Construction continued on two major Eddy County road projects to increase safety and relieve traffic congestion.
Anticipated completion of phase one construction of the Southeast Loop Road near Carlsbad was set for late September, said Eddy County’s Community Services Director Wesley Hooper.
He said the estimated cost of the multi-phase project was $25 million.
Hooper said the 13-mile loop road would connect U.S. Highway 285 with U.S. Highway 62/180.
He said crews are in the final stages of work at the intersection of U.S. 62/180 and the George Shoup Relief Route. He said the work would tie the road to Old Refinery Road.
“So that is a whole new road,” Hooper said.
Phase one could wrap up by Sept. 25 and phase two plans were picking up, according to Hooper.
Aug. 17, Eddy County’s Board of County Commissioners approved a $1.5 million agreement between the County and New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT).
Hooper said NMDOT could sign off on the agreement by mid-September as the County continued to negotiate with property owners for right-of-way access.
“Some of that property we’re going to need for right-of-way’s (is) in probate and (Eddy County Attorney) Cas (Tabor) is working to push that through so we can get working on it,” he said during the Aug. 17 meeting.
Hooper said construction bids could be awarded in November and the right-of-way situation could clear up by then.
NMDOT announced $5.7 million in Transportation Project Funds (TPF) for phase three, he said.
In 2019, the New Mexico Legislature passed House Bill 694, creating the Local Government Transportation Fund (LGTPF), read the Legislature’s website.
The State of New Mexico provides 95 percent of TPF money and local entities have a 5 percent match, the website indicated.
Hooper said Eddy County’s share was $300,000 and bids for phase three could be awarded in January.
U.S. 285 work ongoing
NMDOT Assistant District Engineer Alan Briley said work was on track for two phases of construction of U.S. 285 from mile markers 0 to 7 and 16 to 18.
An NMDOT news release said work on both sections of the highway was part of a four-phase job for U.S. 285.
Briley said bridge work was part of the occurring projects south of Carlsbad.
He said bridge girders were under evaluation along mile markers 16 to 18 and work could be done by the end of this year.
Work from mile markers 0 to 7 started eight months ago. Briley said the project was set to last two years.
Entities agree U.S. 285 work is needed
NMDOT, City of Carlsbad, Eddy County, Permian Strategic Partnership (PSP) and Permian Road Safety Coalition (PRSC) and several others identified a need to expand U.S. 285 for safety improvements, an NMODT news release stated.
“Road safety and infrastructure are one of PSP’s top focus areas,” said Tracee Bentley, PSP president and chief executive officer.
PSP is a coalition of 17 Permian Basin energy companies joined together to work in partnership with leaders across Southeast New Mexico and West Texas to address current and future challenges, read the PSP website about its mission.
Bentley said roadways in Eddy County needed upgrade and investment.
“We also know that Eddy County has a good proportion of oil and gas production than many other counties in the Permian (Basin) and so when you combine the two road infrastructure upgrades becomes a priority in Eddy County,” Bentley said.
An increase of oil and gas traffic in the Permian Basin prompted a PSP committee to look at other aspects of road construction, Bentley indicated.
She said off and on ramps and intersections could modernize roads and infrastructure.
“We work at all levels in conjunction with industry and really anybody who wants to prioritize and modernize our roadways,” Bentley said.
NMDOT Secretary Mike Sandoval said work on U.S. 285 was anticipated and would support the oil and gas industry.
Work on U.S. 285 is not limited to the Carlsbad area, according to the NMDOT website.
Milling and overlaying work started in late August on nearly eight miles of U.S. 285 between Artesia and Roswell. Left lane closures were anticipated, and work was set to wrap up by October, read the website.
Mike Smith can be reached at 575-628-5546 or by email at [email protected] or @ArgusMichae on Twitter.