Home Local News $56 million proposed for Lea County roadways

$56 million proposed for Lea County roadways

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$56 million proposed for Lea County roadways

Christina Holt/News-Sun

LOVINGTON — Roads in Lea County take a beating daily from heavy trucks moving in and out of the oil fields, so Lea County Assistant County Manager Corey Needham has proposed $56 million for road projects to revitalize those aging thoroughfares.

Lea County Commissioners heard Needham’s proposal for fiscal year 2024/25 as well as an update on this year’s capital roadways projects at the regularly scheduled commission meeting on March 28.

Needham explained the New Mexico Department of Transportation owns and maintains approximately 1,373 lane miles of roads in Lea County. Lea County owns and maintains 1,442 paved lane miles and 1,009 caliche lane miles. Therefore, Lea County owns and maintains a total of about 2,451 lane miles throughout the county, according to Needham.

“Its $50,000 a day to run the road department,” Needham said, and the estimated cost to for the county to maintain the roadways is roughly $10 million a year.

“That’s what we use to blade, maintain, fix pot holes and chip seal every year,” Needham said.

“That’s roughly about $4,900 an hour is what we spend on the maintenance budget that goes back into the community on different services.” Needham said. “The capital budget this year (fiscal year 2023/24) is about $38 million.”

The $10 million maintenance budget goes towards blading caliche roadways, chip sealing paved roadways, urban slurry seal of paved roadways, mowing of right of ways, installing and maintaining signs, striping, cattleguard maintenance and replacement, and traffic control and accident response, according to the presentation.

The annual roadway capital program addresses five major types of road construction in Lea County:

• Urban thoroughfare reconstruction;

• Industrial thoroughfare reconstruction;

• Infill reconstruction and paving in extraterritorial zone (ETZ) areas — areas of the county two- to three-miles outside city limits;

• Infill reconstruction and paving in industrial regions, and;

• Residential private roadway conversion.

The urban thoroughfare reconstruction projects for this year include Alabama Road in Hobbs for $4.2 million, Wyoming Road for $700,000, Landfill Road in Jal for $1 million and Landfill drainage project in Hobbs for $1.1 million.

“Alabama just lacks striping, signage and mailboxes to complete.” Needham said.

The urban thoroughfare reconstruction projects Needham proposed for next year includes Knowles Road from Alabama to Stiles for $3.4 million, Lovelady Road for $900,000, Stiles Road from NM Hwy. 483 to NM 18 for $2.6 million, World Drive for $1.3 million, Bensing Road for $3.4 million and Industrial Drive in Lovington for $3.2 million.

Knowles Road has been completed from Kansas to Alabama. Stiles Road will be completed in two phases. One is the west phase from NM Hwy. 483 to NM Hwy. 18 and continuing east. The $2.6 million will only cover the west phase of Stiles Road. Some right of way acquisitions will need to take place in order to complete the project to the east, according to Needham.

The industrial thoroughfare reconstruction projects for this year included Battle-Ax Road for $3 million, Willis Road for $1.3 million, Merryman Road for $600,000 and Teague switch for $6.2 million.

“These connect to major roadways or service a major industrial area,” Needham said.

“Sometimes the (average daily traffic) on roads like Orla approach 8,000 cars a day” Needham said. “Battle-Ax (Road) is close to 4,000 a day (and) 80 percent of that traffic is heavy industrial.”

The industrial thoroughfare reconstruction projects for next year Needham proposed include Frying Pan Road for $2.2 million, Oral Road for $10.9 million, Gum Street for $5.9 million, Monument Road for $7.2 million and Maljamar Road from NM Hwy. 283 north four miles for $2.2 million.

“Orla roadway is the county’s most traveled roadway.” Needham said.

The infill reconstruction and paving in ETZ area projects for this year totaled $2.73 million which included Front Street, Bennett Street, Marshall Street, Benson Street, Gasoline Alley Street, Back Street, Main Line Red Street, Lawrence Road, Cook Lane, Pearl Street, Guadalupe Drive, Sacramento Street, Billy Drive, Woodfin Drive and Cochran Drive.

“If a private developer is going in (an ETZ area) and trying to develop a subdivision or something else, we require those to be paved because of the use,” Needham said, “There are some roadways in ETZ’s that haven’t been upgraded from caliche to pavement. So, we have to run some of our heavier blade crews in those residential areas which is not optimal. We’ve gone in this year and completed road construction to about $3 million.”

The infill reconstruction and paving in ETZ area project for next year, Needham only proposed one — Humble City Roadway for $1.6 million.

Infill reconstruction and paving in industrial region projects for this year included Diamond Road for $700,000, Anthony Road for $900,000, Dinwiddie Road for $600,000 and Madera Road for $800,000.

“These are located south of New Mexico 128. Everyone hears about 128 and the condition it’s in (because of) the heavy industrial traffic that’s off of it,” Needham said, “It is a burden and a worry to us to have our slower 20 mile an hour blades running up and down 128 trying to reach these areas. We have finished paving everything south of 128. We have no need for that equipment to be on 128 or south.”

The infill reconstruction and paving in industrial region projects Needham proposed for next year will include Arkansas Junction Road for $1.1 million and Pearl Valley Road for $6.1 million.

The residential private roadway conversions for this year totaled $1.7 million including Caprock Road, Sierra Road, Mesa Road, Pawnee Road, Oak Grove Lane, Sagebrush Road, Cedarcrest Drive, Catclaw Drive, Hillcrest Drive, Alice Avenue, Second Street, Belva Avenue, Gene Avenue, Wiggins Avenue, Edith Street, Avenue K, Edith Street, Shinery Street and Ridge Lane.

“The recent program that we undertook last year is converting some strategic residential private roadways over to county maintenance and ownership,” Needham said, “These have been in the Lovington area, east of Lovington and in between Lovington and Hobbs.”

Needham provided a list of about 50 residential private roadway conversions for next year, however he proposed further discussion of the criteria that determines the conversions.

There are five conditions and five ways of prioritizing those roadways. Needham proposed a sixth category that would include volume of traffic.

The priorities were set by the commission to include the cost of development per number of residents, according to Needham. Households on a roadway scheduled for conversion will be charged for those costs, he said.

“So, if you have 10 residents and its only on a quarter mile road, the cost is $5,000 (per resident).” Needham said.

The criteria does not take into account traffic, only the number of residents. If there are less residents on a longer roadway then the cost per resident would increase, Needham said.

Lea County had some issues when they received private roadway conversion requests due to the anti-donation clause, according to Lea County Manager Mike Gallagher.

“Some private roads were in such a condition that emergency vehicles could not drive though those roads. We couldn’t make improvements to privately owned roads,” Gallagher said.

Lea County Commissioners responded to the issue by creating a program with five standards, according to Gallagher.

“Once we acquired that roadway, since it’s the county’s roadway were able to make improvements to it,” Gallagher said.

“Well, I do think we need to somehow incorporate volume of traffic going down some of these roads. That’s a safety issue. It may be that there’s not that many owners but the volume of traffic is going to tear them up.” Lea County Commissioner and Chairman Gary Eidson said.

“A big focus I see is working on roads, safety and creating an environment where jobs can flourish in Lea County. We try to get tax dollars back into the community. Roads are important and I think this is an important conversation to show where tax dollars are going with the roads.” Lea County Commissioner Jonathan Sena said.

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