Mountain States Constructors Widens US 64 in New Mexico
Meeting Accelerated Area Growth: Mountain States Constructors and New Mexico DOT Partner on US 64 Expansion
The third and last phase of the New Mexico Department of Transportation’s (NMDOT) improvements to eight miles of U.S. 64 in San Juan County are well under way for an on-time completion next summer.
“For nearly three decades, the region of the state served by U.S. 64 has experienced, and is projected to experience, an accelerated growth rate in a mixture of commercial, residential, agricultural, manufacturing, and heavy industrial land development uses,” reports Rosanne Rodriguez, District Five Public Information Officer for NMDOT. “The corresponding growth in demand on transportation facilities was addressed when the NMDOT district initiated corridor engineering and environmental studies which, with public participation, concluded in the need for U.S. 64 as a six-lane roadway, with certain access restrictions.”
Design and Scope
The department and Wilson & Co. of Albuquerque, New Mexico, began work on the design in 2000, after an increase in oil field traffic and a desire by NMDOT to meet national standards for median breaks. The improvements include “full road reconstruction, addition of an eastbound and a westbound lane, raised medians, access management, right and left turn bays, drainage structure extensions and a new signal for Andrea Drive,” Rodriguez says.
Work on the final nearly 4-mile stretch also included eliminating blind spots and making the road safer, says Mike Brown at Mountain States Constructors of Albuquerque, New Mexico, the prime contractor, which has mostly worked in New Mexico since 1980.
“We value our relationship with the DOT, and we work well with them,” Brown says. “That enables us to have a lot of successful projects with the state.”
U.S. 64 in this area carries an average daily traffic count of more than 23,000 vehicles and is currently two lanes in each direction. Most of the traffic passes through the area. NMDOT reduced the speed limit to 35 mph.
“As a project manager, you have to see the job through the eyes of the traveling public,” says Cassie Peskor, Project Manager for NMDOT.
Rodriguez considered traffic safety and convenience one of the most challenging aspects of the $34.7 million project. More than 85 percent of the cost of the project was provide by the Federal National Highway Fund, and the balance was funded by the state.
Current and Future Construction Activity
Mountain States Constructors received contracts for all three phases. The company finished the first 2-mile phase in 2013 and another two miles in 2015.
Work began on the current phase in November 2018, on the north shoulder of U.S. 64, extending the drainage structures. Then the contractor began the reconstruction of the westbound lanes, with traffic moved to the eastbound lanes. Mountain States was able to complete the westbound early and shifted traffic to the completed portion in order to get an early start on phase two, two months earlier than scheduled, Brown says.
Mountain States used aerial and ground surveys and terrain models from the surveyor. The surveyor created models of the entire project, which provided grade control for the earthwork and paving operations.
“The Portland cement concrete pavement operations were performed by a subcontractor utilizing roller screeds, which enabled concrete placements nearly every day, completing portions of the intersections sooner while also allowing us to place portions of phase two early,” Brown says.
During the winter of 2019-2020, crews will extend the south side concrete box culverts, to control drainage, and install retention walls. Some of the drainage systems are being replaced and others added to prevent flooding. The road itself is paved with SP3 hot mix asphalt.
“New asphalt paving is laid down by a paving machine which takes hot asphalt delivered to its hopper and spreads it to a uniform width and layer thickness,” Rodriguez says. “This project makes use of a “shuttle buggy” material transfer vehicle into which trucks continuously deliver their loads of asphalt.”
The transfer vehicle remixes materials just before they are conveyed to the paver,” she continues. “This machine assures a continuous, uninterrupted supply of asphalt to the paver and eliminates waiting time for dump trucks during which the adverse effects of segregation of the asphalt material and its cooling down can occur.”
Mountain States will start work in the spring on expanding and rebuilding the south side, the eastbound lanes, with completion expected in August 2020.
Rodriguez reported that the contractor was bound to certain environmental commitments, related to monitoring and protecting sites of archaeological significance, maintaining water quality by controlling for stormwater runoff, removing noxious weeds and not affecting migratory birds.
Coordination is Key
The utility companies, affected by the widening of the project, coordinated weekly with Mountain States staff to ensure delays in moving power polls, water and sewer lines, and gas lines were kept to a minimum. In fact, everyone on the construction team worked well together.
“I am proud of the partnership with the DOT and the engineer on this project, which has been really good,” Brown says. “The NMDOT was good at creating a workable relationship. When we encountered problems with utilities or drainage, we were able to get them to approve things quickly.”
Rodriguez adds, “NMDOT is most proud of the project team whose dedication to safety, mobility, economy, environmental protection, overcoming adversities and responsiveness to the public throughout each phase has resulted in a highly successful transportation improvement, which will serve the state well for decades to come.”
Peskor considers the excellent communication and integrity of all team members key to the success of the project.
“The involvement of everybody on my project team has been great,” Peskor says. “It’s amazing. We know what to expect from each other.”