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U.S. 550 improvements will include a new bridge

Work on a long-planned project to ease congestion on a stretch of U.S. 550 through the town of Bernalillo between N.M. 313 and N.M. 528 is slated to begin this fall.

The section of U.S. 550 through Bernalillo provides critical freeway access for residents of Rio Rancho and Corrales who commute to jobs in Albuquerque and Santa Fe and for residential, commercial and industrial traffic from the Four Corners area.

A previous project that began in 2013 reconfigured the Interstate 25/N.M. 165 interchange and widened U.S. 550 from that point westward as far as N.M. 313. The long-term goal was to continue widening the highway and adding improvements for the remaining section west to the intersection with N.M. 528.

Project Manager Chris Baca of Parametrix, which has been working with New Mexico Department of Transportation, said they evaluated several possible alternatives before picking the final design in mid-2016.

They held a public meeting at Bernalillo High School on May 24 to present the details of the $40 million project. They are also meeting with representatives from businesses along the affected corridor to discuss how the project will impact them.

The work will include:

• Building a new bridge just north of the existing bridge, which will handle westbound traffic over the river;

• Widening the highway from four lanes to six lanes;

• Adding bicycle lanes and sidewalks for pedestrians in each direction;

• Reconstructing the U.S. 550/N.M. 528 intersection to improve traffic flow; and

• Rebuilding Camino Don Tomas north and south of the intersection with U.S. 550.

Funding for the project is coming from a mix of state and federal bond sources, Baca said.

Bernalillo Mayor Jack Torres said he’s pleased that Parametrix and the Department of Transportation are listening to local residents’ and business owners’ concerns. He estimated the number of town staffers and residents who attended the recent public meeting at between 40 and 50.

Baca expects to bid out the first phase of the project this summer, with work expected to begin in October.

Phase 1 will include the new bridge and three westbound travel lanes from the river west to Jemez Dam Road. It is expected to last 12 to 15 months.

Phase II is projected to start at the end of 2018 or early 2019. It will include the reconstruction of the U.S. 550/N.M. 528 intersection.

Priscilla Benavides, Central Regional Design Manager at the Transportation Department, said work that will have a major impact on traffic flow will be done at night. Members of the public can email comments about the project to Dawn Tibbetts by June 9.