New Mexico DOT Improves US 54/70 Corridor for More Efficient Freight Transport
Securing the Supply Chain: US 54/70 Corridor Improvements Keep Freight Moving Swiftly Through New Mexico
These days, people have come to expect that anything they order online can be delivered to them by the next day. As businesses scramble to satisfy demanding customers, they strive to ensure their supply chains are secure. Supply chains may conjure up visions of various types of technology, yet arguably the most important part of the supply chain is the highway system. Nothing gets to customers’ doors or the shelf of a store without first being placed on a vehicle and driven to its destination.
The U.S. 54/70 corridor improvements took place in Otero County, New Mexico, in the southeastern part of the state. “The route is part of a historic national freight network between Mexico and Kansas City,” says Timothy Parker, District Engineer for the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT). “It’s important for both regional freight, retail, and defense.” United States Defense institutions nearby include the Holloman Air Force Base and White Sands Missile Range.
Besides being a major arterial highway of national significance, the U.S. 54/70 corridor connects communities, economic development, and tourists directly to the heart of Otero County, Village of Tularosa, and the City of Alamogordo.
On Time and On Budget
Work on the project included a mill and overlay of the existing roadway, new shoulders, widening for new turn lanes at key intersections, and new medians. The shoulders were built throughout the corridor to provide a safer pull off. Before reconstruction the shoulders were narrow, causing a safety issue next to the guardrail when an emergency pull-off was needed. Parker says, “The improvement to the highway will provide safer, more efficient travel for thousands of residents and tourists. It will also support economic development in the area.”
The $32 million project came in on budget. It was financed via a combination of federal (85 percent) and state (15 percent) dollars. While there is some minor overlay work that needs to be done this spring, the project is essentially done. It began in January 2018 and was mostly complete this past winter.
Parker credits the entire construction team and the Otero County community for enabling the project to be completed on time. The contractor, Mountain State Construction, which is based in Albuquerque, did particularly excellent work and deserves credit, according to Parker. “The contractor is one of the best in the state and is truly focused on getting work done on time and on budget,” says Parker.
NMDOT grades contractors based on their performance on projects. One of the criteria is when they get the project done. Parker says Mountain State regularly completes contracts before the project completion time. Other criteria NMDOT rate includes how many non-conformances are given or corrective actions.
Fighting the Weather
A challenge that all infrastructure projects face is unpredictable weather conditions. While the weather in New Mexico is also unpredictable, one aspect of it can be predicted: monsoon season.
According to the National Weather Service, the Southwest United States – including New Mexico – is “affected by the North American Monsoon System every summer.” The season goes from June 15th to September 30th. “New Mexico is typically impacted by a variety of weather hazards …and thunderstorm frequency increases during this period, while exceptionally hot days are common as well.
Clearly, this sort of weather is not conducive to road work. “We know the severe weather is going to happen,” says Parker. “We just don’t know how hard the rains will be.”
So, contractors need to “deal, adapt and adjust,” says Parker. Those adjustments include scheduling around the weather as best as possible in order to keep a project moving forward. During this project, the contractor addressed drainage early on, which helped the project progress.
Despite their best efforts, the monsoon season did test the work on this project. Parker says, “The weather tested our team as we had to re-test areas that were tested and passed before the storms.” It also put a strain on the timeline, but they were able to catch up and complete the work in two years as expected. Parker notes the contractor worked longer hours and weekends in order to catch up
NMDOT has kept local residents in Otero County in mind, and they are better off with the completion of this project. “NMDOT is committed to investing in transportation project that improves mobility and helps resident’s access jobs, education, and other opportunities for growth in the area,” says Parker.
And countless others are better off too – even if they don’t know it. After all, a key artery has been improved with the U.S. 54/70 corridor improvements between Tularosa and Alamogordo in Otero County Project. Let the supply chain continue to flow.