The New Mexico Department of Transportation has delayed construction of three roundabouts on North Date Street in Truth or Consequences until summer 2022. This project was introduced to the community six years ago, while plans for other safety improvements to three traffic corridors in the city were given their second online public airing last week.
NMDOT has received federal funding for the design and construction of the roundabouts, whose total cost will be about $13.4 million. T or C’s city commission unanimously passed a resolution approving the roundabout project on April 11, 2018, Assistant City Manager Traci Alvarez confirmed in a phone call with the Sun today.
T or C will bear the costs for moving water and sewer pipes in the construction zones, as well as for “any decorative landscaping features” beside and inside the roundabouts, according to NMDOT spokesperson Ami Evans. T or C City Manager Bruce Swingle said the estimated cost for relocating the pipes is $750,000. An estimate for the landscaping is not complete.
“The reason why construction of the roundabouts was moved out is the fact that the City was not able to secure funding to upgrade their utilities until spring of 2022,” said Evans, who is NMDOT’s public information officer for District One. “The City of T or C has a planned public meeting at a later date to discuss the construction of the roundabouts and inform citizens of its standing. Once a date is scheduled the NMDOT will assist and get the word out.”
NMDOT hired WHPacific, a civil engineering firm based in Portland, Oregon, to do the location study and design for the roundabouts, Evans stated. That work, which cost more than $1.7 million, is complete.
The first roundabouts to be built will provide a turnoff for New School Road on the west side of North Date and a turnoff for Smith Avenue on the east side of North Date. The cost of construction is estimated at $6.17 million.
The second phase of construction will be a roundabout that will provide a turnoff from North Date onto New Mexico Road 181 and a turnoff from Road 181 onto North Date. Construction, with an estimated cost of $5.5 million, will begin when phase one is completed.
The Sun asked Evans for evidence of buy-in from the community for the roundabouts projects. Her emailed response equated holding public meetings to winning public approval.
“Yes, as part of the location study, NMDOT hosted multiple public meetings:
Phase 1A – November 2015 (existing conditions)
Phase 1B – May 2017 (proposed alternative)
Phase 1C – November 2018 (public workshop)
“In addition, NMDOT participated in multiple public and outreach events within the community of Truth or Consequences. Throughout the process the community was informed about the need and function of roundabouts, which will improve the safety and pedestrian facilities along this section of Date Street.”
TRANSPORTATION SAFETY PLAN
NMDOT hired Lee Engineering, a firm that specializes in traffic engineering and transportation planning, as the “technical consultant” to author a new transportation safety plan for the city, paying a little over $126,000 for the firm’s services. The funding “comes from the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP), a core Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) federal aid program to states,” Evans stated.
Lee Engineering has offices in Oklahoma, Texas, Arizona and New Mexico. Paul Barricklow, a founding engineer of the Albuquerque office, presented the plan’s preliminary findings and proposals for safety improvements at three traffic corridors in T or C at an online public meeting on July 21. It was the second public-input meeting on the plan. The first was held April 14.
The three traffic corridors under study are New School Road, north of Pershing; Smith Street, north of Silver Street; and the loop formed by Main Avenue and Broadway Street.
The first two corridors handle traffic from four schools and Sierra Vista Hospital. The third corridor is the city’s downtown business district.
The suggested improvements include narrowing driving lanes to slow down traffic, widening parking lanes, improving existing sidewalks, constructing sidewalks where none exist and improving lane striping and signage. Cost estimates will be included in the final plan.
NMDOT is the owner-agency for only the Main and Broadway corridor, which is part of the I-25 Business Loop. The city will have to take the lead on finding funding for safety improvements to the other two corridors.
Barricklow said conducting the traffic safety study during the pandemic was not “ideal,” but it could not be delayed without risking the federal funding, which specifies that the traffic safety plan be submitted to NMDOT in September. The study began in February. The pandemic lowered usual traffic flows and hampered data collection. Nevertheless, the study will allow the city and NMDOT to apply for funding. As of yet, no funds for further design work or construction have been secured, according to Evans.
About a dozen people attended the online meeting last week. Most voiced approval of the suggested improvements.
Lee Engineering has also held separate meetings with “stakeholders,” identified by Evans as the City of Truth or consequences, Sierra County, T or C Police Department, T or C Municipal Schools, South Central Regional Transportation Planning Organization and NMDOT District One.
Stakeholder and public input will be presented in the final plan.