on the west side.

A steel-beam bridge was built in 1975 south of the historical bridge to handle eastbound traffic. The average lifespan of a bridge is about 75 years, according to Froberg.

 

The historic 1,007-foot westbound bridge is scheduled to be decommissioned and possibly be used as a bridge for bicycle and pedestrian traffic, Froberg told the crowd of about 40 people who attended the meeting.

Approximately 14,000 vehicles cross the bridges each day, according to Froberg.

The project is still in the early phases of design, and holding the meeting was a way to get public input on the proposals.

"We're making sure what we put in fits in the community," Froberg said during the meeting.

There were three alignment designs proposed for the new bridge.

 

Two of the proposed designs call for constructing a new four-lane bridge to the north or south of the historic bridge. Those bridges would handle both eastbound and westbound traffic.

Another option calls for expanding the existing south bridge from two lanes to four lanes of traffic to handle traffic running both ways.

Three options were also proposed to renovate the San Francisco Peak Boulevard and Hesperus Peak Boulevard intersections, including building a roundabout at both intersections and building more turn lanes.

After Froberg's presentation, Shiprock Chapter President Duane "Chili" Yazzie provided a recap of the talk in the Navajo language.

Attendees shared their thoughts about the project toward the end of the meeting. One woman stated she was concerned about the proposed roundabout option for the intersections. She believes the amount and type of vehicle traffic would make it unsafe.

 

The timeline and cost of the project were also questioned by members of the audience. Froberg said there is still a lot of work to do before those questions can be addressed fully.

At the earliest, Froberg believes construction could start in spring 2021, but he added that date could change. He also told the crowd the construction cost for a new bridge could start between $15 million and $20 million, and could increase.

In a follow-up interview today, Forberg said the cost of the project could vary greatly, depending on the alignment of the bridge, the type of bridge that is built and the type of intersection improvements that are selected.

Written comments can still be submitted for the project to Eric Johnson of Marron and Associates at 7511 Fourth St. NW, Albuquerque N.M., 87107 and must be sent by Oct. 11.

He can also be contacted by email at eric@marroninc.com, by telephone at 505-898-8848 and by fax at 505-897-7847.

Joshua Kellogg covers crime, courts and social issues for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.

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