La Bajada's falling down; why Westside widening stalled - Albuquerque Journal

La Bajada’s falling down; why Westside widening stalled

BIG PROJECT ON THE BIG HILL:

Back in July, the New Mexico Department of Transportation started the 2-years-plus rebuild of Interstate 25 up La Bajada, just south of Santa Fe, with soil mixing to stabilize the roadway and slope mitigation.

That’s because the road is quite literally sliding off the hill.

The almost $40 million project ($39,904,622.33) is scheduled to run through November 2024. It’s a big job on a section of road with an interesting history, according to NMDOT District 5’s Jim Murray.

He says the alignment was changed “in the 1930s to replace the numerous switchbacks associated with the historic roadway alignment that is located approximately 2.3 miles to the north. Since that time, the roadway alignment has been altered several times, with the current lanes generally following the alignment established in the 1950s.”

Other changes included widening the highway with a third northbound climbing lane in the 1980s “by placing embankment fill on the west side of the existing embankment. The existing southbound lanes and median are supported on this newer portion of the embankment. Portions of the northbound lanes embankment incorporate the original construction, which includes embankment material as much as 70 years old.”

And the age of the roadway material is why, “after construction of the widening in the 1980s, the roadway section and pavement have exhibited continuous settlement issues, which has resulted in a series of dips, sags and pavement cracking that require frequent maintenance and repair,” Murray says.

Drivers might have noticed “the distressed condition is most evident in the southbound lanes. If the roadway fill/embankment condition is not corrected, then it will continue to settle, and the risk of a potential future landslide increases.”

So how do you keep the interstate from sliding down the hill?

Murray explains “the geotechnical analysis of the current conditions has determined that the most cost-effective way of correcting the issue is to improve the existing embankment by soil mixing methods – in lieu of completely replacing the entire embankment. This soil mitigation effort will greatly improve the embankment/fill conditions and allow for a new pavement section to be installed without the current dipping/sagging/cracking issues coming back.”

WHY WESTSIDE WORK STALLED? Meanwhile, in Albuquerque, M arilyn Rhodes emails “it seems like they are taking a long time to complete (this widening) project, the surface is uneven and lanes are closed in both directions on Westside and on Golf Course with seemingly no work being done. It’s difficult for those who travel those roads daily without knowing what is behind the delays.”

Patti Watson is handling project information for the city of Albuquerque, and she says there have been a few issues.

“Construction began on May 3, 2021,” she says. “On March 1, 2022, construction on the project was suspended so that the Water Authority could install a new 20-inch raw water transmission line on the south side of Westside Boulevard in the project area. Construction on the city’s project resumed on June 3, and crews hoped to have the project finished by August. However, supply chain issues and some unforeseen circumstances have delayed completion. Crews plan(ned) to install temporary striping and remove barricades on the project the week of Oct. 24-28 and substantially complete the project in November.”

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

 

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