More 550 work as prairie dogs shut rest stop, MVD adds kiosk - Albuquerque Journal

More 550 work as prairie dogs shut rest stop, MVD adds kiosk

JUST WHEN YOU THOUGHT IT WAS OVER: The New Mexico Department of Transportation District 3 folks wrapped up two-plus years of widening U.S. 550 between Interstate 25 and N.M. 528 in November.

And on Jan. 3 crews started on 550’s bridge over the Rio Grande.

Transportation Secretary Mike Sandoval, who’s been very open about being stuck in the construction backups himself, says “the department acknowledges reconstruction work just wrapped up on U.S. 550, and many drivers want to know why this bridge rehabilitation project is taking place on the heels of the last project or why the work couldn’t have been done simultaneously. The answer is, during the previous project crews discovered the need to rehabilitate a portion of the bridge but the finding was unexpected and did not fit into the scope of work. We realize this will once again impact travel on U.S. 550, but safety is a priority, and we need to make sure the bridge is safe for the traveling public.”

The seven-month project is scheduled through July. Crews will work from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday; two lanes of traffic will remain open in the eastbound lanes; the farthest lane south will be closed from east of Sheriff’s Posse Road to east of the Rio Grande bridge, but access will be maintained to all residences and businesses. NMDOT adds in its news release that “the work is being scheduled now because flows are at their lowest, and the timing will also minimize the impacts to migratory birds and animals who use the bridge during warmer summer months.”

More information is at

HOLDING IT AT THE STATE LINE: Tom Weber asks “why the rest area and visitor center on Interstate 40 at the Arizona border has been closed for so long?”

“We passed it during a Thanksgiving road trip,” he emails. “It was remodeled very nicely perhaps 10 or 15 years ago and serves as a nice welcome to our state for visitors arriving from the west. It’s been closed since the pandemic started, but why? There is no work being done, from the looks of it, and Arizona has open rest stops that are in great shape. If it’s money, why isn’t the state investing in this with a record budget surplus? These rest stops at our borders provide tourists with all kinds of information to encourage them to stay longer – and spend their money – in our state. As a N.M. taxpayer, I’m aggravated by closed facilities like this when I’m counting on places to make a stop during a road trip.”

BLAME THE PRAIRIE DOGS: Delane Baros, the public information officer for the state Department of Transportation’s District 6, “understand(s) your frustration with closed facilities. The Manuelito Rest Area and Visitor Center has been closed since 2019 due to septic tank issues. Prairie dogs had burrowed around the septic system, creating unsafe environmental conditions. The burrowing caused sewage to leak.

“At that time NMDOT had to hire a consultant to redesign the entire system. Once designed, construction work began to replace the septic system. In August construction work was completed. The Department of Tourism staffs the visitor center and a contract is in the process of being fully executed for cleaning the rest area. Since early December, the rest area has been open Tuesday-Friday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. and will expand hours of operation once the cleaning contract is executed and the visitor center is fully staffed.”

MVD’s THIRD SELF-SERVE KIOSK: Late last year Derrick emailed “over the weekend, and for the first time, I renewed my vehicle’s registration at one of the MVD kiosks in the Albertsons off of San Mateo and Montgomery. I found it extremely user-friendly and convenient. … Why are there only two and why are they both in the NE Heights of Albuquerque?”

Charlie Moore with N.M. Tax and Rev, which oversees the Motor Vehicle Division, says “we are looking at new locations, including at least one on the West Side, but they aren’t settled yet.” In the meantime, MVD opened a new kiosk last week, albeit it in the NE Heights. The kiosk in the Sandia Laboratory Federal Credit Union at Juan Tabo and Comanche is the first to accept cash, and it joins kiosks in the Albertsons at Montgomery and San Mateo and at Juan Tabo and Candelaria. MVD says in a news release it has partnered with Intellectual Technology Inc. and host businesses on the kiosks, which let customers “print their vehicle registration and sticker in as little as two minutes without visiting an MVD office. Instructions and voice prompts in English or Spanish make the kiosk as easy to use as an ATM. There is a $3.95 fee in addition to the registration fee plus a 2.3% credit card convenience fee associated with the transaction. However, MVD offers a 5% discount off the base registration cost on transactions conducted on the kiosks.”

Editorial page editor D’Val Westphal tackles commuter issues for the metro area on Mondays. Reach her at 823-3858;; or 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, NM, 87109.


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