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Gov. Backs $30 Million For Paseo

SANTA FE – Gov. Susana Martinez will recommend that the state contribute $30 million toward rebuilding the Paseo del Norte interchange, the Governor’s Office confirmed Tuesday.

It’s not the $46 million the city had requested from the state to kick-start Paseo’s $93 million first phase, but Albuquerque Mayor Richard J. Berry said the governor’s proposed funding would put the project within reach.

“Thirty (million) is a good number,” Berry said. “The fact is we’re going to find a way to get this project done if we can, and that would be a very meaningful contribution. It’s good news.”

The city has committed to pay as much as $50 million of the Paseo project and now is looking to other sources to close the gap.

The Legislature would have to approve Martinez’s request for the state capital outlay funding.

Legislative leaders are expecting to spend about $130 million this year on statewide public works projects, which means Paseo could account for more than a fifth of state capital outlay budget if lawmakers approve the full amount Martinez is recommending.

The governor’s overall proposal for public works projects is not final, but Martinez has made the $30 million for Paseo one of her priorities, spokesman Scott Darnell said Tuesday.

“We do understand the significance of it,” Martinez told Albuquerque business leaders Monday, responding to a question of whether the state could help move the project along.

Rep. Tim Lewis, R-Rio Rancho, who has pushed for state funding for Paseo, said he expects there will be criticism over such a large percentage of state projects’ funding going to the traffic improvement. However, Lewis said he hopes the project will be recognized as a statewide need that affects more than a third of the state’s population.

“It’s a multiregional, significant (project) where different entities are contributing money into it,” Lewis said. “I think if other parts of the state (requested a project that) had significant contributions … then we would take a serious look up here in the Capitol.”

Lewis requested during the Legislature’s special session in September that the state contribute $50 million to the Paseo project, but no appropriations were considered.

Paseo is a main thoroughfare connecting the east and west sides of Albuquerque, and cars back up every rush hour at the Paseo/I-25 interchange. The first phase includes traffic flyover lanes that would eliminate traffic lights and reduce the amount of time drivers spend waiting for traffic entering and exiting I-25 from Paseo.

Berry said state support is critical.

“We absolutely need that support from the state to make it happen,” Berry said. “I don’t think it happens without the state’s involvement at a very high level, because the numbers just don’t add up if it doesn’t.”

Even with state money, the city will look to other sources to close the gap and start construction.

Bernalillo County commissioners decided Tuesday night to include $5 million for the Paseo interchange in a bond proposal that will be on November’s ballot.

City leaders also are requesting federal aid to help pay for the project, although a recent bid for Department of Transportation funding was denied because Albuquerque requested too much, Berry said.

“It is very close,” Rep. Lewis said. “They could start as soon as six months. There’s a lot of things in place.”
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal