Roundabouts and other traffic safety improvements for T or C are moving ahead

by Kathleen Sloan | July 27, 2021
5 min read
The New Mexico Department of Transportation has received $13.4 million in federal funding for the design and construction of two traffic roundabouts— at North Date and New Mexico Road 181 (illustrated here) and at North Date and New School Road/Smith Avenue. Source: NMDOT

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.

Two roundabouts—at Date and New School Road and at Date and Smith Avenue—will be built in the first phase of construction. Source: NMDOT

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.”


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.

Kathleen Sloan is the Sun’s founder and chief reporter. She can be reached at or 575-297-4146.
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Understanding New Mexico's proposed new social studies standards for K-12 students

“The primary purpose of social studies is to help young people develop the ability to make informed and reasoned decisions for the public good as citizens of a culturally diverse, democratic society in an interdependent world.”
—National Council for the Social Studies 

Reader Michael L. Hayes of Las Cruces commented: What impresses me is that both the proposed standards and some of the criticisms of them are equally grotesque. I make this bold statement on the basis of my experience as a peripatetic high school and college English teacher for 45 years in many states with many students differing in race, religion, gender and socioeconomic background, and as a civic activist (PTA) in public education (My career, however, was as an independent consultant mainly in defense, energy and the environment.)

The proposed social studies standards are conceptually and instructionally flawed. For starters, a “performance standard” is not a standard at all; it is a task. Asking someone to explain something is not unlike asking someone to water the lawn. Nothing measures the performance, but without a measure, there is no standard. The teacher’s subjective judgment will be all that matters, and almost anything will count as satisfying a “performance standard,” even just trying. Students will be left to wonder “what is on the teacher’s mind?” or “have I sucked up enough.”

Four other quick criticisms of the performance standards. One, they are nearly unintelligible because they are written in jargon. PED’s use of jargon in a document intended for the public is worrisome. Bureaucrats often use jargon to confuse or conceal something uninformed, wrong or unworthy. As a result, most parents, some school board members and more than a few teachers do not understand them.

Two, the performance standards are so vague that they fail to define the education which teachers are supposed to teach, students are supposed to learn, and parents are supposed to understand. PED does not define words like “explain” or “describe” so that teachers can apply “standards” consistently and fairly. The standards do not indicate what teachers are supposed to know in order to teach or specify what students are supposed to learn. Supervisors cannot know whether teachers are teaching social studies well or poorly. The standards are so vague that the public, especially parents or guardians, cannot know the content of public education.

Three, many performance standards are simply unrealistic, especially at grade level. Under “Ethnic, Cultural and Identity Performance Standards”; then under “Diversity and Identity”; then under “Kindergarten,” one such standard is: “Identify how their family does things both the same as and different from how other people do things.” Do six-year-olds know how other people do things? Do they know whether these things are relevant to diversity and identity? Or another standard: “Describe their family history, culture, and past to current contributions of people in their main identity groups.” (A proficient writer would have hyphenated the compound adjective to avoid confusing the reader.) Do six-year-olds know so much about these things in relation to their “identity group”? Since teachers obviously do not teach them about these other people and have not taught them about these groups, why are these and similar items in the curriculum; or do teachers assign them to go home and collect this information?

Point four follows from “three”; some information relevant to some performance measures requires a disclosure of personal or family matters. The younger the students, the easier it is for teachers to invade their privacy and not only their privacy, but also the privacy of their parents or guardians, or neighbors, who may never be aware of these disclosures or not become aware of them until afterward. PED has no right to design a curriculum which requires teachers to ask students for information about themselves, parents or guardians, or neighbors, or puts teachers on the spot if the disclosures reveal criminal conduct. (Bill says Jeff’s father plays games in bed with his daughter. Lila says Angelo’s mother gives herself shots in the arm.) Since teacher-student communications have no legal protection to ensure privacy, those disclosures may become public accidentally or deliberately. The effect of these proposal standards is to turn New Mexico schools and teachers into investigative agents of the state and students into little informants or spies.

This PED proposal for social studies standards is a travesty of education despite its appeals to purportedly enlightened principles. It constitutes a clear and present danger to individual liberty and civil liberties. It should be repudiated; its development, investigated; its PED perpetrators, dismissed. No state curriculum should encourage or require the disclosure of private personal information.

I am equally outraged by the comments of some of T or C’s school board members: Christine LaFont and Julianne Stroup, two white Christian women, who belong to one of the larger minorities in America and assume white and Christian privileges. In different terms but for essentially the same reason, both oppose an education which includes lessons about historical events and trends, and social movements and developments, of other minorities. They object to the proposal for the new social studies standards because of its emphasis on individual and group identities not white or Christian. I am not going to reply with specific objections; they are too numerous and too pointed.

