NMDOT looks toward reconstructing section of U.S. Highway 64

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times
A section of U.S. Highway 64 is pictured on Aug. 19.

FARMINGTON — A recent public meeting by the New Mexico Department of Transportation focused on a study to rehabilitate and improve the portion of U.S. Highway 64 from the Arizona state line to west of Shiprock.

"We recognize that the road is deteriorated. We recognize some of the bridges are in need of repair. The road needs widening in places, curves need straightening out and diminishing in terms of their steepness," NMDOT District 5 Engineer Paul Brasher said during the Aug. 27 virtual public meeting.

As part of the process, the department conducted a study that examined the 20-mile corridor.

The study determined the road and bridges are outdated and have issues like narrow shoulders, poor pavement condition, low visibility for vehicles to pass, potholes and damaged railings and fencing.

It also revealed the need to replace the entire road, reconstruction of the bridges and drainage improvements.

The study is part of phase one for the project and includes evaluating alternatives to improve the highway design.

Motorists travel on U.S. Highway 64 west of Shiprock on Aug. 19.

Jim Heimann, project manager with WSP, the engineering services company working with NMDOT, said the highway would remain as two lanes and its entire length would be reconstructed.

The proposed improvements include adding 6-foot shoulders, new pavement, adding turning lanes at seven intersections and improving traffic flow in the Beclabito community.

Brasher said road improvements have been needed for years, but the project is competing for funding with several road projects across the state. The cost of the project is estimated between $60 million and $70 million.

He added that he advocates for funding whenever he meets with members of the state Legislature.

Bridges need reconstruction

Red Wash Bridge at milepost 7 is the priority among the four bridges on the highway.

A full replacement of the bridge is proposed. Other proposed improvements include realignment and widening.

Jennifer Hyre, environmental planner with WSP, said the study categorized the structure as in "the greatest need" for replacement and there is $7 million set aside for construction in the State Transportation Improvement Program in fiscal year 2022. 

Motorists travel on U.S. Highway 64 on Aug. 19 east of Beclabito.

Shiprock Wash Bridge at milepost 14 and Rattlesnake Wash Bridge at milepost 20 share the second priority slot in the study.

Proposed improvements for Shiprock Wash Bridge include full replacement, widening and new alignment.

Rattlesnake Wash Bridge would be replaced and widened but it would remain on its existing alignment.

Hyre said the Shiprock Wash and Rattlesnake Wash bridges have $6 million set aside for construction in the State Transportation Improvement Program for fiscal year 2023.

Shoe Game Wash at milepost zero was ranked the lowest priority among the bridges, but it is still slated for full replacement.

An overview of the project and a recording from the Aug. 27 public meeting can be found online at https://dot.state.nm.us/nmdotprojects.

Comments about the project are being collected until Sept. 28 and can be submitted to Jennifer Hyre by email at jennifer.hyre@wsp.com, by telephone at 505-878-6577 or by mail to 6100 Uptown Blvd. NE, Suite 700, Albuquerque, NM 87110. Label the envelope "Attention: US 64."

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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