A proposed bridge over a Carlsbad low water crossing prone to flooding could provide traffic relief and prevent possible future deaths, according to City of Carlsbad officials.
The City of Carlsbad sought $22 million in 2024 to build the Dark Canyon Bridge and Bikeway in the Infrastructure Capital Improvement Plan (ICIP) for fiscal years 2024 through 2028.
ICIP is a five-year capital improvement plan outlining how the City of Carlsbad would prioritize spending of federal and state funds for capital spending projects, according to City of Carlsbad documents.
To date, $273,000 was set aside for work on the planning, design and construction of a new bridge at Boyd Drive and Radio Boulevard crossing Dark Canyon.
Earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg announced the Biden-Harris Administration awarded $1.1 million to the City of Carlsbad in the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) program to help move forward on infrastructure projects, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT).
“The City was excited to receive money to plan and design this bridge. This federal money will help complete the design for the bridge. Having the federal government fund the design will greatly increase the possibility of future funding for construction,” said City of Carlsbad Deputy City Administrator KC Cass.
Carlsbad’s grant was part of a $12.6 million package for New Mexico. The majority of funds are going to the City of Albuquerque to construct an urban trail through Downtown Albuquerque, the release noted.
USDOT provided the money to support planning and design costs for the new bridge.
“The project will create more choices for non-motorized transportation, and use sustainable construction techniques will significantly limit flooding across the region and improve the condition of the corridor,” the press release stated.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said bridge projects like Dark Canyon would modernize America’s transportation system to make communities affordable, accessible and sustainable.
Planning for the new bridge came nearly one year after runoff from heavy rains in late June 2021 from the Guadalupe Mountains flooded parts of Carlsbad and damaged low water crossings including the low water crossing along the Dark Canyon Arroyo.
The City of Carlsbad estimated flooding caused $1 million in damages that year, though the cost to human life was also substantial.
John Paul Koch of Carlsbad died while trying to cross Radio Boulevard during the floods.
Koch’s Jeep was swept away by fast moving flood waters in the Dark Canyon Draw Arroyo, New Mexico State Police said.
“The addition of a new bridge at Boyd and Radio is greatly needed for public safety, and this is something we’ve been working on for a long time. Sadly, a resident tragically lost his life near this intersection last year during a flood,” said Carlsbad Mayor Dale Janway.
Paul Walker, senior meteorologist with the Pennsylvania based AccuWeather forecasting firm, said Carlsbad received most of its June 2021 rainfall from two-day rains on June 28 and June 29. The Cavern City Air Terminal south of Carlsbad recorded 4.4 inches of rain in June 2021.
Walker said summer monsoon rains in and around Carlsbad in 2022 have not produced flooding like those in June of last year, noting just 1.5 inches of rain have fallen in the 2022 monsoon around Carlsbad.
Cass said the bridge provided a secondary north-south traffic route for drivers when flood waters fill up Dark Canyon.
“It will also improve traffic flow in the area,” he said.
“There’s currently only one safe north-south way across Carlsbad when there’s a flood – the Canal Street Bridge – so adding a secondary crossing point is vital. This bridge will significantly improve on public safety in the area,” Cass said.
He said design work would begin as soon as funding becomes available. The City of Carlsbad would continue seeking funds to build the bridge once the design is done.