Ms. LaFont urges: “It’s better to address what’s similar with all Americans. It’s not good to differentiate.” Ms. Stroup adds: “Our country is not a racist country. We have to teach to respect each other. We have civil rights laws that protect everyone from discrimination. We need to teach civics, love and respect. We need to teach how to be color blind.”

Their desires for unity and homogeneity, and for mutual respect, are a contradiction and an impossibility. Aside from a shared citizenship, which implies acceptance of the Constitution, the rule of law and equality under the law, little else defines Americans. We are additionally defined by our race, religion, national origin, etc. So mutual respect requires individuals to respect others different from themselves. Disrespect desires blacks, Jews or Palestinians to assimilate or to suppress or conceal racial, religious or national origin aspects of their identity. The only people who want erasure of nonwhite, non-Christian, non-American origin aspects of identity are bigots. Ms. LaFont and Ms. Stroud want standards which, by stressing similarities and eliding differences, desire the erasure of such aspects. What they want will result in a social studies curriculum that enables white, Christian, native-born children to grow up to be bigots and all others to be their victims. This would be the academic equivalent of ethnic cleansing.


This postmortem of a case involving a 75-year-old women who went missing from her home in Hillsboro last September sheds light on the bounds of law enforcement’s capacity to respond, especially in large rural jurisdictions such as Sierra County, and underscores the critical role the public, as well as concerned family and friends, can play in assisting a missing person’s search.

Reader Jane Debrott of Hillsboro commented: Thank you for your article on the tragic loss of Betsey. I am a resident of Hillsboro, a friend of Rick and Betsey, and a member of H.E.L.P. The thing that most distresses me now, is the emphasis on Rick’s mis-naming of the color of their car. I fear that this fact will cause Rick to feel that if he had only gotten the facts right, Betsey may have been rescued before it was too late. The incident was a series of unavoidable events, out of everyone’s control, and we will never know what place the correct color of her car may have had in the outcome. It breaks my heart to think that Rick has had one more thing added to his “what ifs” concerning this incident.

Diana Tittle responded: Dear Jane, the Sun undertook this investigation at the request of a Hillsboro resident concerned about the town’s inability to mount a prompt, coordinated response to the disappearance of a neighbor. From the beginning, I shared your concern about how our findings might affect Betsy’s family and friends. After I completed my research and began writing, I weighed each detail I eventually chose to include against my desire to cause no pain and the public’s right to know about the strengths and limitations of law enforcement’s response and the public’s need to know about how to be of meaningful assistance.

There was information I withheld about the state police investigation and the recovery. But I decided to include the issue of the car’s color because the individuals who spotted Betsy’s car emphasized how its color had been key to their identification of it as the vehicle described in Betsy’s Silver Alert. Because the misinformation was corrected within a couple of hours, I also included in this story the following editorial comment meant to put the error in perspective: “The fact that law enforcement throughout the state was on the lookout in the crucial early hours after Betsy’s disappearance for an elderly woman driving a “light blue” instead of a “silver” Accord would, in retrospect, likely not have changed the outcome of the search” [emphasis added].

I would also point to the story’s overarching conclusion about the inadvisability of assigning blame for what happened: “In this case, a perfect storm of unfortunate circumstances, many of them beyond human control, hindered the search that it would fall to Hamilton’s department to lead.”

It is my hope that any pain caused by my reporting will eventually be outweighed by its contribution to a better community understanding of what it will take in the future to mount a successful missing person’s search in rural Sierra County.

1 thought on “Roundabouts and other traffic safety improvements for T or C are moving ahead”

  1. Ami Evens is out of her mind. At all three of the “information” meetings, the auditorium was packed, with people who DO NOT WANT ROUNDABOUTS in T or C! There was NO community approval! Every single person that spoke was against them! By the time the third meeting was held, the crowd loudly SHOUTED DOWN the presentation and it was abandoned, turning the meeting into a constant stream of demands for the first choice presented, that being stoplights at New School Road and also at Smith Road. But NMDOT just whined about how lights didn’t meet the requirements of their god-given streets manual and they wouldn’t pay to relocate Smith behind the “RV Park” on Date Street! Even though that “RV Park” was just built four years ago, and only gets used by two or three RV’s on six or seven weekends a year! Your story is biased and self serving. We voted OUT those commissioners who “unanimously” voted for this UNWANTED, UN-NEEDED and DANGEROUS change in the roads! We can’t, unfortunately, vote out the idiots at NMDOT that are SHOVING this collection of stupidity down our throats!

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