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Bad Santa Teresa roads pose economic development problems, experts say

stroadsSANTA TERESA — Pothole-riddled roads are causing problems for companies in a Santa Teresa industrial park, panelists told a group of lawmakers here Thursday.

It’s one of several ways infrastructure is lagging in the midst of an economic development boom in Doña Ana County’s international border area, panelists said.

At issue are two key roads — Industrial Drive and Airport Road — that are deteriorating after years of heavy use, experts and county officials told state legislators.

Border economic development expert Jerry Pacheco said the condition of the roads detracts from touting Santa Teresa as a place new companies should locate.

“We have craters out there that are more than 6 feet wide and 2 feet deep,” said Pacheco, vice president and founder of the Border Industrial Association in Santa Teresa. “There’s truck parts out there lying in the middle of the street. We’re doing well, but this momentum is going to stop if we don’t find a way to invest in our infrastructure.”

Pacheco said state spending on the problems would be worthwhile because Santa Teresa is “adding to the state coffers.”

Doña Ana County Assistant Manager Chuck McMahon told state legislators that both routes need to be rebuilt. And the estimated cost to reconstruct them in concrete — a more durable type of road — is $10.5 million.

Both routes also have caught the attention of the New Mexico Department of Transportation, said Homer Bernal, international programs planner for the agency.

“Airport Road, for this region, is probably the biggest challenge we have right now,” he said. “The road is basically falling apart. It looks like there was field artillery practice on Industrial Drive.”

About 20 lawmakers, including several from Doña Ana County, were at the session, a joint meeting at Santa Teresa High School of the interim legislative New Mexico Economic and Rural Development Committee and the Transportation Infrastructure Revenue Subcommittee.

State Rep. Nate Cote, D-Las Cruces, noted he was a sponsor for legislation aimed at helping to attract a major Union Pacific facility to Santa Teresa. He said it’s “really satisfying to see all the growth that’s happening down here.”

“I think continued investment in an already proven economic development area will pay benefits,” he said Cote, whose district includes Chaparral. “The only factor is trying to figure out how to get it done with limited revenue.”

Alexander Sierra, plant manager for Acme Mills in Santa Teresa, said quality roads are important to ensuring products and materials are shipped reliably — and without delays — to their destinations. He said small delays in shipping materials to Mexico from his facility can lead to big financial losses further along in the manufacturing chain, the end product of which is car seats.

Improvements to industrial park roads are the top priority for businesses, said Sierra, who attended the session Thursday.

“It’s a big issue for us,” said Sierra, also a board member of the Border Industrial Association.

State Rep. Mary Helen Garcia, D-Las Cruces, said the growth looks “very promising.” She asked other legislators to keep Santa Teresa in mind.

“I would really appreciate if you would take this into consideration because that’s where all the jobs are,” said Garcia, whose district covers Sunland Park.

 

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